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Geocaching Combines Technology and Adventure


Have you ever dreamed of following a treasure map and locating a hidden stash of gold? If so, pull out your smartphone and get ready for geocaching. You probably won't unearth a treasure, but you can still enjoy the hunt.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is similar to the lower-tech letterboxing. People hide waterproof containers with a small log inside. They then post GPS coordinates to help others find the box. You'll need a GPS device - a current smartphone usually does the trick - and a sense of adventure. Follow the GPS coordinates to the general vicinity of the cache and then look around until you find it. Sign the log and if there's a little treasure inside, you can swap it out for something you bring with you.

You might be wondering what kind of treasures you might find and what you should leave. The items should be weatherproof (moisture/heat/cold), non-perishable (no food), and family friendly. You might find coins, pins, small toys, trackable items (items that are logged and tracked as they move from cache to cache), etc.
If you will be doing a lot of geocaching, it can be fun to have a signature item that you leave in each cache. Otherwise, you can just grab a little toy your kids won't miss and use that. Maybe a toy car, plastic animal, costume jewelry, or cute eraser? Most families have piles of those sort of items, so why not repurpose them? Basic etiquette says that you should never take the treasure from a cache unless you leave one as well. 

How to Get Started with Geocaching

There are a lot of sites to help you learn about geocaching, but the primary site for finding caches in the United States is Geocaching.com. You can sign up for a free account that lets you search for geocaches and to keep track of the caches you have visited. If you enjoy it, you can sign up for a premium account for $9.99 for three months or $29.99 per year. That allows you to access "premium" caches, as well as more advanced features. You should be able to find plenty of free caches in your area, so wait to subscribe until you know your family enjoys geocaching and you've exhausted the freebies. There are also free apps available for your phone (iOS, Android, Windows). The apps help you to find caches in your immediate area and beyond, as well as help you navigate (using GPS) to a cache location. 

Tips Before You Go

While some caches are in urban areas, some are quite remote. These tips may apply more to certain caches than others, but safety should always be a priority.
  • Choose an easy geocache for your first few attempts, especially with younger kids. The caches are ranked from 1 star to 5, where 5 stars are the hardest.
  • Make sure that your phone or other GPS is fully charged. Have a backup battery or device, just in case. Getting lost with kids in tow isn't at all fun. 
  • Travel with a partner, especially to remote/isolated locations, and always make sure someone knows where you're headed. You can even give them the GPS coordinates in case you get lost or injured.
  • Make sure everyone is dressed appropriately for weather and location and use sunscreen and bug spray when appropriate. 
  • Bring water and snacks for the kids so you can stay hydrated and fueled up on the hunt.
  • Situations for a cache can change. There could be flooding in the area, a building might be under new management or have just completed a renovation. Make sure the environment is still safe, but don't be too discouraged if you can't find a cache.
 
Geocaching and Education
Geocaching is a great way to get kids thinking about maps, topography, understanding coordinates, etc. But you can make the experience even more educational by incorporating other fun activities, such as:
  • Create a photo scavenger hunt.
  • Have the kids map out the journey to create their own treasure map.
  • Practice identifying plants and animals they see along the way.
  • Create a mini guidebook of the area by taking pictures of various plants and animals, placing them in a scrapbook, and finding out more information about the different species.
One you've got a few geocaches under your belt, your family might even want to come up with one of your own!







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Tech Magazine: Geocaching Combines Technology and Adventure
Geocaching Combines Technology and Adventure
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