Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another favourite thing

On the subject of favourite things (see previous post), another of my favourite things is Geocaching and I felt that this one deserved a post all of its own.  We started Geocaching about 18 months ago and I have to say it is hands down our favourite family activity.  I really, really urge you to give it a try!

For the uninititated, geocaching is something like a grown-up form of treasure-hunting.  You use a GPS device to find the geocache (a container with a log-book in it, that you sign to claim the cache) and then you log your find on your geocaching profile (vaguely like a facebook page)  It's free, it's fun and it often takes you to places you would never have been to otherwise.  (We have been to some stunning places thanks to geocaching, have a look at my dedicated geocaching blog) There are geocaches hidden everywhere, in fact, I'd hazard a guess there is probably one hidden less than 5kms from where you are right now.  (Note: that not all geocaches are out in the sticks, there are geocaches all over the place, in shopping malls, underneath post boxes etc etc)

All you need to start geocaching is access to a computer and a GPS device (we use either a hand-held Garmin or, more frequently, Grant's iphone, which has a geocaching app loaded onto it)

To get started you would go to the geocaching website which you can find here.

The website has a wealth of information (try not to get too bogged down by all the info at first.  My advice is to rather go out and get your first cache asap!) and it's also the place where you would create your geocaching profile (click on "register" at the top on the right).  Your profile page will record the geocaches you have found etc.  This is a small section of our profile page:

Once you have set your profile up, you will want to go and hunt for your first cache.  At the beginning we found it easiest to hunt for caches near our home location.  So we clicked on the link that says "search for geocaches near your home location" - see above.  Otherwise you could click on "Play" and then "Hide and seek a cache" -  this lets you find caches based on address, postal codes, country, co-ords etc etc.

A list of caches will come up, beginning with those nearest to your home.  It'll look something like this:

Click on one that interests you and you will be taken to that cache's page.  The cache below is a cache that Grant and I hid:

So on the page above you have all the info you would need to go and find the cache.  The co-ordinates, the size of the cache (to give you some idea of what you are looking for), the difficulty and terrain and a little information about the cache.  You would put the co-ordinates into your GPS and off you go to find the cache.

Caches can vary widely in size and contents.  The smallest caches are called nanos, and they can be as small as a bullet casing and contain nothing but a tiny roll of paper for you to sign.  Large caches can be as big as a lunch box and contain a log book, pencil, odd little toys (the idea is to give kiddies something to take home with them :-) ) and travel bugs and geocoins

This is what our cache looked like when we placed it:

When looking for your first couple of caches it's probably a good idea to look for the easier, larger caches (often called traditional caches).  Read through some of the recent logs, making sure it was found recently and possibly even look at the photo gallery on that cache's page.  If you go to "Play" => "Hide and Seek" as mentioned above, scroll down to the bottom of the page and check the block next to "highlight beginner caches" you will find some nice easy, first-timer caches.

Once you have found your geocache (yay!) you will come back to your profile on and go to that caches page and then log your find by clicking on "log your visit"

And "voila"!  You have your first find and are probably already as addicted as I am :-)


Kirsty said...

That sounds do fun! I am going to have to llok into this to do with my little family :). thanks for sharing x

Hayley said...

I have been dying to try this out...going to check out your blog now. Thanks!

Grant (Carbon Hunter) said...

Thanks Gill - a great overview - and yes - a really fun family (and solo) activity. We have been doing it for almost 5 years - and love it - it has taken us to some absolutely amazing places - definitely stuff you would not find in a tourist brochure - or would nothave thought ot go to. It also gives me something to do when on business trips - rather than hangin around a mall, restaurant or in the hotel room/bar.

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