Gone Outdoors

How to Geocache

by Marie Mulrooney

If you've ever wished you could go on a real-life treasure hunt, geocaching is the answer. All comers are welcome in this fun outdoor game. All you need is a stand-alone GPS or a GPS-enabled device, like a tablet or smartphone. Following GPS coordinates downloaded from geocaching.com or from the geocaching app will get you close to hidden treasures known as geocaches, but it's up to your sharp eyes and wits to actually find the cache.

How Geocaching Works

To participate in the worldwide geocaching game, sign up for an account on geocaching.com or download the geocaching app for your mobile device. This entitles you to access the GPS coordinates for geocaches near you. Use your GPS-enabled device to navigate to those coordinates, then search for the hidden cache. Watch out for "muggles," or non-geocachers. Play it cool until you can find the cache without giving the game away to muggles, and sign the logbook inside the cache; then, hide the cache back in its original location.

What Is a Geocache?

At its most basic, a geocache is a logbook stored in a weatherproof container. Sometimes it contains other items too. The cache can be stored in almost anything, from an old ammo can to a fake rock or a Tupperware container; figuring out what the object is hidden in is part of the fun. Along with each geocache's coordinates, you'll also receive a clue about the geocache's size. This makes finding the cache a little easier, and also gives you a clue about what might be found inside it.

Special Types of Geocaches

All geocaches contain a logbook so that you can record your visit. The larger caches often contain items for trade, too. Take what you want, but respect the rule that you should always leave something of equal or greater value. You may also find trackable items in geocaches; each trackable piece has a unique code on it that you can use to log its location at geocaching.com. Either leave the trackable item where it is and log that you discovered it, or move it to a new cache and log its new location. Finally, you may also find puzzle geocaches, where you have to solve a puzzle or follow a set of clues before receiving the GPS coordinates for the actual cache.

Hiding a Geocache

Just as anybody can hunt for hidden geocaches, anybody can hide them too. If you've never geocached before, spend a while finding others' caches so you can gather ideas on how to hide your own. Place your cache off trails, but in an accessible area that won't be damaged by foot traffic. It should be at least a tenth of a mile away from other caches, and if it's on private land you need the landowner's permission. Avoid National Park Service land, where geocaches are prohibited. Select a weatherproof container, package each item in the cache in its own clear plastic bag and submit the location of the cache for publication on geocaching.com.

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