Geocaching combines high tech, hiking and a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt to create something new. "Cachers" use handheld GPS devices to locate containers (caches) hidden in neighborhoods, local parks, and hiking trails. Some containers hold nothing more than a logbook, while others contain inexpensive trinkets and surprises.
As an outdoor family event, geocaching has few equals. In addition to the fun of the hunt, you can teach your children to respect the environment, share with others, and use technology in real-world applications.
Start by researching a geocache website for caches near you. Geocaching.com lists thousands of cache locations across the planet. You should have no trouble finding one in your area. Caches have different levels of difficulty; select easy ones for young children. The cache description includes the container's GPS coordinates.
Kids love taking something home from a geocache expedition, so read cache descriptions to see if the container holds small rewards. At the very least, a cache contains a logbook you can sign to prove you found the cache.
A handheld GPS device is needed for geocaching. Choose a sturdy model young cachers can operate easily. Dress and prepare as you would for a hike, with sun block, hats and refreshments. Good hiking shoes are necessary.
Caches can be hidden in cracks and dark areas, so pack a flashlight. It's an ironclad rule no cacher takes something from a cache without replacing it with an item of equal or greater value, so have the kids select a small bag of trinkets and small toys to replenish the cache. Oh, and take a pen to sign the logbook.
How to Geocache
Enter the GPS coordinates into the GPS device, and track the cache using the device. The GPS' compass setting will show you bearing and distance. Be sure to look up from the device as you search; cachers should remain aware of their surroundings. Avoid ledges, cliffs, and man-made hazards such as used construction equipment.
Most GPS locators are only accurate to within 20 feet, at which point you have to search for the cache. Containers may be hidden in hollow logs, under rocks or in piles of sticks. Remember animals sometimes live in such areas, so caution children to check carefully before exploring holes and cracks.
After you find the cache, sign the log, swap trinkets, and replace the cache exactly where you found it. Don't leave any hints or markers indicating where the cache is.
Cache In, Trash Out
Cache in, Trash out is a philosophy of leaving cache sites better than you found them. Tidy up before you leave, packing out garbage. Cachers sometimes organize large "Cache in, Trash out" activities, combining caching with organized trail maintenance, garbage collecting and removing invasive species or used equipment. Such group activities are a great way to meet other cachers and their families.