I’ve always found geocaching fascinating. I wanted to do a post about how it was a good family activity, but I don’t have the experience. Enter, my friend Amanda from Spinning Yarns and Other Things (and also a friend from high school). She and her family LOVE geocaching together, so I asked her to do a write up for you guys. Thanks Amanda!
What IS Geocaching?
Geocaching. It’s a weird word, I know, but it is so much fun. It even sounds a little bit illegal but it isn’t. Some of you may be thinking, “What in the world is that??” The answer is simple. Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt that uses coordinates of latitude and longitude to mark the treasure instead of maps. When you find the treasure box you can take something from it, but you must leave something of equal or greater value.
We decided to give geocaching a try this past summer. After our first cache we were hooked! We have now successfully found 71 caches. There is very minimal cost involved and it has turned out to be an awesome family activity with an educational aspect to boot.
To get started, you must visit www.geocaching.com and sign up for an account. The basic account is free and will give you access to tons of caches, or the premium membership is $10 for 90 days or $30 for the year. We actually paid for the entire year. All caches are good, but the ‘better’ caches are usually only available for premium members.
For us, the fee was worth it, but I would suggest not paying until you find several and make sure you like it.
Caches are the containers that you are looking for. They can be anything from a tiny little capsule to something huge. The biggest one we’ve found so far was an old soda machine and we had to figure out the correct combination of buttons to push to open it, and the smallest was a tiny screw top magnet hidden in a drain pipe.
All caches contain a log for you to sign your user ID, but some are too small for anything to be traded. After you have your account set up, you must have a handheld GPS of some sort. Yes, this is different from the kind used in a vehicle. There are lots of options for this. You can get a very basic one that will require you to print out each cache you are looking for and carry the papers with you, or you can get a paperless geocaching unit that does everything for you.
Another option is to download the Geocaching.com app if you have a GPS enabled Android or I-phone. This is what we did. A cheap GPS is probably around $50, but it does require a bit of skill to learn and use, and a basic paperless GPS was around $150. The app was $10 and it has all the geocaching features that you will need. You simply click on the cache you want to find and an arrow comes up that shows you which way to walk.
Any GPS will get you within about 20 feet of the cache and the rest is up to you. Most owners give clues to help you find it. I’m not familiar with actual GPS units but I’m assuming the paperless ones work the same as the app. The website has a “send to GPS” button that allows you to transfer it to your phone or GPS unit.
This is a great way to teach children how to read latitude and longitude, and work on their map and survival skills. It also provides opportunities to get off the sofa and out into nature. I’m planning on finding a nature guide of some sort so that we can start identifying different species of plants and animals on our trips out.
There are different types of caches. One type is an earth cache. These are caches that are associated with a historic or geographical landmark. There is no container to be found at these types of caches, but instead you have to learn something about the area or location you are visiting and report back your answer on the website to get credit for your find.
Every cache has a webpage dedicated to it stocked full of information about the area, or it explains the reason that the owner hid the cache. The seeker also uses this page to report if they found it and what condition it was in.
Some of the caches even involve puzzles. We enjoy these the most. The owners enter fake coordinates into the webpage and they require the seeker to use logic, math, deciphers, or other skills to find the real coordinates and make the find. In some cases there are series that give the first set of coordinates and from there you must find the cache to find clues or puzzles for the next stage.
Occasionally you will find things called geocoins or travel bugs in the caches. If you find one of these you are supposed to take it, log it on the website and move it along to another cache. This is another great learning opportunity as it allows the kids (and adults) to see how far that bug or coin has traveled. We started our own travel bug in Abingdon, VA and it has already traveled all the way to HI, and back to WV! The possibilities for learning are endless, and the quality time spent together is priceless.
Making Memories That Last a Lifetime
We have had lots of laughs, picnics, hikes, and a few DUH moments since we started geocaching, but it has been an absolute blast. We have even had my mother and our friends join us as well. Together, we have visited lots of beautiful areas and spent more time outdoors than we ever have before. We have discovered places that we never even knew existed right here at home.
Now that we have an account and an app we are never without something fun and free to do. The kids ask to go all the time. If anyone decides to try it, and needs help, please send me a friend request through the site. I’ll be happy to help you if you have any questions. My user ID is RubyRedCachers. We also have a beginner cache hidden for you to find if you are in our area as well.
Do you think this is a good activity for your family?
My name is Amanda and I have two wonderful little boys that I refer to as Batman and Thunder. These are the superhero names they have chosen for themselves. Batman is turning 5 in two weeks, and Thunder just turned 9. If you have a question about boys, I guarantee you I’ve been there and done that! There is nothing that could surprise me at this point, but I love every minute of it. I’m currently a mostly stay-at-home mom. I substitute teach a few days a month for a little extra income when I need it, and I’m working on a Master’s degree in education, so that one day when they both in school I may be able to find a full time job. I recently started blogging, but I find I don’t have enough time to do it full time. I post when I can or have a good idea that I want to share. Come visit me over at Spinning Yarns and Other Things.