April 11th, 2019
Geocaching is the latest outdoor pursuit craze to hit the UK. Find out what it’s all about and then why not try it yourself?
It may not be very easy to get your tongue around, but Geocaching is the latest craze to hit the Great British Outdoors. In a nutshell, it’s a sophisticated version of treasure hunting for today’s technology savvy world.
Geocachers are an online community of treasure hunters who share details of caches (the treasure) on various websites across the world. All a geocacher needs to do is choose a cache, navigate there, find it and then log it. Sounds easy? Here’s all you need to know to give it a go!
This online game of hide-and-seek has its origins in the old fashioned game of letterboxing. Small boxes were hidden across the countryside and their locations shared by word of mouth. Anyone who discovered them placed letters or postcards inside, and the next person to find the box would take the letters and post them. The tricky locations of some of the boxes meant that the letters could turn up weeks, months, or even years later; this was all part of the fun.
In 2000 the satellites used for military GPS (Global Positioning System) devices became open to the public, making hand-held GPS units very accurate and affordable. It was easier than ever before to pin-point locations, and the world-wide-web meant there were plenty of platforms to share them.
The first cache was hidden in America in May 2000 and the co-ordinates logged online for people to find; it wasn’t long before Geocaching took off in a big way. Today, there are thought to be caches in over 200 countries (as far flung as Antarctica) and there are over 5 million geocachers.
What’s the cache?
A cache can take on many different forms, but the most common is a small, plastic box. At the very least it will contain a small notebook to log the find.
There are also multi-caches, which are a series of caches and clues where one leads to the next; usually the cache is at the last location. For geocachers with analytical minds there are also puzzle caches for which a puzzle must be solved first to work out the coordinates of the cache.
Trackable caches are also great fun. These are small items that are taken from cache to cache on a “mission” (to visit mountains or capital cities for example). The journey from cache to cache and often country to country can then be tracked online as people log their moves.
Also popular are earth-caches, which are not actual caches but the coordinates will lead you to a site of special or historical importance. The notes will also include a lot more details about the earth-cache.
Cache to Start
An online search will come back with hundreds of geocaching websites; regional, national and international. However, the most popular and comprehensive is www.geocaching.com. All you need to do is sign up, log on and enter a place name or postcode to start a search.
The basic membership is free and is adequate to begin with. Once you’ve searched for caches in your chosen area, click on one to bring up the coordinates, the difficulty, the size of the cache and any hints and tips (some of which are written in code in case you want the added challenge of finding the cache without help).
Some caches are harder than others to find and most are hidden out of view of non-geocachers (or “muggles” as they are known in geocaching terms). They could be under rocks, up trees, under bridges, or in small holes for example. Many are in the countryside, in beauty spots or popular hiking locations, but equally there are loads in urban areas and even some in city centres; you’ll be surprised at where they’re hidden and you never realised!
You can then either print out the page, write down the details or transfer them directly to your GPS, and then off you go.
Let’s go Geocaching
In order to try geocaching, you will need a GPS system. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated or expensive; in fact, many mobile phones now have GPS applications, and these are more than adequate for beginners.
The co-ordinates given for a cache cover a small area, so once you’ve decided which cache to find, walk to the given co-ordinates and then start the search. Some caches are obvious and easy to find, whereas others are well hidden or might have a cryptic clue to their location. Part of the fun is deciphering these and learning about good hiding places, so don’t be disheartened if the first few prove tricky to find; you’ll soon be adept at understanding the language of geocaching.
There are over one million geocaches hidden across the world; the best way to get started is to throw yourself in and give it a go.