Yrene lives in Lumby British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Geocaching: Why EVERY Backcountry Traveller Should Get Hooked
CaGeocaching: The sport of using billion-dollar military hardware to find Tupperware boxes hidden in the woods…”
Not sure who first came up with that quote, but it is a good explanation what Geocaching is all about: using satellites to locate hidden treasures.
Actually, Geocaching is a highly addictive outdoor treasure hunt played throughout the world by adults and kids. It is an outdoor activity in which participants use a GPS or cell phone.
Welcome to the world of geocaching!
How does it work?
Using a handheld GPS or smartphone (such as an iPhone with a built-in GPS), you locate hidden “caches” which other people have hidden outside. Once located, you sign the logbook, update your stats online, and then you go hunt for the next one.
Until I purchase my handheld Oregon 600 GPS I didn’t know what geocaching was all about. Then I finally got interested. Especially, after guests came to the ranch and told me, that they found caches on the way to the ranch.
So I decided to play as well and have fun.
You can spend hours looking for a cache, and get frustrated after a while. Just like I did, looking for my first cache. I put the coordinates into my GPS for the three easy to find caches in the Shuswap Falls area. Three hours later, frustrated and on the edge of giving up, once more I was lead to the same area. And here it was, finally, yippy! Found it!My first cache!
Keep on searching, don’t give up and you will be surprised what you find.
Geocaching is a great way to keep fit, way better than joining a fitness program.
It will take you to new places you wouldn’t go otherwise and it will keep your mind in shape as well.
Why should you Play
Geocaching – Kids LOVE IT
Explore the outdoors and make it into an ultimate treasure hunt. Your kids will love it and feel like real pirates. There is adventure happening all the time.
Geocaching is child-friendly and many caches are full of kids swaps and treasures. Spend a day with your kids in the woods and they beg you to do it again.
It is the perfect road trip distraction. You will keep the kids on the edge of their seats, waiting to find the next treasure.
But if you are not quite convinced yet
Here are just a few more benefits of geocaching and plying:
- It is easy to learn and play
- You only need a smartphone or a GPS
- It’s very cheap ($9.95 for the app for three months and only $29.99US for a premium one-year membership) at Geocaching.com
- Geocaching makes road trips fun
- You will visit places you didn’t know about
- You will learn more than you ever thought imaginable about Canadian history and culture
- You will learn to use your GPS navigate better than you ever thought possible
- You will meet lots of other travellers playing
How did Geocaching start?
In May 2000, the US Military decided to turn off the limited availability of their satellites that were used for geolocation.
When this happened, the handheld GPS went from having an accuracy of about 200 m, down to having potential sub-metre accuracy – because it had access to a possible 24 satellites.
The effect of this was not only great for people like Archaeologist and Surveyors who use GPS extensively in their professional lives. It also started discussions about how this new found accuracy might be put to use recreationally.
For GPS enthusiasts, this was definitely a cause for celebration. Internet newsgroups suddenly came up with ideas about how the technology could be used.
I’ll quote the story of what happened next from the Geocaching.com site:
On May 3, one such enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” and posted it in an internet GPS users’ group. The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit.
The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver. The rules for the finder were simple: “Take some stuff, leave some stuff.
On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, near Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his “stash” with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:
N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800
Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates. Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept spread quickly – but this one required leaving your computer to participate.
What followed was a number of other people doing the same thing, a website to keep track of these caches and who’d found what, and a worldwide hobby was born.
By 2013, there were over two million geocaches hidden around the world and over five million active players of the game.
How do you play
- This is pretty simple – all you really need to start is your smartphone.
- Register a free, Basic Membership account at Geocaching.com
- Download the app free version of the app (either through iTunes or the Google store)
- Log in to the app using your Geocaching.com account
- Click the ‘Find Nearby Geocaches’ button – a map of your area will be displayed
- Select a cache nearby (they look like little green, orange or blue commas on the map)
- Use the ‘Navigate to Cache’ button to bring up a compass and distance in metres to the cache
- Find the hidden cache and sign the logbook
- Log your find on the app with the ‘Found it!’ button.
If you’re using the ‘Intro’ version of the app, you can only find a few geocaches before you’ll need to buy the $9.95 FULL version of the app.
I suggest to SKIP the free/introversion of the app and just download the full version – this game is fun and addictive!
For those of you who are like me, and prefer to use a GPS, the instructions for getting the cache coordinates into your GPS can be found here.
There’s a number of different types and sizes of cache containers, from huge buckets to tiny little ‘nano’ caches.
For your first few caches, I really recommend sticking to small and regular containers so that you get your ‘eye’ in, and also to give you time to learn how to use your phone/GPS device to play the game as well.
However, the SMART way to really get ahead with caching is to go to a local event and go caching with some experienced cachers.
I recommend checking out the following pages:
- Geocaching Facebook page
- Parks Canada Geocaching Guidelines
- Cell Phones In Canada – What You Need To Know
It’s Just Plain FUN and I love it!
Apart from the addictive nature and the mental challenges of find caches, taking up Geocaching as a hobby is going to get you out and about in your town, suburb or countryside, walking about and in some cases, climbing hills.
What I really love about caching is that it takes me to places that I would otherwise not know existed – often these are places of historic, cultural and natural significance that you had no idea were there!
Some caches are really easy to find while others may require a long hike, so make sure to check the difficulty and terrain ratings on Geocaching.com before you go.
Geocaching is really a cheap, simple and quick way to have an adventure every day.
I hope that you will be inspired to try geocaching. It really is a lot of fun and can be done practically anywhere. If nature is not your thing, stick to geocaching in city parks or around town (there are tons near stores and malls!). I love when there are ones at Starbucks because I can grab a drink and the kids can find a cache.
Have you tried Geocaching? If so, what do you love about it? Let me know in the comments below.