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Geocaching: Why EVERY Backcountry Traveller Should Get Hooked

“Geocaching: 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 of 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. What’s so great about geocaching, it’s an activity you can do on your own and have your own fun, or with family or a group of friends.

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, but 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.

Now 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 near Lumby BC. I put the coordinates into my GPS for the three easy-to-find caches in the Shuswap Falls area. Three hours later I was frustrated and on the edge of giving up. I was led by my GPS again 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 by 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.

It’s addictive!

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 kid’s 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 your young ones on the edge of their seats, waiting to find the next treasure.

Figuring out handheld GPS

But if you are not quite convinced yet

Here are just a few more benefits of geocaching and playing:

  • It is easy to learn and play
  • All you need is a smartphone or a GPS
  • It’s cheap -all you need is a 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 to 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 Archaeologists and Surveyors who use GPS extensively in their professional lives. This newfound accuracy was an immense opportunity for recreational use.

For GPS enthusiasts, this was definitely a cause for celebration. Internet newsgroups suddenly came up with ideas about how the technology could be used.

How do you play

  1. Register a free, Basic Membership account at Geocaching.com
  2. Log in to the app using your Geocaching.com account
  3. Download the app free version of the app (either through iTunes or the Google store)
  4. Click the ‘Find Nearby Geocaches’ button – a map of your area will be displayed
  5. Select a cache nearby (they look like little green, orange or blue commas on the map)
  6. Use the ‘Navigate to Cache’ button to bring up a compass and distance in metres to the cache
  7. Find the hidden cache and sign the logbook
  8. Log your find on the app with the ‘Found it!’ button.
Geocaching Canada
Geocaching fun in Lumby BC

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 skipping the free/introversion of the app and just downloading the full version – this game is fun and addictive!

For those of you who are like me, and prefer to use a Garmin GPS, the instructions for getting the cache coordinates into your GPS can be found here.
There are 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:

It’s Just Plain FUN and I love it!
Apart from the addictive nature and the mental challenges of finding 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!)

Interested in a Garmin Handheld GPS? I recommend checking out the trusted Mountain Equipment Company (MEC) for the best prices.

Have you tried Geocaching? If so, what do you love about it? Let me know in the comments below.

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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, 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 who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.

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