A beginner’s guide to geocaching with children

The Waton household has a new hobby, and it’s geocaching. Geocaching is such a great activity for keeping the children interested on a walk; it teaches patience, increases observational skills, and encourages problem solving. It’s also fun!

Don’t know what geocaching is, or want to know how you can get involved? Have a read and hopefully I’ll answer your questions. 

What is geocaching?
Very simply, geocaching is finding a hidden object using GPS and coordinates which have been posted online. Even more simply - my children call it “treasure hunting”.

How do I get started with geocaching?
Visit https://www.geocaching.com/ and click “sign up” to make an account. You can then do everything you need via the website, but I downloaded the app to my phone as it’s easier to use when out and about.

How much does geocaching cost?
Free - so far, we haven’t spent a penny geocaching. I downloaded the free app, which means I have access to all geocaches with a difficulty of up to 1.5 (on a scale of 1 to 5). There are so many geocaches around at this difficulty level, and they are just about the right level to do with younger children. If you’re after more of a challenge and want difficulty levels 2 - 5 you can upgrade your account to “premium” which costs £4.99 a month or £24.99 for the year. I haven’t felt the need to upgrade yet though.

What equipment do I need to go geocaching?
1) A pen or pencil - to sign the logbook.
2) A phone/GPS device - I work directly from the app on my phone, but you may prefer to download any coordinates from the website in advance, and use a GPS device. 
3) If you’re doing swaps, you’ll need some small items to swap
4) That’s it! If you’re hunting in an urban location you’re good to go. If you’re hunting in a rural or more remote location I’ll just leave a little patronising reminder to wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and follow the countryside code

You can read more about what we take geocaching here

What does a geocache look like?
Ah, the million dollar question. For me, this was the trickiest part when finding our first few geocaches. How do you find something, when you don’t know what you’re looking for? However, once we’d found a few they started getting easier to spot. Your first clue for what you’re looking for is on the app. The geocache description may give away exactly what you’re looking for. If not, take a look at the size. I think we’ve only found “Micro” (size of a film canister or smaller) and “small” (size if a small sandwich box) so far. Below, I’ve included photos of a few different geocaches we’ve found. I’ve not included the exact locations, but if you’d prefer no spoilers scroll past the next few images!  

traditional geocache

magnetic micro geocache

sneaky geocache

small geocache



Is geocaching a family friendly activity?
Yes yes YES! We are lucky that we are a fit and healthy family without any mobility issues, so we are able to go after whichever geocaches we like. If you struggle with mobility, or need somewhere that is wheelchair accessible or pushchair friendly, not a problem! All geocaches have information regarding their location, how accessible they are, and even if they are in dog friendly locations - not even your furry friends need to miss out. 

You can definitely base your geocache adventures around what your family enjoys, and their abilities. When we go out, or visit somewhere new, I tend to hop onto the app to see if there are any geocaches nearby that we could look for on our way. Geocaches are located in town centres, in woodlands, right next to roads, in churchyards, fields, walls, bus shelters, and just about anywhere else you can think of.     

Are there any geocaching rules?
The first rule of geocaching is, don’t talk about geocaching. Ok, that’s not strictly true.  You can talk about geocaching - there are plenty of social groups, meet ups, and forums all dedicated to the pastime, but don’t spoil the fun for anyone else. Don’t give away the location of a geocache to those not searching with you, and try not to let anyone nearby see what you’re up to. With the children, I find it’s much easier to be discreet when you’re somewhere a little more remote. In a shopping centre car park, it’s a little more tricky.

When you find the geocache you were looking for open it up, sign the logbook, sign into the website/app and log your experience on there. If the geocache contains a number of objects you can remove something, but you must leave an object of the same or greater value. If I was geocaching alone I probably wouldn’t bother taking an object, but the children like doing swaps.     

When you’re done make sure you fasten the geocache up securely, and put it back exactly where you found it. That way the logbook won’t get wet, and the next geocacher will know where to find it.

Any tips for finding my first geocache?
For your first geocache hunt I would say choose a geocache sized “small” or above, and select one in a quiet area. For our first geocache hunt we selected a couple on the main road near our house. We didn’t know what we were looking for, lots of people were driving and walking past, and others were out in their gardens. We felt awkward just loitering around the roadside, and needless to say, we didn’t find either of them. 

On our next attempt we selected a couple of geocache locations along a quiet country road. We found them fairly easily, and our successful trip got the children all excited for the next time we were going out. The larger geocaches tend to be a little more exciting for the children too. “Micro” geocaches usually just have enough space to hold the log book. The larger ones often contain goodies which they like to rummage through and swap. For our first successful geocache my daughter took a marble, and replaced it with a rock she’d painted. When we found the next geocache she put her marble in, and took out a little plastic McDonalds toy. So, as you can see, the swaps are nothing extravagant, just fun.

***

There seems to be a lot of layers to geocaching, most of which we’ve not delved into yet, but I think that’s all the information you’d need to at least get started. It’s really one of those activities you just need to try and see how you get on.

Still not sure what I’m wittering about? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1) Visit https://www.geocaching.com/play and create an account by clicking “Sign Up”.

2) Download the geocache app (I’d advise you take some time to click around and get a feel for how it works).

3) Select “Map” along the bottom of the screen. 

4) By using the magnifying glass in the top left corner you can search for the nearest geocaches to your location, or search for a specific postcode or town.

5) The green circles with a white box illustration in them are geocaches you have access to. If these are grey, you need to pay for premium to access them. Select the geocache you’d like to hunt for.





6) All the details you need are on this screen. 




Read the description, and check out the “difficulty”, “terrain” and “size”. I would also check the “activity” section. Here you will be able to see when the geocache was last found, and if there have been a series of  people commenting with “did not find” or “DNF”. (I tend to avoid these, nothing worse than trekking out to find something with the kids and you don’t manage to find what you’re looking for).







7) Read all the information and ready to go? Click “start” on the map screen (bottom right hand corner) and use the map to locate the geocache.

8) If you get to the location and are struggling some geocaches have a “hint”. Click the “hint” button in the profile and it will give you a clue. Still struggling? Go back to the “activity” section, maybe someone has left a clue or hint there.




9) When you find the geocache, sign the physical log inside, do any swaps you want to, secure the lid, and put it back where you found it.

10) Click the “Log Geocache” button on the profile. Record that you found the geocache so that others know it hasn’t gone missing. It also helps the geocache owner keep track of whether it’s still where it should be, and that it doesn’t need any maintenance (a new log book, waterproofing etc). Equally, if you don’t find the geocache log it as “DNF”. This lets the geocache owner, and others, know that something might have gone wrong. When you’ve logged that you’ve found the geocache, it appears as a nice little smiley face like this...


NB Yes, this smiley face screenshot is a different location to the one used in the example. Purely because I’ve found these geocaches, but not the one in the example!

Hurrah, you’ve found a geocache!
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Phew! That’s a long post. I’m sure I’ll be writing new geocaching posts over time (the children are now desperate to create one of their own, and we also found a trackable which we need to send on its way) but hopefully all your questions regarding the basics are now answered. If not, please leave a comment and I’ll answer if I can. Alternatively, head to the official home of geocaching - www.geocaching.com

I would love to know how you’ve been getting on. Let me know if you’ve given it a go, but in the meantime, Happy Geocaching! 

beginners guide to geocaching with children


Comments

  1. I keep meaning to have a look at what geo-caches there are around me in Normandy ... and on another note, I have found some figures about plastic bags and replied to your comment on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s really good fun. Think I’ve got more into it than the kids now. Ah excellent, I’ll, head over to see the stats now!

      Delete

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