Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? The thrill of discovering “clues”, sometimes involving a riddle, or simply following a map to the “buried treasure”. However you define it, a “treasure hunt” can be a lot of fun, and a great way to get out and move your body while enjoying time away from your day-to-day grind. Why not get family and/or friends involved and make a day of it?
No time to devote an entire day? No worries! Many of these treasure hunts can be completed in a short amount of time.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a fun outdoor activity, a treasure hunt of sorts, in which people use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.
- A Geocache account. Free or Premium – Visit the official Geocaching site here
- A GPS of some sort (available on most modern smartphones)
- A Pen – Many Geocaches contain a log. It is customary to sign the log with your username and date.
- A sense of adventure
- Geochaching App by Groundspeak, Inc. (free)
- A camera to document the find (also available on most modern smartphones). Remember, if you choose to post your find, try not to give away spoilers for others who have not yet found it.
- Trinkets to place in the caches
- Disposable gloves for some of the caches that have been exposed to the elements
- Trash bags
- Waterproof Backpack
- Poncho (for rainy weather)
- Hat (for sunny weather)
- Water Bottle
- First Aid Kit and Skin Protection, Bug Spray etc.
- Headlamp and/or flashlight
- Battery Pack to keep your phone charged on longer Geocaching adventures
- A downloaded paper copy from the Geocache site containing the information you need to find the cache (sometimes caches are hidden in areas with weak cell signal, and this is a good backup).
Leave no trace behind. Consider picking up and disposing of litter along the path. And it goes without saying, please don’t leave litter behind.
Log it! When you find a Geocache (and even if you try but can’t find it), make sure to log your experience. How is this done? (see example above) Log your experience on the Geocache site, where you found the GPS information. I often comment on the condition of my find. This lets others (and the owner) know that it is in good condition, or water logged or at times, if I have replaced a torn plastic bag covering a log book, etc.
Be sure to sign the log book (if there is one) contained in the cache with your username and the date.
Put the Geocache back where you found it! The owner placed the cache in a specific location, which coordinated with the GPS. By placing it back, it allows others to find it as well as makes it easy for the owner to maintain it.
There are times when a Geocache may contain trinkets. If you take one, it is customary to replace it with something else. Many times, this is noted in the log. (example: Easy find, cache was in good condition. Took a small toy animal, left a collectable Tupperware keychain. TFTC) TFTC = thanks for the cache. I try to remember to thank the owner for placing the cache.
Move Trackables (Travel Bug ®, Geo Coin etc.) when you discover one. Some caches contain trackables. These are items that are meant to be moved from one cache to another, not to be kept. Help them along on their journey and be sure to post a “retrieved” log, indicating that you found a trackable and then be sure to move it to another geocache as soon as possible.
Common Types of Geocaches:
Traditional or Basic Cache
This type of cache usually involves only one stage. It consists of a container that has at least a logbook. It can also have other items that can be traded (take one/leave one). The participant will use the GPS coordinates given to him/her to find the geocache.
This version consists of different variations. One of which is a participant finds the first container, but it only has the coordinates leading to the next location and so on. The final or last stage will include a container that has the logbook and trade items.
Another variation involves a series of waypoints that will provide partial coordinates of the final geocache location.
This is a take-off from Multi-Cache where the coordinates are published and will lead to a physical landmark, such as historical sites or monument. The site will contain information that will lead the seeker to the next geocache location.
Mystery Puzzle Cache
This variation involves a puzzle that the participants need to solve in order to get the coordinates to the final cache location. Additional information may also be needed to complete the find.
This variation includes a geocache and a letterbox in the same container. The letterbox has a stamp that is meant to be used to record their visit. It also contains the logbook, but it may or may not contain items for trading.
Virtual Caches include coordinates for a location that does not have the traditional container, logbook or items for trade. It will only contain other described objects. The participant must send or email the owner the information, such as name of the object or date or a picture on the site with the GPS receiver in hand.
There are indeed many ways to participate in Geocaching. For the newbie, the Traditional or Basic Cache is the most appropriate starting point. There are more involved and complicated Geocache types and events that are geared toward the more experienced Geocacher.
What are Muggles?
A muggle is a non geocacher. Based on the term “Muggle” from the Harry Potter series, which is a non-magical person. When a cache has been “muggled”, it usually means it was dismantled, disturbed or removed by an unsuspecting non-player. We, as Geocachers try our best to participate in these adventures without bringing attention to ourselves from “muggles”.
Is Geocaching Legal?
Absolutely! In just about every country it is legal and is usually positively received when explained to law enforcement officials. Be mindful of your surroundings and use common sense in all things Geocaching.
What sorts of things can you place in a Geocache?
Depending upon the size of the container that contains the cache, you can place trading cards, foreign coins, unopened glow sticks, new plastic farm animals, army soldiers, toy bugs, new plastic rings or any costume jewelry, small compasses, keychains, small LED flashlights, carabiners, matchbox cars, playing cards, small tools, balls, puzzles or games, emergency rain gear or any item of the like.
What sort of items are NOT appropriate to leave in a Geocache?
Any item that is too big for the container that contains the cache. Containers should always be closed tight, to keep them safe from the elements. NEVER leave anything dangerous, like drugs, medications, matches or other flammable liquid. In fact, never leave liquid items at all in a cache. Same for food, no food items in a cache, they can attract rodents/animals etc.
Some Common Geocaching Terms/ Abbreviations and Acronyms:
FTF – First to Find
STF – Second to Find
TB – Travel Bug
QEF – Quick Easy Find
SL – Signed Logbook
DNF – Did Not Find
NM – Needs Maintenance
NA – Needs Archiving
C&D – Cache and Dash
P&G – Park & Grab
CO – Cache Owner
PMO – Premium Member Only
TFTC – Thanks for the Cache
TFTE – Thanks for the Event
TFTH – Thanks for the Hide/Hunt/Hike
TNLN – Took Nothing Left Nothing
TNLNSL – Took Nothing Left Nothing, Signed Log
I don’t personally use many of the above except TFTC. I usually spell out what I am saying. 🙂
What is Letterboxing?
Letterboxing is essentially the same as a Geocaching, but with a very fun difference. You still find the location of the cache with your GPS, but Letterboxes contain a rubber stamp. You use the stamp to mark in your log book, then using your personalized rubber stamp, mark in the cache logbook. (After stamping your logbook, don’t forget to return the stamp for the next finder).
What supplies do you need for Letterboxing?
Rubber Stamp – Some choose to design and make their own personalized rubber stamp, while others simply choose a commercially made one with a symbol that they love. Either way works. Read more about Letterboxing here.
Ink Pad – While some Letterboxes do contain their own ink pad, it is always best to bring your own.
So, get out there and have some fun! You can find us under the username StephsNeckoftheWoods
Visit the official Geocaching site here.
The above information is for entertainment purposes only! Geocaching should always be explored with caution and at your own risk.
Steph’s Neck of the Woods assumes no responsibility or liability for anyone that follows any of the suggestions on this page.