Long before Pokémon Go came along and encouraged youngsters to get off the couch and go outside, geocaching was providing real treasure hunt adventures for little kids and adults alike. While Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that will have you walking around in circles at your local park, geocaching gets you into the wild and out of your comfort zone, with some tangible treasure at the end of your quest.
What is Geocaching?
In short, it’s a modern-day treasure hunt, where players use GPS receivers to navigate to geocaches hidden all over the place by other players. There are almost three million geocaches hidden globally, with over a million of those in the USA, so there is almost certainly a cache hidden within a few miles of your house. The adventure can be as big or as small as you want it: from a Tupperware box hidden in the local forest, to an ammo can hidden at the top of an imposing mountain.
How Do I Get Started?
You can sign up for a free account at geocaching.com, then either download caches to your handheld GPS receiver, or download one of many apps available on your smartphone. You can search for geocaches around your current location, or somewhere else you’re planning to visit. Once you’ve found your target, you can start navigating using your device, which will have both a map and a compass.
Keeping Kids Interested
There are several container sizes that you can look for. Micro caches will likely just contain a log sheet, but small, regular and large caches have the potential to contain ‘swag’ – small items for trade, such as key rings or plastic toys. The name of the game is to trade up or even, so make sure you bring small some things to trade.
Little kids generally love the trading part of the game – this is the real treasure for them! I recommend taking along two bags of stuff: one that the child knows about and has decided they want to use for trading, and another secret stash with things that you can put in the geocache for them to trade out, if it turns out there’s no swag inside (unfortunately, this happens often as not everybody follows the trade up or even rule!).
Using the compass screen on the app and watching the distance go down to single digit feet can be fun for kids too. The great thing is, a longer walk can be broken down into shorter sections when you’re navigating between certain points, so try to pick somewhere with a number of caches, preferably in a loop.
Why Go Geocaching?
Geocaching is a great way of motivating both kids and adults to get out and start exploring outdoor locations they may otherwise have never known about. Caches are hidden by other geocachers, who can act like your tour guide to some hidden gems, either at home or further afield. The incentive of finding that treasure at the end of a walk or hike can really motivate little ones to keep going! So if you’re looking for a way to get your kids excited to get outside, why not give geocaching a try?