Your Guide to the World of Geocaching:
What Do You Need to Start Geocachinig?
- Geocaching may be a relatively new term, and you may need relatively new technological toys, but the idea has been around for centuries. This is a high-tech treasure hunt; just like pirates using maps marked with X's or kids going on a scavenger hunt, the goal is to find hidden containers, or geocaches. The difference is that these are hidden all over the world and a geocaching GPS
is a necessity. This worldwide hide-and-seek game has legions of ardent fans, a strong online community, and all the intrigue and thrill we need to keep seeking the treasure. If you're new to the world of geocaching, get ready for adventure - and get ready to go shopping. You'll need a few things before you can set off on your treasure hunt. We'll guide you to them.
The Geocaching Community - Geocachers all over the world are connected through the internet; this virtual community allows them to post new caches, talk about their journeys, provide tips and clues, and much more. Almost a million caches are active in the world, and there are about 3-4 million geocachers chasing them. It can seem overwhelming to break into this world. If you want to get started, the best way to do it is to find a good geocaching site or forum. TopTenReviews has compiled a list of the best, including Geocaching.com, Navicache.com, Terracaching.com, GPSGames.org, and Earthcache. Going on one of these sites gives you access to information, geocaches worldwide, and most importantly for the beginner, forums. We'll use Geocaching.com, the biggest geocaching site, as an example to show you how easy it is to get started. First, sign up for a basic membership, which is free. On the home page, you can enter in your area code to find caches near you. You can also go to the Hide and Seek a Cache section to conduct your search. You will see geocaches on the search lists marked with icons, which will tell you what type of cache it is. For instance, if you see a question mark (?), it means that it is a mystery or puzzle cache. You may have to solve complicated puzzles to determine the coordinates. Once you find one that you are interested in, you click on it, enter the coordinates into your GPS, and then go hunting. When you find the geocache, you sign the logbook, and return it to its place for other geocachers to find. Many of the "muggles," or the uninitiated, to borrow from JK Rowling, don't understand this. If you get the coordinates, what's hard about it? Don't you go right to it? You go near it, not to it. The coordinates will get you close, but you have to do the actual discovery. This has several benefits: it is fun and challenging. Everyone wants to discover treasure, not trip over it. Also, it brings you to places you may never have known existed before, even if they're in your own backyard. You can check out some common geocaching terms here (http://geolex.locusprime.net/) so you are not mistaken for a muggle.
What Do You Need: Geocaching Supplies:
Your GPS is the most important thing you need - and very possibly, you could get by with only this tool. Choosing a good one, then, is crucial. Budget will be a big part of your choice, but luckily, there are several good options in different price ranges. GPSTrackLog has narrowed down the substantial field and created a short list for your consideration. Their choice for best budget GPS for geocaching is the Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver
. The Venture HC has a high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled receiver for the best performance in any environment, even under thick canopy and in canyons. It has built-in basemaps of lakes, rivers, cities, interstates, state and national highways, railroads, and coastlines; a 1.7- x 1.3-inch screen; USB connectivity for fast map downloads; 14-hour battery life, MP3 player, and 24Mb of internal memory so you can load waypoints and roots. GPSTrackLog recommends the HC over the eTrex Venture H because of the ability to download maps, which is essential for geocachers. You can find the Venture HC on Amazon for about $120. The Venture HCx is a bump up and offers a compass, barometric altimeter, 25-hour battery life, color screen, expandable map memory, and turn-by-turn routing. This is about $182.
If your budget is larger, you can go all out and get the GPSTrackLog best pick, the Garmin Oregon 550T
. It has a 3-inch touch screen that is readable in sunlight; 3.2MP autofocus digital camera with 4x digital zoom; barometric altimeter; waterproofing, great durability, built-in 3 axis tilt-compensated electronic compass. The Oregon 550T also offers pre-loaded topographical maps of the US. Listing for about $600, you can find it for $520. Garmin is a top brand and will deliver quality at any budget.
Besides your GPS, you will want pen or pencil to sign logbooks and proper clothing and equipment for the weather and conditions, such as hats, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. Geocaching recommends that you bring a heavy glove for reaching into cache hiding places, a chopstick for getting caches out of tight spaces, wet wipes, band-aids, a walking stick, a telescoping mirror, and water. You'll also want to carry swag. These are items that you bring to exchange. For instance, if you find a cache with a twig pencil that you'd like, you replace it with a fun button or badge that you've brought. Always make even trades, or trade up. Most geocaches feature random, everyday objects, not necessarily "treasure." Coins, vinyl stickers, polished stones, small compasses, decals, and other such items are common swag, and you can buy them anywhere.
You may also want to hide your own cache, which means you will need a few supplies. A geocache container is a must. While you can use just about anything, there are some containers that are more popular than others. Ammo cans are well-liked because they are heavy-duty and animal resistant. They are very durable and rugged. You can find a micro ammon can for about $10. They can also be big and hard to hide effectively. People also turn to Nalgene bottles or jars and Lock and Lock containers. You can use plastic containers or coffee cans, but be aware that these can leak if you leave them out for long periods of time. Also, never use something that has ever held food! Critters can smell it and will dig up your cache. And no, they won't sign the logbook.
Something else you may find very useful, and interesting, are travel bugs. A travel bug is a traceable tag that you leave in your cache. It travels from cache to cache and can reach all corners of the earth. Some bugs have goals, like to hit each state in the US, and geocachers often help it along on this goal by taking it to their next cache. You can find these for under $5.
The most important thing you'll need to become a successful geocacher is a sense of adventure. Without that, it doesn't matter how good your GPS unit is, how much you've spent on swag or supplies, or how many caches you've found. Without adventure, geocaching is like looking for your lost car keys. So make it fun and exciting. Tools, like a GPS, will help you on your way, but your excitement is what really pushes you on to that next cache. You can browse the best selling geocaching supplies here