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Getting outdoors with Geocaching

geocachingFEATURE

We’re well into the summer holidays and by now you may be scratching your head to figure out something fun and fresh to do with the kids. If you want to try something new and get out of the house while you’re doing it, how does a large-scale treasure hunt sound? You don’t have to go out and hide stuff– there’s already thousands of things to find in your area thanks to a popular activity called Geocaching.

How it works

Geocaching has been around for yonks (since about 2000) but the need for a GPS receiver kept it a rather niche hobby for its initial years. Now that almost everyone and their Gran has a smartphone with built-in GPS, all you need to do it set up a free account on an app like the official one from Geocaching.com (available for both iOS and Android) and you’re practically ready to go!

Once you have your app, all you have to do is choose a geocache on the map, navigate to its location and then start looking. A geocache is typically a small, waterproof container which will contain a logbook so you can record your name when you’ve found it. Some geocaches may even contain prizes or require you to solve puzzles before you’ll be able to find them – there’s a number of variations that people have come up with.

After finding the geocache, you’ll need to close it up and put it back in exactly the same place for the next set of hunters to have a go. Thanks to the app, you can even share your find online. Don’t forget to let the cache owner know about the condition of the cache and the experience you had finding it! You can also comment ‘TFTG’ or ‘TFTC’ in the geocache activity – that’s ‘Thanks for the Geocache’ (just a little bit of geocache lingo for you).

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Strapped for cash? Geocache!

A free account on the Geocaching app will show you a selection of the geocache spots in your area so it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water. If you really enjoy it, you may want to consider a premium subscription to unlock all the geocaches in the worldwide database so you can start hunting in more advanced hiding spots. You can get one month’s premium subscription for just $9.99 or an entire year for $46.99, which is just a fraction of the cost of a family ticket to most amusement parks for a single day.

Of course, no hobby is without its accessories, particularly if you’d like to start creating geocaches of your own. Stores like GeoStuff have a range of logbooks, containers and other gadgets that you may find handy, particularly if you plan on seeking out puzzle-themed geocaches (think ‘decoder coins’ and ‘blacklight keyrings’).

You may also like to hit up the two dollar shop for some cool little toys and trinkets – many larger geocaches contain a stash of toy cars, Legos and mini figurines so finders can swap them out with items from their own collection. It adds another element of fun to the sport.

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Some tips to stay happy and safe

  • Always check the most recent activity on a geocache. You don’t want to go all that way only to be disappointed by a stolen geocache! Thankfully, the geocaching community is pretty good at keeping each other in the loop about any missing geocaches (the official term is ‘muggled’) so if someone has decided to spoil it for everyone else, you’ve got a good chance of knowing ahead of time so you can choose another location.
  • Stick to public parks, landmarks and walking trails. Geocaching.com’s guidelines require that people obtain the land owner’s or land manager’s permission before placing a geocache but other apps may be less scrupulous. There have been incidents where participants were unwittingly trespassing, so avoid any locations that look like they may be on private property. If you have small children, there’s a good chance that there’s some geocaches to be found in your local area so you won’t have to tread too far into unfamiliar territory.
  • If you are going bush, do your research first. During Australia’s warmer months you might want to keep your geocaching restricted to more urban locations to avoid any incidents with the native wildlife, namely snakes. If in doubt, run a quick Google search on the park or reserve you intend to visit and you’re bound to find advice or warnings for the area on their website to help you make a decision.
  • Slip, slop, slap, seek ‘n’ slide! The Australian sun is harshest in the summer months so you should always take plenty of water and cover up to protect yourself from sunburn when you go on your adventure.

Have you tried geocaching or are you keen to give it go? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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12 comments

  1. Ras says:

    Waning. I you are connected to iinet.net.au then good luck. It does not work and neither does the phone cnection. Trying to contact support is like pulling teeh from a chook. one hour waiting time. I suggest you avoid this company like the plaque

  2. Tony Rolfe says:

    Good to see someone from iiNet promoting geocaching.

    It would be nice to encourage new users to leave a meaningful log, rather than the rather abrupt TFTC or TFTG. That is fine as the last part of a log, but not best practice as a whole log on its own.

    As a cache owner I appreciate people giving some information on the condition of the cache and the experience that the finder had. Getting people into good habits at the beginning is much easier than getting them out of bad habits later.

    Anyway, good to see you promoting this family-friendly activity.

    7,000,000 cachers chasing nearly 3,000,000 caches world-wide can’t all be wrong.

  3. Luke Cossins says:

    As a fellow geocacher and cache owner, I support Tony’s comments. New cachers are always welcome and there is a lot of support provided by more experienced cachers out there, either by attending geocaching events (get-togethers) or geocaching facebook pages in your state/territory or more localised area.

  4. CraigRat says:

    Don’t forget the Australia community run geocaching website – Geocaching Australia – http://geocaching.com.au . One of the developers is a loyal iinet user (me as it happens!)

    100% free and open geocaching.

  5. Cathie Wilson (SELF) says:

    Wow! What a great idea. I’ll be giving this a go!

  6. Noikmeister says:

    Please don’t just write TFTC in your online log. Write about your experience. It is the only payment us cache owners get from putting out a cache for you to find.

  7. Adam Stefyn says:

    New cachers keep an eye out for events great way to touch base with COs and other cachers of similar interests
    http://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC6GFDX
    Team Smokey-Bear

  8. Tyson says:

    Great article. How did I not know about this before? Will be going out to see if there are any geocaches in Tassie. Thanks Gina!

  9. Please note that Groundspeak’s Geocaching.com is not the official site and that their app isn’t the official app. They are just one of the many listing services.

    An Australian listing service is geocaching.com.au which hosts a lot of Australia specific caches and events.

  10. Bernie says:

    While geocaching.com is not the “official” site (there is no such thing), it is the original site (year 2000), and it has much more information, explanation, instruction videos, worldwide community, and the most caches listed. There are many other splinter groups catering for local enthusiasts, and even GPS manufacturers who have tried to corner the market for their own benefit, but if you want the most choice of caches, especially if you holiday outside Australia, Geocaching.com is the place to start.

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