Love Pokemon Go? Try Geocaching!

This summer, I introduced my 11 year old son to Pokemon Go. I had heard about it on the internet from friends whose kids were obsessed and I thought it might be fun to download it and give it a try. We went on a handful of hunts for Pokemon but the app was difficult to use, it kept stalling and we had to keep restarting it and to be quite honest, it felt a little dumb to just be standing there on your phone swiping as things came in front of you. Don't get me wrong, I love that this app got kids outside. People started exploring areas they didn't know existed. Our local park that was sporadically visited suddenly started becoming full of Pokemon hunters consistently. But, long before Pokemon Go, there was Geocaching. Our family started Geocaching in 2004 but took a little break {OK a long break} when the busyness of raising three small children took over our life.  

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I happened to be out with the kids in a local park recently and we were aimlessly wandering around the woods when the kids and I started to talk about Geocaching. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to download the app onto my smartphone as I stood underneath the tall trees and we went on the hunt for our first cache. The kids were hooked after finding three caches in the area we were in and I was impressed at how much easier it was to Geocache now in the age with smart phones {previously, we used a handheld GPS device and used the internet to search for coordinates-it took a lot of research just to get started}.  Our family was hooked again, and we started Geocaching as a family in our free time. 

Without fail, after nearly every Geocache find, my 11 year old son always makes a comment that Geocaching is WAY better than Pokemon Go, which leads me to why I am writing this. The Pokemon Go craze will come and go. The excitement for it will die down and since the goal is to "collect them all" once they are all collected, then what? Well, let me introduce you to Geocaching. A fun little outdoor scavenger hunt that's been around since 2000 and isn't going anywhere.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a worldwide outdoor scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates to find a cache of fun finds you can exchange with real life people who were on an adventure before you. Instead of catching Pokemon on your phone, and spending money on in-app purchases, you are exploring the area around you to find hidden treasure you probably would have otherwise walked past.  I've found new parks and new locations in areas I never knew existed.
There are more than 2 million Geocaches hidden around the world. There are probably some right near you that you have walked past. 

How to Get Started

Download the free Geocaching app to your phone. Allow the app to find your location and start searching for geocaches in your area. It's that easy!

There are Geocaches hidden all around us and some are in plain sight. There are Geocaches of all shapes and sizes. My kids love the caches that are small {think small plastic storage container size} to medium {ammo can} sized. The extra small caches are sometimes harder for them to find. They love finding treasures hidden inside. The larger Geocaches have room for trinkets, so we pack along a bag filled with trinkets to trade and always have a pen with us so that we can sign the log book.
You can watch this video to find out more.

How to Find a Geocache

When we first started the process of finding a Geocache it was far more complicated than it is with the app on your smartphone. If you find yourself in a park or wandering around with extra time on your hands, open up the Geocache app and you will probably find a cache location hidden nearby.

You can use the information listed on the cache to find out more information, but really, it's about following the coordinates to get within about 10 feet before you start looking around. Knowing what size container you are looking for also helps. Some containers are disguised as rocks, screws, bolts or fence caps. Others have magnets and can be found secured to guard rails or under benches while some are hidden in tree knots or inside a rock wall.

Some Geocaches have hints you can look at if you are struggling to find the cache. The activity log is also helpful to find clues from other hunters who found the cache.

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Once you find the cache, take out the log book, sign it, and record your find in your app. If there are trinkets, feel free to take one but leave one in it's place.

You can also keep your eyes peeled for Travel Bugs and geocoins. Both items have unique tracking numbers on them. Travel Bugs usually have some kind of goal they want to achieve, like traveling to all 50 states. You are part of the equation in helping that Travel Bug travel to it's next location. You can collect the Travel Bug at one location, log it so that you can see where it's traveled and what the goal is, and then hide the Travel Bug in a new location.  Take these items only if you intend to put it into a new Geocache location. This all starts to sound complicated, but it's totally not and you will catch on in no time to this new high tech treasure hunt.

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Give it a shot! I think your family will have the best time. Our family is really enjoying getting outside and exploring our area together.

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1 comment

April Foster said...

I'm totally with you on this one. My 11 year old daughter loves going out
Walking with me hunting down the caches (which around here we usually don't find because they either haven't been kept up or someone has taken them).To her finding the cache isn't as fun as the search and learning the history that the cache is ultimately trying to point out ( we haven't had a chance to do any good nature caches yet). We have gone out with my mom and dad as well and my dad is hooked.

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