Geocaching guide for beginners

Caches, geocoins and logs

I remember the day I first discovered geocaching. My husband had seen a program about it on TV and was telling me about it on the way home from work. "You'll love it," he said. "It's a cross between orienteering and a treasure hunt, and you can do it with your IPhone." I was sold! An outdoor activity, treasure hunting and IPhone - what was there not to love?

So of course I immediately read up on it as soon as I got home.  I discovered it involved finding hidden geocaches (usually boxes filled with trinkets and toys), logging your find (signing the enclosed book), leaving something in exchange for anything you decide to take, and then moving on to the next geocache. There are millions hidden throughout the world. And as you get more into the hobby you can even start hiding your own geocache for others to find.

My husband and I soon discovered that geoaching is very easy - or at least very easy to understand and very easy to begin. But finding geocaches - well that can range from very simple to fiendishly difficult. I have logged a few DNFs (Did Not Find) in my time.

If you're thinking of starting to geocache then I hope the following will be useful:-

1. Visit www.geoaching.com, register on the site and then look up the area you're interested in on the site's map. You will be amazed at all the treasures that are hidden in your locale.

2. Pick an easy geocache to get started - the difficulty rating is given on the site.

3. If you have an IPhone download the app for the phone. You can use other GPS devices but I found the IPhone app to be very easy.

4. To get started search for the geocache you want to find on your app. I preferred to do this before we left the house. I liked having it all loaded up on my phone before we actually started. But when you're out and about you can also select the "Find geocaches nearby" option. Spur on the moment geoaching is great fun!

5. Think about what you're going to leave in the geocache box. The geoache is usually (not always) filled with goodies - trinkets, cards, special coins called Geocoins and special items called Travelbugs. If you take one of these you are meant to leave something in its place. So make sure you bring something to leave. Or of course you could always just log the find but not partake in the treasure swap (but that's my favorite bit!)

6. Speaking of logging your finds - most geocaches have a little notepad and pencil inside the box. You leave your name and the date you found the geocache plus a little comment. I used to love reading those little messages and discovering all the different people who had travelled far and wide to find the same geocache  I had just discovered.

7. I mentioned Geocoins and Travelbugs - these special items have a tracking number. If you take one you'll need to look up the number on geocaching.com and read the story behind it and find out what its purpose is. Some of these items are sent out to travel the world. You will be amazed at how far they may have come. Help them on their journey. It's the honorable thing to do.

8. Don't get frustrated! Some geocaches can be hard to find. There are clues on the application/website that you can read if you want to - but these can sometimes be cryptic (to me anyway!).

9. Don't forget to look up! It's a standing joke between me and my husband that my head is constantly down staring at my IPhone when we geocache. Usually I'm muttering to myself, "It should be here," while my husband is standing behind me with the geocache in his hand! As you get nearer the spot where the geocache is likely to be hidden look up from the mobile/GPS and study the area for the likely hiding place.

10. Beware of muggles (non-geocachers) who might regard your behavior as rather suspicious! My husband and I once emerged from some bushes after a productive geocaching hunt straightening our dishevelled clothes ... the look on the faces of the picnicking family watching us was quite a picture!

Enjoy geoaching! It is my absolute favorite outdoor hobby. If you love walking and love puzzles and love discovering hidden beautiful nature spots that you would never have even considered visiting had it not been for the promise of a cache then this is the hobby for you. It is a fascinating way to enjoy our fascinating world.