Geocaching 101: Free, Outdoor, Treasure Hunts

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OK, not going to lie. I have no idea how our family has been stuck in the house for the past 15 months and only recently found out about geocaching. I had heard that term before but never really knew what it meant. One quick Google search and our lives might never be the same. 

geocaching

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt that your neighbors and other individuals maintain. The goal is to use your smartphone as a digital tracker guiding you to a set of coordinates. Then the hunt begins. There are thousands of geocaches around the DMV.

Caches can be easy to spot, like a clear Tupperware container, or they can be challenging.  Think camouflage, and tiny! Use the clues provided by the cache owner to locate and claim your prize. (If you’re really stuck, you can usually find more help or spoiler photos by past explorers too.) 

What kind of treasures?

Sometimes the prize is the thrill of victory, which was much more satisfying for me than for my son.

Other times, the cache is loaded with small trinkets that can be traded. We pack up a few small items, usually those things from goodie bags that would ultimately get thrown away. The golden rule is to trade, take a prize, and leave a prize. I cannot tell you how excited he has been to find someone else’s small item!

geocaching

What supplies do you need to go Geocaching?

A fully charged smartphone with the Geocaching app downloaded is really all you need!

Never forget to bring your pen; you’ll want to sign your name in the log provided by each cache. That part really made it official for my little guy.

Usually, we’re exploring in a wooded area with a backpack ready for anything. Throw in some sunscreen, bug spray, flashlight, pens, and trinkets (and of course, snacks), and go!

I’ve found that wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and closed-toed shoes really help to avoid annoying scratches and itchy things while climbing through brush.

The only downside is how much power drains out of my battery. Make sure to fully charge your phones before you leave, or your exploration might be cut short. 

geocaching

Logistics

While this is an activity the whole family can enjoy, there are definitely varying levels of difficulty. Starting out, you’ll want to make sure you’re searching for items of very low levels of difficulty. These will be easy to access or have obvious caches to find. Read the previous finder’s notes to get a feel for whether a particular cache would be fun for your family to find.

Likewise, you know your kids best. Use your judgment when going for harder levels of difficulty. If they are becoming frustrated or bored with a harder level, go back to searching for easier ones. Seriously, some of these are the size of a chapstick covered in camouflage in the middle of the woods. (We gave up on that one.)

Free fun

The best part of geocaching: it’s free, available all around the world, and always accessible! Got a few minutes between Zoom calls? Head outside and go hunting. Roadtrip in another state? Explore new places on foot. Need to use up a few hours away from a screen? Set a goal to find multiple locations back-to-back. 

We LOVE exploring new places with a mission. Becoming outdoor treasure hunters has been a welcomed change to our typical routine. I hope you and your little one love spending time together finding new treasures! 

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