When I first moved to Alberta, I attended a local Girl Guide event where I got hooked on geocaching. One of the local guiders during a break took me out and we did 6 caches in the space of about an hour.
As soon as I got home, I scoured the geocaching map for geocaches in my neighbourhood. Hinton, Alberta was home to over 400 geocaches at a time. I bought a hand-held GPS unit and got about searching out my new community by looking for them.
If you are an incurable optimist and have a curious nature to explore, geocaching will be right up your alley.
How To Get Started Geocaching
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt you can take on with your handheld GPS device or smart phone using high-tech satellites to find Tupperware. What could be better?
1. Download the Geocaching app on AppStore (FREE) or Google Play ($12.84)
As long as you have cellular reception, the geocaching app will serve you as a map & compass start. Usually, it’s accuracy is within 10m (think about 20 of adult steps). You may consider investing in a handheld GPS unit like my favourite, the Garmin eTrex, once you get hooked. Their accuracy is a little better at about 4m (about 8 adult steps). Remote wild places like Jasper National Park make a GPSr a given!
2. Register a username for you as an individual or a family.
Many families choose to use their last name & the number of people (eg. Burke4). Logged these caches as a family will only get you one smiley face on the map though – so older kids may choose to pick up their own username and log in too 🙂 Once you find a geocache, you’ll press “found it!” and log the story of your visit for the cache owner to enjoy. This earns you smiley faces on the map as you find some (and bragging rights too!)
3. Search for caches in your neighbourhood to seek.
The geocaching map will allow you to type in your postal code, then explore how many caches are around you. To start, look for containers that are sized LARGE as they will be easier to find.
Any with a terrain of 1.0-1.5 will be an easy walk for little legs. For those that live in urban areas, you may want to try a nearby park or forested area for your first find to up the excitement quotient.
4. Pack a little geocaching kit, and don’t forget the prizes.
A basic geocaching pouch or bag would contain: a pencil, spare batteries (or a charger for your smartphone), tweezers and prizes. Prizes are simple – trinkets from the dollar store, coins, money, stickers are all welcome.
You’ll be trading value for value for items in the geocache so it can be good to have a few. In my pouch, I carry matchbox cars, carabiners, stickers, extra pencils, girl guide badges, and pins. The kids’ favourite traders are Duplo, stickers, markers, bracelets, matchbox cars and money.
5. Explore, and find your way to your first geocache.
One of the first rules of geocaching is to be stealthy – you don’t want muggles (aka non-geocachers) to become suspicious about what you are doing.
Pretend to talk on your phone while you search, or wait until the muggles have cleared the area before you search in earnest. Some geocaches contain hints that may help too – don’t be afraid to use them when necessary.
6. Do the happy dance! You’ve found your first one.
And soon, you’ll be on your way to 500 found just like me in this little addicting treasure hunt. Happy trails!
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