by Siobhan Cowen
If you haven’t already heard about it, Geocaching is a fantastic new game you can play while traveling the globe. It is a “treasure-hunting” game that is played with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and other navigational methods in which “caches” (containers normally filled with trinkets) are hidden and searched out in over 220 countries around the world. The underlying idea behind Geocaching is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the planet, they then share coordinates of the caches on the internet. This allows participants with GPS devices to use the online location coordinates to seek out the hidden caches. Once located, the cache may contain an array of rewards for the finder. It is generally expected that if the visitor takes something from the cache they should try to leave something in return for the next treasure hunter.
So what exactly are these “geocaches”? They actually vary quite greatly. They range from “microcaches” such as a film container to large storage bins. I had also mentioned rewards and trinkets are found inside these caches. Typically the items found inside the caches are not worth a lot of money, but may have other value to the finder. Most caches will include a logbook so visitors can write down some basic personal information. Then prizes may include books, CDs, small toys, coins, or buttons. Also sometimes found in these caches are items that can be moved from cache to cache and logged online; these are called geocoins or travel bugs and have a unique identifiable number on them. On occasion caches contain items of a higher monetary value; these are reserved for caches in locations that are difficult to reach or for the first finder.
So now that I’ve piqued your interest and you want to know where to go on the internet to find out more about where to find these caches. Well, there are a few sites you can visit to find out more about the game and where you can find actual listings for the locations of the caches. Geocaching.com, which started in 2000, was the pioneer site and is currently the largest. It offers both a free and paid membership to the site which lists hundreds of thousands of caches and has members all over the globe. Another great site is Terracaching.com which specializes in more advanced caches that are either higher in value or more difficult to locate. Members of the site approve the caches by sponsoring those who hide them to ensure quality. Another popular site is Navicache.com; it has some cache-concentrated sites around the world. An advantage of this site is that it does not charge any membership fees to access their database.
There are traditional caches with a logbook and normally some small trade items, but there are also many variations on the basic game. Variations include traveling caches, night caches, event caches, mystery caches, webcam caches, and multi-caches to name a few. Traveling or moving caches turn the finder into the hider as the discoverer of the cache must move it a new location and update the coordinates. Night caches can only be found by the aid of a flashlight in the dark where it is used to hit reflectors that will lead you to the ultimate destination. Event caches can vary; the cache is located at a Geocacher gathering and one example is “Cache-In Trash-Out” where the ‘cachers clean up the area where the event is held. Mystery caches involve a puzzle of some sort and are located after a puzzle is solved to determine the cache’s final position. Webcam caches replace the usual logbook with a public webcam where you take a photo to mark you have found the cache. Finally multi-caches are a series of caches that you unearth in a series as you find the coordinates for the next cache in the preceding one. The logbook is found in the last cache in the chain.
So the next time you are looking for an adventurous and fun activity on your trip you may choose to try the new craze: Geocaching.