Getting Started Geocaching

by Dave (the turtle) Wilkes

Getting started geocaching,
just how do you do it?
It’s really quite simple,
there is nothing much to it.
Just get online and create an account
How many caches?
It’s an amazing amount!

Ok, sorry for channeling Dr Seuss. I guess I read The Sleep Book to my kids a few too many times.

Getting Started Geocaching
Sue holding a cache & Grace in her “Geocaching skirt”

But getting started geocaching really is quite easy. All you need is a GPS, and then log into one of the geocaching web sites to obtain the Latitude & Longitude (Lat/Lon) of a cache near you. Then go out and find it! It really is that simple.

The hook is that once you find your first cache, you will want to find more. And you will probably want to log your finds so you and others will have a record of it. You also, might like to be able to load a bunch of caches for a given area directly into your GPS rather than have to print out the information and/or manually enter it in. And if you are like me, you want to be able to geocache and any time or place, so being able to access caches in your current location with your phone is an absolute must…ok maybe not a must, but it sure is cool!

So I have assembled a few links that I think could be helpful for new cachers (see below). The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and Wiki (Wikihow & Wikipedia) are good places to start. by Groundspeak is probably the most popular geocaching site there is. It is where I got my start, but there are other sites that maintain their own lists of caches, and I have tried to include a few in the links provided.

My recommendation would be to visit a few of the sites, see which you like and/or have caches near you and sign up. To my knowledge they all have some sort of free signup, and then some offer additional services for a fee.

Once you sign up you can search for caches in your area or someplace you intend to visit, and you are ready to go. When you find the caches you can log your find to the site and it will keep track of the ones you have visited making it easer to find new ones. Some will even send you e-mails when new caches are created.

What do you need? Well besides a GPS, not much. GPS’s are much cheeper than they were only a few years ago, and some even have dedicated Geocaching features! I reciently had the opertunity to try out the Geomate Jr and found it ideal for kids and/or someone who wants to jump into Geocaching quickly. Good footwear is kind of important. You could end up walking quite a bit while looking for the caches or exploring the area. Many caches are placed in a location for a reason. Sometimes while looking for a cache you will find a new place to explore. A pen/pencil is a good idea for signing cache logs and taking notes. Some catchers like to trade small trinkets. This is my kid’s favorite part! So I keep a small bag or pouch with little trinkets that they use to trade. The basic concept is that what is in the cache is available for trade, simply take something and leave something else in its place (preferably of equal or higher value). There are also sometimes items in the caches that are intended to be picked up and moved to other caches. These range from custom made coins to items with tags (know as “travel bugs”). Some of these items are intended to just be moved around, while some have specific places they are trying to get to or tasks they are trying to accomplish (e.g. my daughter created a travel bug with the objective of getting its picture taken with as many cat lovers as possible).

Some caches are hidden in out of the way places. So basic items one would take on a trail hike can also be a good idea (simple first aid kit, jacket or poncho, water, snacks, maps, etc), what you bring depends highly on you, your location, as well as the conditions. Personally I also like to bring a walking stick, if for no other reason than to make sure there are no ‘surprises’ (such as a snake or poison ivy) when I reach for a suspected cache.

After you have found a cache…or 20, you just might start thinking that you wished you had a cache of your own. This is natural, don’t worry or feel embarrassed, it happens to most cachers. Creating your own cache is a bit more involved than finding your first cache, but it is still quite simple. Unfortunately, I am not going to go into the details in this article but will save that for a follow up article I plan to post very soon.

Human Travel Bug
One of a kind Travel Bug

Geocaching can be done as a solo activity, as well as a family event, and there are Geocaching groups that go out together and even hold events. There are even groups/companies that offer Geocaching as a team building activity!


And the turtles, of course… All the turtles are free- As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

Dr Seuss

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