Geocaching is a fun, high-tech treasure hunt, except instead of searching using maps and compasses players use a handheld GPS and coordinates to find the cache or treasure. We joined the game this past spring and it is really fun. Plus, it is free to start and it is an activity your entire family can enjoy together. So, what are you waiting for? We've got the details here for you, let the hunt begin!
Basically, people who play the game hide caches, mostly in public spaces (think parks and other locales) for others to find. Then they post the coordinates of their cache along with other pertinent information online. There are over one million caches stashed all around the world – even here in NYC. The simplest cache is usually a small plastic container with a log book that finders sign for the owner (who maintains and checks the cache regularly.)
If your kid likes scavenger hunts (or gadgets) they will love doing this. If you haven’t heard of it don’t feel bad. Geocaching is a relatively new sport (if you can even call it that.) It has been around for about ten years – coming into existence with the advent of handheld GPS’s.
Sound simple? Well it is a lot more challenging than it sounds. Even with the coordinates the caches are pretty hard to find. Plus, you need to be somewhat discreet while searching to avoid looking too suspicious, which is hard in itself in a large urban environment like NYC. To date we have only found one cache – around the corner from our apartment hidden under a cement block in an open plaza.
There are a lot of geocaching websites that post coordinates, but the biggest and most family friendly is, Geocaching.com. The basic membership is free and it allows you to get coordinates to hunt for caches and keep track of what you find. Also when you click on a the details of a cache to search for it tells you if it is kid, stroller or pet friendly and other information you need to know. You can also post your own caches for others to find.
There are very few rules in this game, if you take something from a cache you must leave something of equal or greater value and you must enter your name into the log book.
Tips to know before you go:
Most people hide caches in a place that is significant to them, so make sure you know where you are going and pack and dress appropriately.
We have found the buildings here sometimes block the signals to the GPS unit and it is easier to hunt for a cache in an open location – like a park.
NYC has its own set of problems since you are never alone in public so searching for and hiding caches can sometimes cause suspicion. There have been instances of bomb squads blowing up caches when muggles (or those who don’t play the game) accidentally found them and, not knowing what they were, called the authorities. So while hunting it is best to be discreet or try when the area is not crowded. When hiding a cache, it is a good idea to ask the property owner for permission.
Be sure to read through the getting started area of Geocaching.com.
Photo by viZZZual.com