Call it a modern day game of hide and seek. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. GPS, or Global Positioning System, was developed by the US Department of Defense. This satellite navigation system was intended for military use and so the signals were scrambled. This limited the accuracy for civilian use to about 100 meters. However on May 1, 2000, President Clinton announced that this scrambling, known as Selective Availability (SA), would be turned off. Civilians were then able to enjoy using their GPSs with accuracy up to 10 meters.
The invention of the sport of geocaching can be attributed to a man named Dave Ulmer. On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer created a way to celebrate the new freedoms available with GPS usage thanks to President Clinton. He hid the first geocache (container, log book, trinket) in the woods outside Portland, Oregon, and announced its location in a posting made to the USENET newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav. This led to the first geocache event and the sport is still going strong today.
What Is Geocaching?
Geocaching is an outdoor adventure game that utilizes the Global Position System and other navigation techniques to find a hidden "cache", which can be located anywhere in the world. Hiding places includes under a park bench, inside a bus stop, next to a large boulder in the woods, or anywhere else that looks like a good hiding place. Literally, it could be anywhere!
Caches are usually housed in a small, waterproof container and they contain a logbook. Finders can record their visits in the log and can note the trinkets they've taken or left behind (swapped). The location of a geocache is given as latitude and longitude coordinates. Using a GPS unit, explorers enter the coordinates and are steered in the right direction.
Things to Take When You Go Geocaching:
• A pen or pencil to sign the logbook
• Trinkets and treasures to swap (if you take a treasure from a cache, you are supposed to leave a treasure in its place)
• A smartphone
Finding A Cache
Essential to geocaching is having a GPS unit. A basic GPS unit will do just fine and can be found online or at any outdoor equipment store.
Devices you can use are:
• A handheld GPS
• A car GPS that allows waypoints
• A GPS-enabled smartphone or tablet
You should also bring along a compass, a map of your area, a pen for writing in the log book, and an item to place in the geocache. Once you've selected a cache to search for, use your GPS unit to navigate to the location coordinates. These will be within a few feet of the cache. The final 30 to 100 feet is the hardest part of the hunt. The cache could be hidden under a bush or in a hole in a tree.
Replacing A Cache
Once you've found the cache, record your name in the log book and put the cache back where you found it. If you take an item from the cache, replace it with something else. You likely won't find anything of great value in a cache, but that isn't the point! The thrill of the hunt is what drives most geocachers. Finally, visit the cache page to log your find and share your experience with others.
Geocaching Apps you can download for your smart phone:
• Geocaching (for iPhone or Android)
• Geocaching Toolkit (for iPhone or Android)
• GPS Kit (for iPhone) *This will help you when you get to the tricky geocache.