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Geocaching: Our New, Cheap Kid Activity

Logo_Geocaching_color_300Are you looking for a fun (and cheap) summertime activity to keep the kids busy until they go back to school? Then geocaching may be for you. Never heard of the term? Neither had I until about a month ago when my wife mentioned it. I think my initial comment was, “What the heck is that?”

Do you remember the days of playing pirate as a kid, searching for buried treasure? In essence, that is what geocaching is. Here’s how it’s described at Geocaching.com:

“Geocaching is a real-world, 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.”

I have to admit I was skeptical when I read about this. I mean who are these hobbyists who traipse all over the wooden glen and urban street corners looking for hidden containers with small trinkets inside? Then I saw a map where all the caches are hidden – in the entire world! Then I realized this was a bigger deal than I thought. Yes, there are some in Antarctica if you are in the neighborhood.

Here’s how you play.

In order to participate, you must first sign up for a membership at Geocaching.com. I would recommend the basic membership, as it is free. Besides you don’t want to sign up for a premium membership if the kids turn out not to like it.

The next step is to visit the “Hide & Seek Cache” page. Here you can enter in your postal code and see the locations of all the caches in your area. Clicking on a cache name reveals its coordinates, which you then enter into your GPS device.

Once your GPS is loaded with the cache coordinates, hop in the car and follow your GPS as it guides you to the hidden location. Once you find the cache, sign the enclosed logbook, return it to its location, then share your fun experience and photos with others online.

The first time my wife went with the kids she tried to use our car GPS to locate the item. This didn’t work real well as a car GPS couldn’t pinpoint the exact location. We then went to REI to look at hiking GPS devices. Uh…that was a little too pricey for beginning geocachers – like $300+ kind of pricey. So we purchased the $10 official geocaching app for my wife’s new iPhone she got last week. That worked like a charm this past weekend.

You may be thinking, “What’s the fun in searching for something when you have a GPS to lead you to the exact location?” If only it were that easy. Each cache has a difficulty rating (1’s are easy, 5’s are hard) based on the nearby terrain and the difficulty of the placement. We found three this past weekend. One was covered with some brush at the base of a tree; one was inside a hollowed out tree trunk (my daughter found that after I had already looked in there and missed it…dang it!); one was underneath a sliding metal box that covered the base of a light pole. The last one we had almost given up on after searching for 20 minutes underneath bushes and in nearby trees. All three of those were rated no higher than 1.5 in difficulty.

Geocache picture

That’s us with one of our finds, while Andrew holds up a plastic toy car he found in the cache.

Most of the caches have small trinkets inside of them that you can trade in and out for small items you bring along. This is not a must to play the game, but it’s fun for the kids to open up each cache and see all the goodies inside. Makes it feel really like a treasure hunt. There is even a way to place traceable items in the caches so you can follow them all over the country as they are moved from once cache to the next.

I have to admit I had a blast doing this with the family for several reasons. One, I found two of the three caches we looked for and was close on the third. Oh…oops…this isn’t supposed to be about me…it’s for the kids, right?

Anyway, the kids get some exercise doing a fun outdoor activity, which is always a plus. They had to be mentally engaged in an activity that provided some mystery. They are building fun memories. They also get to see how to utilize technology to solve problems. Quite frankly, I think that’s what makes it fun for adults as well. This activity was so much fun we plan to weave some treasure hunting into our next vacation.

To get the rest of your questions answered click here. That link will take you to the Geocaching 101 page at the website. There are some basic rules associated with the game that you need to review before you begin.

Look us up when you register. Our profile is Fourman96.

Happy hunting!

Anyone else have experience geocaching? 

The Groundspeak Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission.

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Comments

  1. You Daily Finance says:

    Never heard of this but it seems fun for the family. I agree free until I know whether or not the kids actually enjoy it. I like that they have ranges of difficulty.

    • I’m a little nervous about trying out some tougher levels of difficulty with the kids. Plus I want them to find them so it’s more fun. I imagine the level 5 caches have some real tough terrain. Don’t relish the idea of hiking up a mountain for two hours with the little ones.

  2. I’ve heard of this and have some friends who do it with their kids and they really seem to enjoy it. Love the idea!

    • I’ve kind of linked this to just being a kid activity but it’s really fun for adults to. I loved it and could see it being a hobby my wife and I continue once the kids are gone.

  3. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says:

    My nephew does this and absolutely loves it. Great way of getting kids outdoors with a tangible goal to see nature.

  4. Student Debt Survivor says:

    I just recently heard about this. I think it sounds like a lot of fun.

  5. I was thinking about this today…the only negative I can think of with the iPhone is the battery life. I think the hiking GPS things are designed to go all day, and you just swap out the batteries if you need to. At this point in our life, though, our five-year-old is going to be the limiting factor in terms of time, not our device.

  6. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    I don’t know how, but I have never heard of this. I think I’ll be emailing my wife about this as it sounds like something our little ones would absolutely love.

    • Don’t feel bad…you weren’t the only one who missed it. I had never heard of it either until my wife saw someone mention it on Facebook. There is a whole history about how it got started (mid-2000) at the website. Kinda makes you wonder where we have been the last 13 years 🙂

  7. This sounds like a fun game! I have seen kids goecaching at the parks. I know it’s fun for adults, too!

    • All of our kids really got into. They love seeing the treasures inside each one of the caches. I think part of the allure for adults (at least for me anyway) is that we get to use fun technology (in our case an iPhone and an app) to find the cache.

  8. I have done geocaching for years. It is fun and they are all over the country.

  9. My uncle and his brother-in-law are BIG on geocaching. My cousins are only 5 and 7 years old and it’s a fun activity they take part in. When they come up and visit we always go get a one or two caches, and we do it when we go down and visit them as well. I personally have not gotten into it, but I can see how it can be a fun activity – with or without kids.

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