With the summer holidays fast approaching, I’ve been putting some thought into activities that parents can do with kids of all ages. Assuming the British summer doesn’t let us down (again!), nice weather inevitably means we’ll all want to spend some time outdoors, taking in the fresh air and getting some exercise. But how do you keep your tech-loving kids occupied on a long walk through the countryside, I hear you ask?
The answer is simple: geocaching. You may already have heard of geocaching, or one of the similar activities people practise, but in case you haven’t, I’m going to give you a brief introduction to the concept, and explain why kids and grownups alike will love it.
What is geocaching?
In a nutshell, geocaching is the practise of GPS-powered, outdoor Hide and Seek. Geocachers hide small containers around the world, log their location on a geocaching website or app and then tell other geocachers where to find them. Participants then hunt them out, make a note of their location (or some other activity, more on that below) and log the find in their notes/app/list.
What do I need to get involved?
Despite a few attempts over the years (geocaching started in 2000), it remains a completely non-commercial activity. Anybody can get involved, it costs absolutely nothing and it is quite literally global. I dont know the exact stat, but you’re probably less than a mile away from a geocache right now. I know I am.
What tech do I need?
All you really need to have a go at geocaching is a GPS-enabled mobile phone though an optional (and usually free) Smartphone App might make things even simpler. I downloaded the official GeoCaching app, which made the whole thing pretty straightforward and easy. We did our first geocaching trip whilst walking from our house into town, and found 3 during the journey!
What happens when I find one?
Geocache containers come in a variety of forms, the most simple are small, waterproof containers, usually holding a pencil and a logbook (for logging your find). Bigger versions sometimes contain trinkets or keepsakes for trading, if you take a trinket from a cache, you must replace it with something of a similar size and value, to keep the fun going. Some more well-established caches even contain geocache-specific items like coins or badges.
Sounds a bit dry what else can we do?
Like any activity of this sort, some people have chosen to take it to extremes. Some caches contain trinkets called hitchhikers: trackable objects with an assigned mission, which geocachers can help them achieve. The aim of these hitchhikers might be to travel as far from home as possible, or get from one location to another, via caches. We recently set several hitchhikers (GPS-tracked Lego figures) on a mission to travel from the USA back to the UK!
Geodashing is a competitive form of geocaching, which involves participants finding as many cache locations (or dash points) as possible in a set time.
How child-friendly is it?
As a community, geocachers aim to ensure geocaching is a safe, family-friendly activity. Most geocaches are hidden in safe, public spaces which are easy (if not quick!) to find with a few clues. My kids both love the challenge involved as well as the excitement of finding out what sort of cache it is. But the most obvious benefit of the whole thing is that encourages you to spend time outdoors getting healthy exercise, without being boring or dull for the participants. Most of the apps you get are very easy for youngsters to use.
Where do I start?
Literally anywhere; just download an app, figure out where the closest cache is to your location and get going. Many outdoor organisations run geocaching events to help get beginners started, the National Trust in particular have a big passion for geocaching, and often include GPS-enabled caches around their properties.
So there you have it, geocaching really is that simple, so I’d encourage you to give it a go next time you’re in need of an activity to occupy the kids.
In case you’re wondering, all the photos I’ve included in this post contain geocaches in the photo, though you’ll need to get looking if you want to find them.