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A Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching with Your Family

Tips for how to seek and find your first geocache

If you’re looking for a fun, outdoorsy activity to do with your kids this weekend that only requires a smart phone, good hiking shoes, water and snacks, it might be time to give geocaching a try. We chatted with Craig Cassar, one of our gear and race reviewers who also happens to be an experienced geocacher (and who often brings along his kids on hunts), to give us a few pointers on how to get started and what to expect.
 
What gear do you need?
 
“Geocaching is an outdoor activity, so you need seasonally appropriate clothing, good shoes, water and snacks,” says Cassar. “To play the game, all you need is the free Geocaching app on your phone, and a free account created on geocaching.com.” However, if you want to get more serious about geocaching or don’t want to use your cellular data while playing, Cassar suggests investing in a GPS receiver, which has more features you can use to seek and find geocaches.
 
How do you know where to look for a geocache?
 
“The app will show you a map of all the geocaches in your local area, and will help you navigate to area where it is hidden,” says Cassar. “When you get within a few metres, you should put away your device and start searching.”


 
Where are they usually located?
 
“Geocaches are hidden just about everywhere—there are well over 2 million hidden in the world (with about 200,00 in Canada) and new ones are added all the time,” Cassar says. “In any populated area, you are likely within walking distance of at least one, if not multiple geocaches. Some will be on trails, or local parks, some will be in parking lots, or up tall trees!” 
 


How long does it take to find one?
 
“Finding one can take 30 seconds, or an hour if they are really well hidden or involve a long hike,” says Cassar.
 
And what exactly are you looking for?
 
“'Hides', as they are referred to, can be very simple (a large peanut butter jar hidden in the notch of a tree), to very difficult (an item disguised to blend in with the environment... like a fake pine cone hanging on a pine tree),” Cassar says.
 
Often, if there are containers hidden, they’ll have trinkets in them for trade—this generates a lot of interest from his 11-year-old and 8-year-old kids, Cassar explains.
 
“Containers can be just about anything that is not glass, but is reasonably water proof,” Cassar says. “Peanut butter containers, lock n' lock containers (think dollars store lunch containers), or small metal cylinders called bison tubes. The most exciting container to find is a repurposed ammo can that will have lots of toys and trinkets inside to trade.”
 
What happens after you find it?
 
“Once you find it, you can open up the container and find a logbook to sign,” says Cassar. “You sign your name and date to prove you found it, and return the log book.”
 
And what about trading toys and trinkets?
 
“You may or may not choose to trade for some other item in the container,” Cassar explains. “Trading 'up' or at least 'equal' is an important part of the etiquette so that there is always something interesting for others to find.” If you’re looking to trade items, ask your kids to bring along a few small trinkets of theirs they don’t mind leaving behind, just in case.
 
Then what do you do with the geocache you’ve found?
 
“Leave the container there and make sure it is hidden well so that’s not accidentally found by muggles (the term for 'non-geocachers' that’s been borrowed from the Harry Potter world),” says Cassar. Once you’re returned the container to it’s hiding place, you can log your find through the app or on your computer at home.
 
“Many people, like me, love to write a little story about our experience... almost like a diary entry,” says Cassar. “The cache owner (the person who hid the cache) gets a notification and will read your log. It is also available on the cache page for others to read.”
 
What makes geocaching such a great activity for families?
 
“I love geocaching because it’s taken me to so many places I would have never even thought to have visited,” says Cassar. “Recently I took the family for a hike along the Grand River in Brantford to find a bunch of caches. The highlight was one that took us to a historical abandoned gypsum mine.”


 
For more information about geocaching and how to get started, check out www.geocaching.com

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