Q: what is geocaching? A: looking like a weirdo in public places

What's geocaching - and should I try it- header - Let's Love Local

Shivering from cold and staring hopefully at my phone, I began the arduous task of searching for a little tiny box. No, I wasn’t outdoor Christmas shopping or anything like that, I was finally taking my husband on a geocaching expedition. After an hour or so of wandering and searching, he deemed the activity “something I’d do again, I guess” which is pretty much a ringing endorsement from the master couch potato himself.

Would you give geocaching a try? And more importantly, what is geocaching, exactly? Let’s find out:

What is Geocaching, exactly?

If you’re into scavenger hunts and don’t mind looking slightly crazed as you peer into every nook and cranny of a public place, geocaching (pronounced geo-KASHing, I’ve found after pronouncing it wrong for some time) might be perfect for you! But what exactly is it?, I hear you asking.

Let’s get the definition straight from the official geocaching site: ”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.”

Translation: this is an adult-appropriate treasure hunt for people all over the world. (And I do mean all over the world – geocaching is everywhere!)

The rest of the rules are equally as simple and basically boil down to: if you find a geocache and take something from it, replace that item with something of equal or greater value as well as write about your experience in the logbook for future geocachers!

Made even easier by the advent of smartphones (therefore negating the need for a GPS device), there’s absolutely no reason to not give geocaching a try!

What is geocaching?

What an official cache should look like; if you can find it, that is!

How do I get started?

Head to the official Geocaching website and sign up for a free account – you’ll be able to get started automatically! You can explore the website itself, but I recommend downloading the app for your phone since you’ll likely be navigating with your phone. The free app is called Geocaching Intro and is available for iPhone and Android phones.

Once you’ll log into the app, you’ll find it very intuitive. The app finds your location and lays out the different caches in your area – they’re color coded to describe what type of cache they are. There are:

  • green traditional caches;
  • mystery caches (you’ll need to solve some sort of puzzle);
  • advanced caches (meaning they’re difficult to find or in difficult terrain);
  • virtual caches.

Each cache is further broken down by difficulty, terrain, and even the size of the cache, making it pretty simple to get a good idea of what you’re dealing with.

NB: you’ll find that once you download the app, you’re fairly limited by the free version. There’s still plenty to explore, but you’ll see lots of more advanced/different types of geocaches that won’t be accessible to you. So try the experience a few times and if you love it, a one-year premium membership will set you back $29.99. If you find you enjoy Geocaching and plan to travel quite a bit, this would be a great investment. There’s also a one-time $9.99 payment for the premium app which will have you set for even more adventures

What is geocaching?

Our experience geocaching

We chose perhaps the worst day to embark on our first geocaching adventure together: a windy, below-freezing December day. No matter – we were adventurers and keen to press on!

First we opened the geocaching app and searched through all the caches available to us through the free app. We found one less than a mile away (did I mention it was really cold outside?!) and set off in its general direction. We passed by one of Indianapolis’ seemingly endless supply of hospitals and even got to watch an emergency helicopter come in. We also got a great peek of the downtown high rises from afar – something I really love about living close but not too close to the center. Those pops of downtown are somehow really special.

What is geocaching?

What is geocaching?

It was at this point that we found the GPS aspect of the app wasn’t totally necessary in a city setting until we got close to the actual area the cache was heading in, so you can save some of your data!

When we made it close to the cache site, we turned on our data again and re-read the geocache description which usually gives a little bit of background about why the cache was placed in this location or who the person who hid the cache is. We chose one of the Indiana Benchmark caches which – of course – was hidden directly beside the middle of a busy road.

Geocaching - Indiana Benchmark

This is the toppled over Indiana benchmark that pointed us in the right direction. If you don’t know, benchmarks apparently have something to do with the water supply…

What is geocaching?

I spun in circles trying to figure out which was was “240 feet south of the benchmark” while my husband dove right in, kicking aside leaves and peering into strange concrete contraptions. After we were sure we were right on top of it (thanks handy location dot on the geocaching app!), we searched high and low for quite a while. Finally… we gave up.

That’s right: we didn’t actually find it! To be honest, we weren’t sure if we would since the last log was about a month and a half ago and the list was a mix of founds and not founds. But that’s kind of the fun of the whole geocaching experience, in my opinion; you’re never quite sure what you’re going to find or not find!

We dutifully clicked on the green ‘Log Geocache’ button on the bottom of the screen and marked DNF (did not find) so that future explorers would be able to know it probably isn’t there anymore.

Honestly the one thing I didn’t really like about the Geocaching experience had nothing to do with the experience itself; rather, the instructions on the website seems like they haven’t been updated in quite a long time. To be honest, I’d imagine there are very few people who are geocaching without an iPhone or some device with a data plan so the many in-depth explanations about how to find GPS coordinates makes the whole process sound unnecessarily complicated.

All in all, my first experience geocaching with a partner was great fun. It’s a lot less awkward to be rooting around random places with a friend, plus it’s a great way to explore parts of your city or other cities you might not normally go to. A big win in my book!

Have you tried geocaching before? Did you find anything? If you haven’t does this sound like an activity you might try in the future?

What's geocaching - and should I try it- - Let's Love Local

  • Wow, this is a lot cooler than I anticipated! My cousins have been geocaching in Connecticut for a little while, but I thought it was just something their parents suggested as a “kid” activity. Oh, how wrong was I? I can’t wait to see what geocache goodies are in Philadelphia!

    • Give it a try! While I think it’s good as a family activity, it’s definitely not kid-oriented enough to exclude adventurous adults 🙂

  • We went geocaching last year (and also happened to chose a very cold day). We went for 4 geocaches and we didn’t find the first one; trudged through a heavily wooden area with no trail, climbing over trees to get to the second one which took ages to find and we also discovered that there was a much easier way to get there; found the third one; went back to the first one and finally found it; and went for a mystery geocache – we managed to solve a puzzle to find the coordinates but then couldn’t find the geocache when we were there. All in all, fairly successful but so much harder than we were expecting!


    • Yeah, in my few experiences it’s been quite tricky! I have yet to try one of those mystery geocaches but they sound pretty fun. (I know I’d be awful at solving it, but my husband would be aces!)

  • I wanted to try geocaching, but I live in a very suburban area so I wasn’t sure if there would be anything to find. I always struggle with activities to do with friends that aren’t board games or drinking lol so this would be something fun to do in the summer months! Not right now when the winds are freezing my nose!

    • Check with the app, but I’m always surprised by how many sites are around, regardless of where I am! And yes, you have be a special kind of brave/crazy to head out in the chilly weather, but with a thermos of something warm it might be fun!

  • I love geocaching!!! It is such a great bonding experience for me and my siblings 🙂 xo

    • My husband actually asked me to do it again this weekend so I could that as a big victory! Getting out from behind our respective screens is so great.