Geocaching: Treasure hunting in your backyard and beyond

By Stephanie Pellicane

Looking for a fun way to get off the internet and get outdoors? Interested in joining a worldwide treasure hunt that even includes treasure in your own hometown?

Geocaching is a global, outdoor, treasure hunt that allows players to find treasure, or “caches,” using GPS-enabled devices (including smart phones). A quick search on the Geocaching website shows that there are over 2.5 million caches worldwide.

Simply put, you use your phone or GPS to look up the location of geocaches– generally hidden items ranging from the size of large box to a film canister or smaller– which include a log book and some form of treasure (a tiny toy or items to trade). You can find geocaches all over the world. I once found one in an old church in Bermuda. It’s a great way to pull friends or family together on a little interactive treasure hunt.

There are a few ways that you can geocache. If you don’t have a smartphone or GPS, you can look caches up on the Geocaching website and print out the directions online (although that can be time-consuming and takes away the fun of finding things on-the-go). If you do have a smartphone you can get the free Geocaching Intro app or buy the $9.99 full Geocaching app. While $10 may seem steep for an app, keep in mind you will be getting hundreds of hours of outdoor entertainment all over the world for the equivalent of one movie ticket. The Geocaching Intro app is available on Apple, Android, and Windows Phones and the full Geocaching app is available for Apple and Android.

When you open the app, type in a location and a list of caches will appear. The list will include the direction and how many miles away the cache is, the size of the cache, when it was placed, when it was last found, and an option to send the cache information directly to your GPS.

Last weekend, my brother and I went geocaching in our hometown, Fluvanna. In less than an hour, we had fun searching for three caches and found two. Although we were unable to find one, we did find an old abandoned barn which we had fun exploring instead. So even if you don’t find a cache you can still enjoy the thrill of the chase and explore the area.

When out geocaching, it is important to bring the following:

  • A pen or pencil. Caches will have log books where you can leave the date, your name, and sometimes a few comments. While most caches will provide a writing utensil, some don’t, so bring your own. It’s much better to have one included in your backpack rather than have to make a long trek back to your car.
  • A charger. If you do geocache using your phone it is extremely important to have it fully charged or able to be charged as you drive around. Rural locations and poor service can drain your battery and you want to keep your phone alive to be able to find your way around.
  • Tradable items. Geocaching started with the simple rule “Take some stuff, leave some stuff.” Some caches will be large enough to include “treasure”– small toys, pins, trackable tokens, etc. If you are planning on taking something from the cache you must leave something behind, so raid your closet or stock up ahead of time at the dollar store or thrift store.

If you really want to spring for it, Geocaching Premium costs $29.99 for a year (renewing or non-renewing) or $9.99 for three months. Premium Geocaching boasts advanced maps, statistics, custom searches, and supporting the game. Personally, the one-time $9.99 app had all the maps and searching details I’ll ever need. Any product that lists supporting the product as one of its perks can’t really be that exciting.

The amount of money you want to spend geocaching is up to you. It can be as little as nothing, but I recently bought the $9.99 full Geocaching app and think it is well-worth it, especially since it gives me instant access to all types of caches all the time, all over the world. So from now on, wherever I go– Charlottesville, Richmond, the Caribbean, even Iceland– I’ll have access to 2.5 million geocaches at my fingertips.

Stephanie-PellicaneAbout Stephanie: Virginia native who loves being outdoors. When not adventuring I love filming with my GoPro or iPhone, collecting stickers, enjoying my KEENs, and of course, hanging out in my Eno.