Frugal Fun: Geocaching

My family started a new hobby this weekend and we are totally hooked! Geocaching.  It’s completely free and a total blast.  If you’ve never heard of geocaching it’s a world-wide treasure hunt. You can sign up for free at geocaching.com and there are lists and lists of hidden caches. (The caches are the treasures.) You can search by zip code to find ones near you. Each treasure has coordinates that you can plug into your GPS that will bring you within feet of the cache. Then you have to use your noggin.

So far I’ve found three. They were an altoids can, a key hider thingy, and a Tupperware container. Inside is a piece of paper for you to put your name (or codename!) and the date. There are also little trinkets that people have left. You can swap them out and leave something of your own. Some of the items are trackable. You can log those on the website and watch them travel around, moving from cache to cache.

I love it because it’s free, outdoors, kid friendly, not boring, and doesn’t have anything to do with food. That is a pretty tall order for a hobby! But geocaching fits the bill.

Another reason why I’m hooked is because it makes you look at the world in a whole new way. Which I love for both myself and the kids. One of the caches we found was under a light pole cover in the parking lot of a restaurant we frequent. I’ve parked my car within feet of this cache a couple of times and never knew there was a treasure nearby! I think that’s fantastic.

It also makes you break the rules a little bit. Nothing illegal or dangerous, but you get to break social rules. Which I also think is a good lesson for the kids… and me. You don’t have to live your life in a little box, always parking in a parking spot and staying off the grass. One cache we found was in a little grassy area next to some houses. I had to climb a smallish tree to reach up on a high wall to grab the cache. Is that some great breaking of rules? No. But I bet people driving by was wondering what was going on. It’s outside of my normal routine, that’s for sure.

My 5 year old son made up the rules of treasure hunting. They are as follows:

  1. Never give up.
  2. Be brave.

Those aren’t rules for treasure hunting, those are rules for life!

My tips for successful geocaching.

Ok, so I’ve been at this for almost a whole week so I’m fully qualified to give you some tips.

The title of the cache is a clue. You can also read the logs of other people who have found it. They will give you clues too. Like “I was too tall to see it at first.” Or “Such a nice shady spot!”. Those might seem like innocent comments but they will help you in your search.

You can use the same GPS that you use in your car. Mine doesn’t get me as close as I would like. Sure, it gets me close enough to find a Costco, but to find a tiny cache hidden in a bush takes a little more precision. So I’ve taken to putting the coordinates into Google Maps before I head out. I just use the map so I have a better idea of the location of the coordinates once my GPS gets me to the general area. We have also ordered a handheld hiking GPS. (It hasn’t arrived yet.) I know, I said this is a free activity. It is. You don’t need to buy the special GPS. But, like I said, we are hooked and plan to geocache quite a bit. If we are going to head out into the wilderness I’d like a handheld.

If you don’t have a GPS that’s ok too. You can use Google Maps to give you driving directions from your house to the coordinates. Just cut and paste the coordinates from geocacheing.com into the “To” spot on Google Maps.

Have you ever gone geocaching? Do you love it? Share your stories and tips for a newbie!!

Photo credit: Johanl

About Ashley

2 Responses to “Frugal Fun: Geocaching”

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  1. Ashley, this is awesome!
    How in the heck do you find all of these cool things anyways?

  2. It certainly sounds like a lot of fun. We have talked about trying it sometime, but haven’t really gotten around to it. I look forward to hearing about more stories in the future.

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