Geocaching is an interesting hobby I started around 10 years ago (although I did neglected it for a few years). If you think of a global treasure hunt which gives you a reason to go visit interesting places, combined with a GPS, and a website, you’ll get an idea of what it is about. You can lookup my profile on geocaching.com to see where I’ve been (or check the maps below).
You can play the game in a number of different ways - going for volume of caches, quality, speed (10 countries in one day!) etc, or just use it casually to explore new locations. I use it as a way of tracking the countries I’ve visited, and to find interesting locations to photograph.
Web: I found a splendid Firefox search plugin for geocaching, based on the Geocaching Quick Search service which allows you to search for GC#### cache IDs, Cache Name, Keywords, AU, UK, US Post/Zip codes, Caches Found/Hidden by Username, Cacher Profile. You can search from the form to the right of this page (duplicated with permission), or you can bookmark the original - http://boulter.com/gqs/ - which works great if you’re on the road with a mobile phone browser.
Mobile: If you’re on the road and just need to log caches or look up travelbug missions, there is a WAP/mobile version of the geocaching.com website that works on any phone with a WAP or web browser. There are also a large number of apps available for iPhone, Android, and WebOS, and I believe groundspeak have just started opening up their data to 3rd party app developers - so we should see more of these over the next few years.
Stats: You can see my found-count to the left, however I think the more interesting statistic is the number of countries that I have cached in (which was up to 22 as of June 2009, and is now 33 as of mid 2014). I have also hidden 5 caches, although only sandman2 and sandman4 are still active (and one of them I transferred to a friend in the UK when I left).
TravelBugs and Geocoins are items that get moved from cache to cache, and recorded on the geocaching.com site. I currently have 7 travelbugs in play. These are BottleOfBecks, UpperClass, TelecomBug, JobFind, British Rock Relocation, GlowBug and the GWVI Traveller Geocoin. Of these, UpperClass was the winner in the distance stakes, having made it to NZ on Virgin before getting lost, however it has recently lost out to TelecomBug which travelled over 20,000 km around Europe before going missing.
Gear: If you’re interested in getting started down the road to geocaching, you can go take a look at some of the GPS devices I’ve recommended in the past via my Amazon.com GPS or Amazon.co.uk GPS stores, or take a look at my blog posts tagged GPS. The geocaching forums over at groundspeak also have lots of advice on the subject of which GPS.
For geocaching I look for a unit with good battery life, a good screen, capability to store maps on SD card, an electronic compass (2-axis if possible), and barometric altimeter if you want to know how high you’ve climbed. Paperless caching features (which are the ability to download cache details directly to the device) are also a given these days.
Whilst you can use ANY GPS (or smartphone) for geocaching, my recommendation at the moment if you’re just getting started would be the Garmin eTrex 30 (US). If you want a slightly more advanced unit with camera and a larger screen, the Garmin Oregon 550 (US) is good. If you would like to combine an outdoor GPS with a unit that’s suitable for using in the car as well, then take a look at the Garmin Montana 650 (US).
Safety: It’s always best to let someone else know where you’re going before you head out geocaching, especially if you’re caching solo - in which case, get yourself setup with online tracking via SocialHiking with ViewRanger on your smartphone or Spot Connect (UK) or Spot Connect (US). While caching think about your own safety before you venture into any potentially dangerous areas (and read @johnnygeo’s blog about electrical safety). Hiking in any backwoods or mountainous area can be dangerous, and shouldn’t be attempted without proper prep, training and gear, including map, compass, waterproof, food, etc. If you lose the trail - stop and go back. Creating your own trail in the Alps can lead to serious injury or even death. Alpine trekking advice (in French)
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