Calling itself ‘the world’s largest treasure hunt’ geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.
The words ‘outdoor’ and ‘treasure hunting’, go some way to explaining why the pursuit has caught on all over the world, with some 2.5 million ‘caches’ hidden around the globe, in over 100 countries, and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.
Above all geocaching is a fantastic way of coaxing the whole family into the outdoors and discovering wild spots all around the country and even right on your doorstep, which you might never have known existed.
The principle is simple: a geocacher will hide a small waterproof container, such as a 35mm film canister, somewhere in a usually wild public space, and then post the GPS coordinates of the cache on the internet for other geocachers to hunt and find. Caches are grouped by type and difficulty and come with Typically the cache contains a logbook for the finder to sign and date, and often an exchangeable treasure, such as a coin or small toy for them to take, leaving something else in its place for the next finder.
Some might be put off by the mere mention of ‘GPS devices’ but in reality this means that you can take part with pretty much any smartphone, almost all of which have built-in GPS capability. If you have mobile data, even better, as you can use Google Maps to display and hunt caches directly from the geocaching apps for both Android and iOS devices.
Not having a GPS or smartphone makes geocaching less convenient but certainly not impossible: create an account on one of the sites, and print off maps and clues from there. Even better, mark a few sites on an OS map, take a compass and practice some family navigation skills!
The best apps and devices
Geocaching (Android, iOS and online)
This the official website and app for geocaching, with all the caches, clues, maps, and a huge online community of fellow cachers sharing their treasure hunting experiences and advice. Free online accounts are available with extra functionality, apps and device connectivity for a small price (£7.99 for the iOS app). Geocaching.com
This open source, full-featured app for Android devices opens up loads of geocaching functionality for your phone. All you need is an account on geocaching.com or one of the supported opencaching websites.
Garmin eTrex Touch 25
This latest hand-held GPS from Garmin has a colour touch screen, dedicated geocaching activity profile (as well as cycling, hiking and others), and hundreds of thousands of preloaded caches shown on its preloaded TopoActive Europe maps. For a more complete review, see page 96. £210, garmin.com