Geocaching is the world’s biggest treasure hunt and we’re all invited to play!
Treasure hunts have captured the imaginations and adventurousness of both children and adults alike, since time immemorial. From the days of pirate treasure to the much-loved Easter egg hunt every year, finding treasure never gets old so long as we have a sense of adventure. Something you may not know is that there is a massive worldwide treasure hunt going on right now, most likely under your very nose, without you even realising. The game is called Geocaching, and it uses a little more high-tech equipment than a paper map and an X that marks the spot.
All you need to play is an internet connection to enable you to get details on the caches you wish to find, and either a GPS that will give you co-ordinates or a smartphone with GPS capability. And having the geocaching app is rather helpful for finding new caches on the run.
Caches are kept on a database online at www.geocaching.com and you can search globally or where you plan on heading for a day trip, a weekend away or full-on holiday.
How it all works?
The game itself works as such: Geocachers, much like yourselves, have put together a box of ‘goodies’ and placed them in a spot somewhere on earth. For the most part, they are usually placed somewhere interesting, scenic or on the way to a point of interest.
These boxes are then hidden at the location away from prying eyes of non-players (affectionately known as ‘Muggles’) usually under something, or in a bush, or inside a hollow log. The coordinates of where the box is hidden are then uploaded to geocaching.com for the world to go and find.
Folks playing then go and search for the cache. Sounds all too easy right? You’d be surprised how hard it can be to find a Tic-Tac container painted black amongst some logs, or an ammo tin amongst long grass and ferns.
Once you’ve found the cache, there is usually a pen and logbook to log your visit (depending on the size of the cache) and a handful of “knick-knacks” thrown in for the kids (or adults) to swap out. The standing rule is, should you take something from a cache, you have to replace it with something else (Maccas toys/Matchbox cars are easy and more than a few 4X4s are full of them from the kids!)
The interesting part is that there are now over three million geocaches all over the planet. So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at a couple of different caches you may come across, and where they could be hidden.
The different caches and hiding locations.
Just to be able to show you the different types, my wife and I went for a quick drive not too far from home the other day in search of local caches we’d not yet found. We were lucky enough to find a Travel Bug and a geocoin to move on next time we’re further afield. These are the caches we found.
This cache was made from a black-painted plastic jar, perhaps at one-time holding fruit mix. After being painted, it had been filled with some knick-knacks, had a small pad and pen thrown in, and was hidden near a local rest stop just north of Bundaberg, Queensland. With caches like this, my wife and I usually sign and date the logbook with our geocaching.com username, as well as log the visit on geocaching.com – in our case via the mobile app. The hiding spot wasn’t terribly hard to find, but a good check for local wildlife of the slithering kind was made before traipsing through the bush!
The next cache we found was a piece of down-pipe, capped on the bottom with a screw-on lid for a top. It contained a large ziplock bag with the usual goodies inside, as well as a pad and pen for logging that we were there. What we didn’t expect to find was a Travel Bug and a geocoin (more on them below). We retrieved both to be moved to another cache per their instructions, at a later date.
Travelling a touch further afield, we stumbled upon a large cache and figured it’d be the perfect one to show in the article. A lot of the “large-sized” caches you’ll find will quite often be an old army surplus ammo tin. Either left olive drab or painted black, they make great caches, however are often removed when Muggles find them just because of what they are. Again we weren’t disappointed as the ammo tin we found had the usual knick-knacks as well as a pad and pen to fill out for a logbook. We deposited the Travel Bug here, as it wanted to go towards Western Australia and the road this was on was near a major highway; so, it is on its way.
The micro cache is what one will usually find in the middle of town. As its name suggests, these are tiny and often an old M&M, Tic-Tac, Eclipse Mint tin, or the not-so-common anymore 35mm film canister. They usually don’t have any ‘loot’, but a couple of sheets of paper from a note pad, and half a Keno pencil for logs. These are usually placed at monuments or memorials in most towns, or perhaps somewhere historically significant – there’s a great micro cache in Newcastle city near the WWII forts – and these are so small so as to not draw unwanted attention from Muggles.
Extra Large Cache
The extra-large cache is not very common, however, my wife and I have found three over the years. One was an old Bren light machine gun box, which was five-feet long, hidden amongst a bunch of fallen logs, and another was a 20-litre bucket with lid hidden in the top of a half-hollowed-out fence post strainer. They are around, however, due to their size, are quite rare. They generally hold more interesting ‘loot’ items such as the Bren gun case we found, which had a remote control 4X4 in it!
Travel Bugs & Geocoins
As their name suggests these are two trackable items that are in the game with a specific purpose. The two ‘trackables’ we found were a geocoin and a Travel Bug. These are made or purchased and entered into the game with a specific goal in mind. For example, the Travel Bug we moved along started in Michigan, USA, and wanted to get to England via various parts of Australia. Once you find a trackable, you can search its tracking number on geocaching.com and it will tell you its story, where it wants to go, and where it has been. The same goes for the Geocoin we found. Part of its journey is to head back to Europe now, so we’ll be taking it to a little cache we know just outside of Brisbane Airport (Known as a Travel Bug Motel) for an avid traveller to take overseas with them towards Europe.
How to sign up
Signing up for a geocaching account is incredibly simple. Just head over to geocaching.com, click ‘Sign up’ in the top right-hand corner, create an account (you can even sign in with Facebook) and start searching. It really is that simple. A Premium Account is a paid account that lets you search for specific things and opens up filters for specific caches. If you plan on making Geocaching a permanent part of your life, it’s well worth the money.
Welcome to the club!
After you’ve created an account, you can search for caches in a certain area on your computer, or once you install the app (available on the iOS App Store, or Android Play Store) you can search for nearby caches no matter where you are in the world.
Armed with the above, and a keen sense of adventure, you’re now apart of the biggest treasure hunt the world has ever seen! Welcome… and congrats on your first cache!
The Acronyms and glossary!
To give you a shove in the right direction, we’ve thrown together a list of commonly used words and acronyms to make your first few caches easier. Oh, and if you’re having a bit of trouble finding a cache, check the ‘Hint’ for the cache on geocaching.com or the app, and make sure it was found recently – more than a few have gone missing due to being found and taken by Muggles! And if all else fails, head over to the help section to get some advice. Happy Geocaching!
Ammo Tin – Cache container.
Bug – A travel bug.
BYOP – Bring your own pen/pencil – usually on a micro cache where there wasn’t enough room for a writing tool.
Cacher – This is you!
CITO – Cache in/Trash out – find the cache, then take any rubbish you find in the area out with you!
Dipping – Logging a trackable bug or coin into and out of a cache back into your possession – increases miles travelled for the bug if you plan on going further afield to drop it off.
FTF – Crown for the First To Find a new cache. Kudos to you!
GZ – Ground Zero – when you’re right on the co-ordinates given. “Got to the GZ, and after a 10 minute search found the cache!”
Micro – The smallest of caches – usually no bigger than a 35mm film canister
STF – Second to find – though there are no points for second place.
TB – Travel Bug
TB Hotel – A cache designed to act as an exchanging point for Travel Bugs and geocoins. Usually located near airports, big rest stops etc.
TFTC – Thanks for the Cache – when we sign logs, we usually use this acronym, just to say thanks to whomever made and placed the cache. Eg: “14/05/2018 – Found after a quick search at GZ! TFTC!”
TN/LN – Took nothing, left nothing – just signed the log and logged the cache.
Travel Bug – an item with a trackable tag, that wants to go places, one cache at a time.
Webcam Cache – To log this cache, you need to find the webcam at GZ, and access wherever it’s displayed, take a screen shot, and upload the photo of you in it. Think Surf Cams across beaches in Australia.