Geocaching - A New Sport for Families

Haven't you looked at those handheld GPS units and tried to think of a reason to get one? They just look so cool and useful, but I couldn't think of anything I really could do with one. Well, now we have it - a new sport that is perfect for family adventures, geocaching.

Geocaching, Sports, What Is This?

Geocaching began as and still is a high-tech adventure game that has caught on around the world.

Wikipedia describes geocaching as 'an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure", usually toys or trinkets of little monetary value.' (Wikipedia, geocaching, accessed on January 20, 2007)

The geocaching concept began in 2000 by Dave Ulmer. Because of his concerns about environmental damage due to its growing popularity, Ulmer disavowed the game at one point; but according to Wikipedia, he is now a celebrity among geocachers. (Wikipedia, Dave Ulmer, accessed on January 20, 2007) Geocaching, using the credo of 'Leave No Trace' to protect the environment, is now an activity of Boy Scouts of America, school groups, families, and responsible geocachers.

How to Play

Geocachers use the Internet to find the coordinates for caches. When a cache is found, the player records his find in the cache's log book; and may take a trinket, leaving one of his own for the next player to find. You can search by zip code to find caches in your area or in a region you will visit.

You can localize the game for kids as the Boy Scouts and school groups do. Hide a cache for your kids to find. Record the coordinates and then accompany them on the search. This is a great group activity for older kids, so gather your child and his buddies for a memorable weekend adventure that will surely hook them on the outdoors in a positive family activity.

If you've never used a GPS system before, there will be a learning curve. Do your research before you purchase a unit and pick up a book to learn the basics. You also need to learn map and compass skills to really get into geocaching. It's a great learning experience for the whole family.

Geocaching Etiquette

Whether you are doing an unofficial geocaching activity with kids or heading out to find an official geocache, you need to be familiar with the etiquette that has evolved to protect the environment and public and private property.

In most state parks, you must apply for a permit to place a cache. Though official policy is not available; generally, cache placement is not allowed in U.S. National Parks.

However other federal lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corp of Engineers may allow geocaching. You should verify permission and procedures with your local offices. Check the GeocachingPolicy.org web site for guidance to your state's geocaching policies. Never place a cache on private property without first obtaining permission from the landowner. You risk a trespassing violation and it's just not safe for kids.

A good guide for geocaching rules and etiquette with kids comes from the Boy Scouts. They emphasize 1) safety; 2) respect for the environment; and 3) respect for private property. Some rules to follow are:

  • Stay far away from road traffic and railroad crossings.
  • Don’t place a cache higher than 6 feet or require any dangerous climbing to reach it.
  • Never bury a cache in the ground. You can place a pile of sticks or rocks over it, however.
  • Avoid sensitive ecosystems. Remember that kids will make a beeline for the cache and might trample vegetation in the vicinity. Place caches so that they can be reached by existing trail access.
  • Practice Cache In and Trash Out (CITO) – always carry a trash bag and remove litter along your route.
  • Follow Leave No Trace guidelines in the natural environment.

(Geocaching to Promote Scouting, PDF)

Another good resource is Responsible Geocaching at TreadLightly.org. Print this document and follow it absolutely.

Haven't you looked at those handheld GPS units and tried to think of a reason to get one? They just look so cool and useful, but I couldn't think of anything I really could do with one. Well, now we have it - a new sport that is perfect for family adventures, geocaching.

Geocaching, Sports, What Is This?

Geocaching began as and still is a high-tech adventure game that has caught on around the world. Wikipedia describes geocaching as 'an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure", usually toys or trinkets of little monetary value.' (Wikipedia, geocaching, accessed on January 20, 2007)

The geocaching concept began in 2000 by Dave Ulmer. Because of his concerns about environmental damage due to its growing popularity, Ulmer disavowed the game at one point; but according to Wikipedia, he is now a celebrity among geocachers. (Wikipedia, Dave Ulmer, accessed on January 20, 2007) Geocaching, using the credo of 'Leave No Trace' to protect the environment, is now an activity of Boy Scouts of America, school groups, families, and responsible geocachers.

How to Play

Geocachers use the Internet to find the coordinates for caches. When a cache is found, the player records his find in the cache's log book; and may take a trinket, leaving one of his own for the next player to find. You can search by zip code to find caches in your area or in a region you will visit.

You can localize the game for kids as the Boy Scouts and school groups do. Hide a cache for your kids to find. Record the coordinates and then accompany them on the search. This is a great group activity for older kids, so gather your child and his buddies for a memorable weekend adventure that will surely hook them on the outdoors in a positive family activity.

If you've never used a GPS system before, there will be a learning curve. Do your research before you purchase a unit and pick up a book to learn the basics. You also need to learn map and compass skills to really get into geocaching. It's a great learning experience for the whole family.

Geocaching Etiquette

Whether you are doing an unofficial geocaching activity with kids or heading out to find an official geocache, you need to be familiar with the etiquette that has evolved to protect the environment and public and private property.

In most state parks, you must apply for a permit to place a cache. Though official policy is not available; generally, cache placement is not allowed in U.S. National Parks. However other federal lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corp of Engineers may allow geocaching. You should verify permission and procedures with your local offices. Check the GeocachingPolicy.org web site for guidance to your state's geocaching policies. Never place a cache on private property without first obtaining permission from the landowner. You risk a trespassing violation and it's just not safe for kids.

A good guide for geocaching rules and etiquette with kids comes from the Boy Scouts. They emphasize 1) safety; 2) respect for the environment; and 3) respect for private property. Some rules to follow are:

  • Stay far away from road traffic and railroad crossings.
  • Don’t place a cache higher than 6 feet or require any dangerous climbing to reach it.
  • Never bury a cache in the ground. You can place a pile of sticks or rocks over it, however.
  • Avoid sensitive ecosystems. Remember that kids will make a beeline for the cache and might trample vegetation in the vicinity. Place caches so that they can be reached by existing trail access.
  • Practice Cache In and Trash Out (CITO) – always carry a trash bag and remove litter along your route.
  • Follow Leave No Trace guidelines in the natural environment.

(Geocaching to Promote Scouting, PDF)

Another good resource is Responsible Geocaching at TreadLightly.org. Print this document and follow it absolutely.

Geocaching with Kids
Learn the basics and find great learning ideas to extend the geocaching experience with kids.

Geocaching Kids
A primer on the basics of geocaching with kids from Seth Leary.

GPS in Education
Groundspeak forum topics on teaching children to use a GPS system and ideas for educational geocaching with kids.

Geocaching Basics

Good solid information to get started with geocaching at About Forestry Guidesite.

Geocaching to Promote Scouting
Boy Scouts' guide to organizing a geocaching event gives helpful information for you to plan an unofficial geocaching adventure with kids.

Geocaching - Getting Started
Guide to 'official' geocaching at Geocaching.com

Kids are Cachers Too!
This article at Today's Cacher tells the story of a fourth grade class that got hooked on geocaching.

Geocaching with Kids
Podcast on family-friendly geocaching at PodCacher.

Books on GPS and Geocaching
Extensive list of books you will find useful to get started with GPS and geocaching, including Geocaching for Dummies.

Learn More to Start Geocaching with Kids

Geocaching with Kids
Learn the basics and find great learning ideas to extend the geocaching experience with kids.

Geocaching Kids
A primer on the basics of geocaching with kids from Seth Leary.

GPS in Education
Groundspeak forum topics on teaching children to use a GPS system and ideas for educational geocaching with kids.

Choosing a GPS Unit for Geocaching
This is an important decision, so do some research at About 4-Wheel Drives/Offroading Guidesite.

Geocaching Basics
Good solid information to get started with geocaching at About Forestry Guidesite.

Geocaching to Promote Scouting
Boy Scouts' guide to organizing a geocaching event gives helpful information for you to plan an unofficial geocaching adventure with kids.

Geocaching - Getting Started
Guide to 'official' geocaching at Geocaching.com

Kids are Cachers Too!
This article at Today's Cacher tells the story of a fourth grade class that got hooked on geocaching.

Geocaching with Kids
Podcast on family-friendly geocaching at PodCacher.

Books on GPS and Geocaching
Extensive list of books you will find useful to get started with GPS and geocaching, including Geocaching for Dummies.

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