Geocaching is an increasingly popular, inclusive, fun and healthy pastime for individuals of all ages. It is also great for groups like families, frie
nds, classes and youth groups working as teams. The sport combines technology with adventure, a combination that some people didn't think was possible
. The core of the sport consists of using a hand held GPS receiver unit to guide you to a destination, where a hidden container (or "cache") is stored
. Once found, you log your visit in an included logbook, and optionally trade one of the many contained "goodies" for one of your own. This wikiHow wi
ll guide you through the basics of the sport. edit Steps 1. 1 Acquire a GPS receiver either by purchasing, renting or borrowing one. Certain G
armin models have the capability of "paperless geocaching" described in the Tips section, below. 2. 2 Create an account with one of the caching
sites listed below. Membership is free, although some sites offer "premium" member status that will allow access to additional features. There are ca
ches on several different sites, so explore them and decide which you prefer. 3. 3 Use the search feature on the website to find a list of cach
es near you. Geocaches are hidden everywhere so wherever you are, there are sure to be some for you to find. 4. 4 Choose a cache which interest
s you. Record any details or hints on a notepad or by printing the page out. Be sure to check the difficulty rating. You may not want to search for a
cache that's too difficult if you are just starting out. 5. 5 Create a waypoint in your GPS unit for the cache, using the latitude and longitud
e coordinates from the cache's webpage. You may also be able to transfer the cache's coordinates to your GPS using the supplies connection cable if yo
u have the correct software. 6. 6 Bring a small item for trading at the cache. It should be something you are willing to give away, but might b
e of some interest or value to another person. Some caches follow themes, so be sure to bring something according to that theme if you plan to trade.
7. 7 Use your GPS unit's "navigate" feature (or equivalent) to produce an arrow on the screen pointing you to the waypoint you have just create
d. 8. 8 Using the arrow as a guide, make your way towards the cache. 9. 9 Once you find the cache, take note of how it has been hidden.
You will need to replace it in an identical fashion. 10. 10 A typical cache and its contents A typical cache and its contents Open the ca
che and browse the trinkets and goodies within it. Consider if you would like to take anything in exchange for the cache item you have brought along w
ith you. You should always trade something of equal or greater value to keep the sport fair and honest. You are not required to make a trade if you do
n't want to. Alternatively, you can help "restock" a poorly filled cache by leaving your item and taking nothing. 11. 11 Find a cache's logbook
Find a cache's logbook Find the logbook within the cache. Make a new entry in the book noting the date, time, your caching site username, and a
line or two about your journey. Also log what you traded by including what you took and what you left, even if it was nothing. 12. 12 Close th
e cache back up securely and re-hide it in the exact same place and manner in which you found it for the next person to find. 13. 13 Return hom
e and log back into your chosen caching website. Find your chosen cache once again and use the "Log Your Visit" feature (or equivalent) to record that
you found the cache. Include the same kinds of details that you wrote in the cache logbook. edit Things You'll Need * A computer with Internet acce
ss * An account on a site like geocaching.com or terracaching.com * A Global Positioning System Receiver, also known as a GPSr or simply a GPS uni
t * A printer for your computer, or simply note paper, to record details of the geocache from the caching site * Cache items for trading * A wor
king pen or pencil for signing the log book or solving puzzles, in case there isn't one in the cache * Proper wear for outdoor conditions o Ins
ect repellent o Sunscreen o Walking/hiking shoes o Flashlight edit Tips * Most geocaches have official geocache written on it, so if
yours doesn't make sure it's a geocache, not some random box stuck in the woods. * Garmin RINO 110 Garmin RINO 110 GPS receivers can be pur
chased at your nearest outdoors/hiking/trail shop, home hardware store, electronics store or department store. You may also wish to check eBay, or the
forums on caching sites, for used units. Expect to pay $100-150 for an adequate unit. Expect to pay more for features such as increased position accu
racy, easier controls, larger screen, map capabilities, etc. The most popular brands are Garmin and Magellan. There is also a new, just for geocaching
, GPS reciever released, called a Geomate.jr. It is very simple and is easy to use, perfect for kids. At a lower cost than most other GPS recievers it
is a great way to get in on the fun. Image:geomatejr_front.jpg * Cache title page capture from nuvi 760. Cache title page capture from nuvi 7
60. Cache description page capture from nuvi 760. Cache description page capture from nuvi 760. Paperless Geocaching is possible with certain
Garmin models (Colorado, Mobile XT, Nuvi, Oregon, Street Pilot, Zumo possibly others, as well). This allows for display of cache info, logs, icons on
the GPS screen and optionally play audio alerts when approaching caches collected from the Geocaching website. Regular accounts there are free, but t
he macro uses the "Pocket Query" feature which requires a premium account ($3 / mo. but can be canceled at any time). Support, feature requests and bu
g reports can be found in the author's support forum. This is a work in progress, so read all the posts for the latest information. Follow the "Downlo
ad" link at the bottom of post #27 to download the macro itself and view a complete list of prerequisites. * Be aware of the different variations on
the traditional geocache. They offer a variety of experiences depending on what you are in the mood for: o Multi-caches promise to send you to m
ore than one waypoint prior to you finding the final cache location. o Microcaches indicate smaller containers, often only large enough for a sma
ll log sheet (bring your own pencil). They are often found in places where a larger cache container would be impractical. o Puzzle caches may req
uire you to solve a puzzle of some kind to obtain the coordinates for the cache. o Virtual caches have no container at all, but require you to fi
nd some information at the location, or take a picture to prove you found it. These are popular in sensitive environmental areas. o Locationless
caches, which are more like a "scavenger hunt", challenge you to find an object or landmark that could be anywhere, and take a picture to prove you fo
und it. (No longer allowed to be listed on geocaching.com.) o Moving caches begin with the original coordinates of a real location, but when foun
d are moved to another location. The new coordinates are sent to the cache owner and changes are made to the cache page accordingly. (No longer allowe
d to be listed on geocaching.com.) * When selecting a caching item to bring along for trading, consider that things like marbles, bouncy balls, key
chains and batteries are popular trading items for geocaches. If you have a local "dollar store", these items are often perfect. Also, cultural items
that cannot be bought easily help enrich the sport and make cache finds more interesting for others (ex: commemorative pins, patches, crafts, etc.)
* When you think you have found the cache, make sure it is not actually a letterbox hidden nearby. Letterboxes contain a hand-carved rubber stamp whic
h should not be removed from the letterbox, as well as a logbook. Trade items should never be placed in a letterbox. * The arrow on your GPS can dec
eive and frustrate you due to a number of main factors: o A GPS can only deduce the direction you are facing by tracking your position over a per
iod of time. Once you stop moving, it can no longer do this. Therefore, take into account that the arrow will most likely be wrong once you are stoppe
d. Take a half-dozen steps to adjust the arrow accordingly. o Your current position is as calculated by the GPS is not exact. In short, anything
that blocks your view of the sky will reduce the accuracy of your position. Learn how to display your GPS unit's accuracy so that you can factor it in
to your search. The accuracy of your position can vary widely due to any number of factors, including: + Tree cover + Power lines
+ Mountains + Other people + Number of satellites above the horizon at the time of day in your part of the world. Trimble offers a
free downloadable tool that allows you to plan when the most satellites are in the sky in your part of the world. + Large, flat objects that
may cause a satellite signal to reflect off of it, like a large building. * A rewarding experience for kids A rewarding experience for kids
A common mistake by novices and young cachers is to "bee-line" for the cache, ignoring whatever obstacles may lay ahead. Geocaching teaches us the va
lue of planning ones strategy and route. Use your eyes and ears and knowledge of the area to stay on roads, trails, and footpaths for as long as possi
ble, even if this means you may be heading away from the cache for a brief period of time. Even experienced cachers find themselves traveling many mil
es only to find themselves on the wrong side of a ravine or river. * When your GPS unit guides you to within approximately 10 meters of the cache, y
ou will have to rely less on your GPS and instead rely more and more on your notes and deduction skills. Look around and ask yourself, "Where would I
hide a cache?" Remember to look up and down, caches can be on the ground or hanging within reach on a tree. * It is possible to triangulate the posi
tion of the cache. From 100 feet away, follow the arrow on your GPS towards the cache. Repeat twice walking from a different directions. Where these t
hree paths meet, hopefully one point, should be the cache location. This technique usually gets you within a step or two of the actual cache so if it
is hidden well you know where to concentrate your search. If you choose to hide a cache, you should use this technique to get the best coordinates for
your cache. * When you return the cache to its hiding place, remember that the cache must survive wind, rain, temperature and humidity variances, a
nd in some parts of the world, ice, snow, freezing, and thawing. Ensure that it is closed securely and hidden appropriately. Take note of any problems
with the cache's condition so that you can report it to the cache owner later (i.e.: if it is wet inside, has a hole in it, will not close properly,
etc.) * Official CITO bag Official CITO bag Minimize environmental impact by sticking to trails for as long as possible, and follow CITO. C
ache In, Trash Out simply means that you pick up garbage on the way out to keep geocaching's impact on the environment positive. Often, you will find
an official CITO bag inside of a cache, but you should bring along your own plastic bag as well. * Consider using geocaching software programs desig
ned to help a geocacher manage a list of found and unfound caches, find cache locations with street-level and topographical maps, fly-over a target ca
che location, and record field notes and log entries to later upload to a geocaching website. Most GPS receivers allow geocachers to load a list of ca
ches into a receiver using a data cable and a good software program. * Be sure to log your visit to the cache on the caching website. This may seem
like unnecessary administrative work after the fact, but it helps the cache owner keep track of the condition of the cache by monitoring when it was l
ast found, as well as gives you credit for your find. It only takes a minute, and when you start racking up double-digits in finds, you may wish you h
ad logged each and every one. * Don't rely on the location system on a first-generation iPhone, as it's not as accurate as a GPS. New 3G iPhones hav
e full GPS built in and should work as well as any other device. edit Entering Coordinates * Be sure to double check the entry of coordinates into y
our GPS unit. A typo can send you hunting in the wrong direction. Many GPSs offer a link cable to your PC so that you can download the waypoint direct
ly to your GPS unit. * The same position on Earth can be expressed in many very different ways. The two things that affect this are: o Map Datu
m: Various world surveys, map systems, and world-shape mathematics express the same position as very different expressions. Geocaching uses the popula
r WGS84 datum, so ensure that your GPS is configured accordingly. For example purposes, the following locations are all the same point on Earth expres
sed in only three of the many available datums: + WGS84: Used by the NAVSTAR GPS System + NAD83: Almost equivalent to the WGS84 Map Da
tum, but used on newer topographical maps + NAD27, or for the continental US, NAD27CONUS, used on older USGS topographical maps o Coordin
ate Format: For WGS84, the same coordinate can be expressed in slightly different formats. Ensure that your GPS uses the same format that your geocach
ing website does. It is helpful to think of this in the same way you might express how much change is in your pocket (ie: one might say that they have
$1.35, or 1 dollar, 3 dimes, and 1 nickel). For example, the same position on earth can be expressed as: + N 44.659234deg, W 63.326711deg - t
his is in "degrees" or DD.DDDDDD format since it only contains one number (degrees) each for latitude and longitude + N 44deg 39.55404', W 63d
eg 19.60266' - this is in "degrees, minutes" or DD MM.MMMMM format since it contains degrees and minutes (') + N 44deg 39' 33", W 63deg 19' 36
" - this is in "degrees, minutes, seconds" or DD MM SS format since it contains degrees, minutes ('), and seconds (") edit Trackable Items * Trac
kable items migrate from cache to cache. Trackable items migrate from cache to cache. Some popular items found in caches are "trackable" items,
such as "Travel Bugs ", "Traveler Tags" or geocoins. A tracking number on the item is used to log the trackable items journey from cache to cache on
a website. o A Travel Bug is a metal tag engraved with a unique tracking number. o Traveler Tags can be any item with a tracking number writ
ten on it. o Many Geocoins are also trackable. * Many Trackable items have a particular mission or theme that the owner who created and release
d the trackable item wishes it to accomplish. For example to be transported across the country to reach another geocacher in another region. * If yo
u take a trackable item, it is your responsibility to help it to accomplish its goal or move it to another cache. edit Terms and Expressions * Commo
n acronyms for logbooks and your online log: o TNLN - Took Nothing, Left Nothing o TFTH - Thanks For The Hike o TFTC - Thanks for the C
ache o SL - Signed Logbook. * Muggle - a non-geocaching person which may endanger the cache if they learn about it. You want to make sure that
when you bring the cache out into the open, there is nobody around to see you. In addition, re-hide it the same way you found it. edit Warnings * Ne
ver leave without reading the entire cache description. It often contains specific warnings about terrain, any possible hazards or unsafe areas, and l
egal issues about which private land to avoid. * Check the weather forecast before you go and pay special attention to the UV index, wind speed & di
rection, chances of precipitation, and the forecasted low temperature. Dress and plan appropriately with clothing and sunscreen. The most common mista
kes by outdoor novices are: o Wearing Jeans: Jeans are strongly discouraged as they "wick" moisture from the pant legs, take forever to dry, and
do not keep you warm. o Many people underestimate on how muddy (or at least wet) their feet are going to get, so wear a good pair of outdoor hiki
ng boots. A pair of extra socks doesn't take up much space and can go a long way in case your feet get wet. o Planning for the cold and rain: Rem
ember to protect your extremities first in colder conditions (i.e.: your feet by wearing wool or fleece socks, your hands by bringing a pair of good g
loves or mitts, your ears and head by bringing a warm toque). Dressing in layers is best so that you can plan for changing conditions. o Planning
for the sun and UV: Even if it isn't sunny out, UV rays are burning your skin. Geocaching is a lot of fun and 30 minutes of exposure to the sun can f
eel like 5, so wear a hat and apply sunscreen. * Bring a flashlight regardless of the time of day you are going geocaching. If you are lost in the w
oods beyond daylight hours, a flashlight will make finding your way (as well as being found) a lot easier. * Bring lots of extra batteries for your
GPS, flashlight, and anything else you might be relying on to help you. The small cost is worth preventing getting lost. NiMH rechargable batteries ar
e a cost effective and environmentally friendly option. * Always carry a compass. It not only helps you find the cache by using magnetic bearings, b
ut if your GPS ceases functioning, you will have a backup method to find your way out of the woods. * Carry basic first aid and survival kits for us
e in case of emergencies. * Learn how to use all the features of the GPS unit properly before venturing out. Many GPS units have a "bread crumb" or
"track back" feature which will allow you to retrace your footsteps if you become lost. Familiarize yourself with this feature before venturing out, a
s it may save your life. In fact, it is a good idea to take your GPS unit's manual with you, just in case you get lost and need to know how to access
a certain feature. * Before you leave to go geocaching, tell somebody where you're going and when you expect to be back. It may be helpful to leave
a copy of the cache details with them. In case you get lost, this individual will have specific coordinates to help in a search effort. * Once you a
re forced to leave an area you are familiar with and venture into the woods, create another waypoint. If worse comes to worst and you get disoriented
or lost, you can always navigate back to this waypoint. * Make sure to focus on your surrounding area more than your GPS unit. Only periodic checks
of your instrumentation are necessary. It is far more important to stay safe and watch where you are going. * Do not place food or potentially harmf
ul items in caches. Broadly, these contain anything that could attract animals (i.e.: food) as well as anything that is not considered child-friendly
(i.e.: knives, alcohol, tobacco, weapons, pornography, drugs, etc.). If you see some of these items in a cache, you may remove it, and report it to th
e cache owner when you return home to log your visit. * It is your responsibility to obey local laws. There is more than one approach to a cache. Fo
r example, NO caching site can give you the right to trespass through private land. If you suspect that your course may lead you through somebody's ba
ckyard, find an alternate route. * In this era of heightened security you need to consider the environment when you plan your cache placement. For e
xample you should not hide containers near areas or buildings that may be considered terrorist targets. If you cause an unintended bomb scare you coul
d face fines, criminal charges, or will be required to pay restitution for public expenses. * Don't forget to bring along water and snacks.