>>  Sunday, February 02, 2020

Geocaching is a good way to get out for a bit of exercise or just into the outdoors with a bit of added entertainment.

All you need is a smart phone with geocaching app downloaded and set up good to go, do create an account up front.   You can get a free version of the app and you can create a free account but you will find many more caches hidden behind the premium paywall, so when the urge takes me (or I decide to take Rangers, Brownies or even Rainbows) I usually pay a bit extra for a short time

Geocaches (in the rural environment) are tubes, pots or tubs hidden in hedges, bushes, trees, bridges.  The app will take you by GPS co-ordinates (or literally just following an arrow on the app) to the vicinity of the cache but then you have to find it and some are very cleverly hidden.

They are well hidden to stop Muggles (non-geocachers) finding them and clever hiding and quick (or not so quick) finding is part of the challenge.  Whilst you are poking in bushes, looking up trees or on your hands and knees looking under a style if a muggle should come by you need to pretend you are doing something else.  This can cause confusion even when you understand the game sometimes!

When you find a cache you can mark on your app that you have found it and it is normal to leave a message on the app for the cache owner saying thank you and maybe 'quick find' or 'gosh that took a while' but don't give away too much or you will spoil it for the next hunters that might read the message log.  Although it can be really helpful to read both the cache hint and the message log if you are struggling to find one as sometimes you can pick up enough clues about where you should be looking.

Caches will have a log in them for you to sign, in the tubs they are often nice big notepads but in the tubes they can be very rolled, tweezers come in handy for getting them out for signing.

Caches come in a variety of sizes from Tupperware boxes to tiny magnetic cartridges,  old film canister tubes are quite common but I have seem them cleverly hidden in torches, hollows of stones, fake logs and even a snail shell attached to a tube that was pushed into a gate hinge hole.

Large caches might have trackables in them, these are items that get moved from cache to cache and they can slowly travel the world.  If you find one you can log it and move it onto another cache if you want to.

Large caches might also have geo-swag in them, these are bits and bobs to be swapped, this is particularly good fun for the younger cachers, so I tend to be in the habit of leaving badges in them rather than taking anything away but if you do it must always be a swap, never just take.

Because of where I live I am clearly going to be found mostly wandering up and down a canal towpath with my GPS signal bouncing around and up to my arms in nettles

So I generally take this out with me:
  • A pair of fairly hardy gloves - I use my running gloves generally
  • a pair of tweezers
  • A ball point pen, a pencil and a fibre pen (because one of them will write on the paper log and on any given day one seems better than the other!)
  • A pokey stick - I take a walking pole
  • something to 'swap' - I tend to take guiding badges or cracker toys (never food/sweets)
  • long trousers, long sleeved t-shirt
  • hand gel
  • baby wipes
  • a tube of soothe or anthisan

In a more urban environment you are likely to be looking around drain pipes, under seats, attached to the back of signs, holes in walls so I would still take:

  • A pair of fairly hardy gloves - I use my running gloves generally
  • a pair of tweezers
  • A ball point pen, a pencil and a fibre pen 
  • something to swap
  • hand gel
  • baby wipes

It can actually get quite addictive and seeing green dots rather than smiley faces on your app, especially for local caches, is a challenge I cannot ignore!

There are some rules and helpful advice here that I recommend you read before you get going.

As a Guider I have done geocaching as an activity with all ages ranges.  For Brownies and Rainbows I recommend you go in advance and find each cache yourself, this will help you to guide them if they need extra help.

For Rangers I tend to look at a reasonable round walk online, show it to them and just give them my phone (and usually ask if any of them have a big data allowance and get them to download the app in advance too) but mostly I just trust them with my phone and follow them around.   There are a remarkable amount of them within a fairly short walking distance of our meeting place and the last time we went looking it was a challenge to get them to stop and get back in time to got home, the time before that a different set of girls weren't very engaged, so it depends on the girls you have at any one time.

As a unit we own a travelling trackable.  I hang it off my rucksack and if people that know what it is spot it they can log it.

Geocaching is something a bit different to get you out and about - give it a go and see how you get on.

Let me know how you did.


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