Gear We Like
Travel Treasure Hunting – An Intro to Geocaching
It shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, especially to us geeks, that someone would find some way of incorporating a new-ish technology into some sort of game. With lasers, we get hours upon hours of amusement of making our cats chase after them. With GPS, we use multi-billion dollar government military satellites to find Tupperware hidden in the woods. Welcome to Geocaching.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching, in the simplest of definitions, is a game/hobby where people use GPS receivers (GPSr) to find hidden containers around the world… and they really are all over the world. From Antarctica to Zimbabwe, there are currently over 1.8 million geocaches, large and small, hidden in all corners of the globe. Since they can be found everywhere, geocaching lends itself to being a great hobby to do while on the road.
Map of all geocaches in the world. ~1.8 million
What do you need to Geocache?
To geocache, there is very little that one really requires. A free (or paid) membership on Geocaching.com and a GPS enabled device (GPSr, Smartphone, etc.). That is all you need. More than likely, most travelers are already travelling with some sort of smartphone, though GPSr’s are not all that expensive (<$120 for a very basic unit). And neither device takes up much space. The receiver I have, a Garmin eTrex 20 (check prices), is smaller and weighs less than an iPhone and cost me $220 in Vietnam. Like most technologies, the price is continuously going down.
Me and my baby in Vietnam. “A Piece of History” Geocache
So now that we have quickly quashed any trepidation on the equipment side of this rather geeky hobby, we must ask why. Why would you want to do this adult version of a treasure hunt while traveling, or even at home? My answer is, why wouldn’t you want to? One of the rules when it comes to placing geocaches is that you must either live in the area or show that you visit often in order for you to maintain the site (fix the geocache if it’s broken or missing, clean the area up, etc.). In other words, each geocache in the city is a tiny point of interest set up by a local guide. Go for a series and you’ve got yourself a city tour of places you may never have had the chance to see, or even know existed. From physical geocaches where there is an actual container you must find, to a “virtual,” where you answer questions based on the history and the surroundings.
Physical Geocache in the Ta Nei Temple, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. ”Temple of the butterflies” Geocache
This is what, when I geocached around the world, I found to be the greatest benefit for doing this hobby. I found Incan temples in Peru that were completely devoid of any tourists or locals. I found the wreckage of an American fighter plane deep within Hanoi, Vietnam that was left in the pond where it fell. I gained deeper understandings of the thermal pools in Rotorua, New Zealand and the history of the aqueducts in Rome by determining the flow rate from the fountain at the Spanish Steps. Geocaching is the reason why I spent two weeks in Bangkok when most people were saying I’d only need a few days.
Virtual Geocache in Rotorua, New Zealand. “Hot Pools Earthcache”
Sure, it’s geeky, but it’s a good kind of geeky. It’s a geeky that teaches you history, that takes you off that beaten path and that shows you the area from the eyes of a local. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you run into other geocachers while searching, local or otherwise. And for a brief moment, you become the best of friends while sharing in the hunt for that elusive Tupperware container in the woods.
Geocaching with locals in Bucharest, Romania. “Hit-n-Run #01 – The Italian Church” Geocache