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How to go geocaching: the high-tech treasure hunt

We explain all you need to know about geocaching

Geocaching has been described as a high tech treasure hunt and, according to its supporters, it’s enjoying massive growth. What’s more, you need nothing more than a smartphone or a handheld GPS device to engage in this pastime. Intrigued? Well let us guide you in finding your first geocache.

Keen geocachers place so-called 'geocaches' around the country and then publicise them on the Geocaching website where various clues and geographical coordinates are provided. The job of other enthusiasts – and this is how we suggest you start out in geocaching – is to find one of those geocaches.

Often a geocache will take the form of a plastic sandwich box or similar waterproof contained and, at a minimum, it’ll contain a logbook and pen so that you can record the fact that you’ve found it. Often it will also contain some low-value gift – so that it’s more like a treasure hunt – that you are welcome to take so long as you leave something of equal or greater value.

First of all head to www.geocaching.com and sign up for a free account. Now, on the home page, enter a postcode near to where you want to search. Your home postcode would be a good place to start and you’ll probably find plenty of geocaches nearby.

Geocaching map

When I tried, 18 were listed within a mile of my home which is four kilometres from a medium-sized town in West Yorkshire. Each has a name and, most importantly, a score of how difficult it is to find and how difficult a terrain you’ll have to negotiate to reach it.

To start we suggest you pick a fairly easy one and click on its name, which is a link to the page for that particular geocache. Here you’ll find a description of the cache, a clue which, for some inexplicable reason is written in a trivially simply code and, most importantly, the location as both a national grid reference and a latitude and longitude.

Some geocache listings are made visible to premium members only. This costs $30 per year, which is around £20.

Enter the location into your smartphone or GPS device (or upload it directly to a smartphone if you have the £6.99 Geocache app), and set off on your travels. Your success will depend on your skills with your handheld GPS device or mapping app (something like Google Maps would be a sensible starting point), your agility if the terrain is difficult, and how good you are at spotting something that someone has placed with the intent of making it difficult to find.

Geocaching comments

Once you’ve found the geocache, be sure to sign the logbook and, if you find something in the box that you’d like to keep, make sure that you leave something equally valuable in its place. Now, when you return home, log into the geocaching website, return to the page for the geochache that you found, and add a comment to describe your experiences in finding it.

Congratulations, you’re now a fully-fledged geocacher.

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