Geocaching: Tips for helping your child become the next Indiana Jones

Almost everyone wants to be like Indian Jones at some point in their lives (either that or they have had a big crush on him)!  Either way, it is pretty hard to imagine anyone (especially kids) who haven’t been lured into daydreams of hunting for treasure.  Now kids and adults alike can have their very own Doctor Jones adventures without the worry of being shot with poisonous darts or being chased down by machete-yielding bad guys!  

It’s a big deal

Geocaching is a hobby where other outdoor adventure enthusiasts hide and search for camouflaged containers (say a small Rubbermaid tub or other clever vessels) filled with tiny treasure (a.k.a. silly knickknacks).  

According to Geocaching.com, there are over 4 million active geocachers and 3 million active geocaches located in more than 190 countries and on seven different continents (Antarctica included-I think I will skip those). And, there are over 36,000 geocaching events and 200 organizations centered around this modern-day treasure hunt.  

Geocaching.com explains that the term ‘geocaching’ comes from combining the prefix ‘geo’ meaning Earth and ‘cache’ a term meaning a hiding place for objects.  The term ‘memory cache’ more recently has been used to describe a computer’s ability to pull up information. Therefore, the term geocaching is the perfect word for using technology, specifically a “global positioning system,” to look around the earth for hidden treasures.  

Getting Started

There are a number of websites and books to help you out if you find that this is a hobby you and your child want to sink your teeth in.  But, here are the basics to get you started looking for “the lost ark” and “the temple of doom.” 

Here are the materials and equipment you will need:

  • Smartphone with Geocache App – The app will give you the location 
  • Pencil/Pen
  • Small treasures (action figures, figurines, a keyring, stickers, baubles of any kind) 
  • Patience to look for good hiding places
  • (Some people recommend street maps as well as your Google Maps)

Once you have your equipment and materials you can begin!  You need to register with a geocaching website (like Geocaching.com) or purchase an app. After entering your zip code, you will see the coordinates for geocaches that are nearby.  Sounds fun, right?

Many of the sites and apps (Geocaching.com being the most popular), will give you a rating of how difficult the terrain is and how difficult the treasure is to find along with any other helpful information, including pictures, that will guide you and your child on your quest for hidden bootie.  

When you have found a cache, you can trade some of the items in the box for things that you brought along.  You will also sign the login book that comes with the treasure and record of your findings on the website or the app. Then, you return the cache to the spot you found it. Sometimes the caches get found by non-geocachers, and go missing.  Report your findings either way, so that other searchers don’t go on an endless search as well. 

Becoming a treasure burier can be just as much fun for you and your children too!  When you travel to new and beautiful places or even around your city, take a few caches and leave a little treasure of your own for others to find.  Occasionally, you can check and see who has found your stash and signed your log book.

What’s new in geocaching for the seasoned veterans

The good news, too,is that geocaching is evolving.  While I have shared the traditional geocaching experience, according to hobbyhelp.com, there are a number of other spins on these fun adventures.  There is an option to complete puzzles before you are allowed access to the coordinates of a cache.  In addition, there are caches that are connected. You have to find three or four caches in sequence by solving a puzzle at each hiding spot in order to go on to the next cache.  And if that isn’t enough, there are geocaching events around the world where you and your children can meet others who are obsessed with this fun activity.

So, if it isn’t obvious why you and your child should try out this fun and almost free opportunity for adventure, I will lay it out:

  • You and your children get to spend time together.
  • It gets you and your children outdoors.
  • You can see beautiful and interesting places that you have never explored before (many geocachers hide their treasure in beautiful locations).
  • It spurs your child’s sense of adventure and imagination.
  • Some searches can build problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • It helps children build navigation skills (put them in charge of a real PAPER map).
  • Bottom line:  It’s FUN!

Here are some fun links to find geocaching opportunities in Colorado!

Colorado Geocaching Trails and Trail Maps

6 Awesome Colorado Geocaching Destinations

The 10 Best Places in Colorado to Geocache

Get out there  Dr. Jones wannabes!  Awaken the inner-child or inner pirate in yourself and foster your child’s sense of adventure by joining the millions who are already geocaching!