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How To Get Started in Geocaching

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GPS technology is good for more than just directions. For outdoor fun, try geocaching (pronounce it "geo-cashing"), an adventure game for GPS users. Individuals and organizations around the world create caches and then place cache coordinates on the Internet. Other GPS users visit the caches and sign a guest book, or take an item and leave an item. Caches are often placed in locations that are interesting or difficult to get to. Geocaching is about more than just finding the cache: It's about the challenge of getting there and sharing stories about your adventures online.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Obtain a GPS device that is suitable for rugged outdoor use. Handheld GPS navigators are the favored devices, but really, any portable GPS unit that can accept custom waypoint data will work. If you will be seeking geocaches that are off-road and off the beaten track, be sure you have good, detailed topographic maps of the region loaded into your handheld.
  2. Learn how to enter custom waypoint data into your GPS. This varies by manufacturer, but generally involves going to a waypoint page in the unit's menu, naming the waypoint, entering the exact numeric coordinates, and saving the waypoint. Many handhelds have special features and menus especially for setting up and finding geocaches.
  3. Find and research a geocache to pursue. Geocache locations range from mountain tops to roadside picnic spots, to urban settings. Start with an easy one close to home. You will likely be surprised by how many caches are nearby.
  4. Find the geocache. If the cache is off the beaten path, be sure to travel with a friend, carry food and water, and be prepared for conditions. Be sure to mark where you parked your car or your starting point (and some intermediate points) as waypoints, so you can easily navigate your way back; GPS units are supposed to prevent you from getting lost, after all! Experienced geocachers say the last few hundred feet and finding a hidden cache can be the toughest parts.
  5. When you find the cache, look through its contents, and follow any instructions. In some cases, you may take an item and leave an item. Most prefer to simply read and comment in the log book. Rule of thumb is to return the cache to its position and leave it as you found it.

What You Need

  • GPS unit that accepts custom waypoints.
  • Detailed supplemental map loaded in your GPS.
  • Coordinates of a geocache.
  • Clothing, food and water to match conditions you'll encounter.
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