Walk this way…
So, we’ve been on an enforced go slow in the Move it! household for the past two weeks due to Mini Move It! having a broken collarbone. Trouble is, none of us do go slows very well it seems. He’s moody, I’m moody because he’s moody and Mr Move it! is stuck in the middle trying to get us to be nice to each other.
Now, it’s only a broken collarbone so he was only banned from contact sports for 6 weeks not actually moving but the trouble is he seems incapable of moving at a pace slower than sprinting at the moment and watching your son sprint off in front of you with his arm in a sling doesn’t make for relaxing times. With that in mind I needed to find a way for all of us to get out together for fresh air and exercise that wasn’t going to lead to stress for me and frustration for him which is what led us to try Geocaching.
I’d heard about Geocaching a while ago and couldn’t really get the point of it. After all it relies on you walking around looking at a phone which defeats the object of getting out in the great outdoors doesn’t it? That said the Summer of 2016 was dominated by Pokemon Go (more on that a little later) and at least with Geocaching you’re looking for real life stuff rather than cartoon characters so we decided to give it a go.
What actually is Geocaching?
The seriously enthusiastic folks at www.geocaching.com can explain this much better than I can but essentially, it’s a treasure hunt without a chest full of gold under the X on the map. A geocache is a container that varies in size and in it you’ll find a log book, and sometimes, depending on the container size, items to trade. The rule is you leave behind something of the same or greater value if you take an item from a geocache. Using the app you locate the area the geocache is in. Once in the vicinity of the geocache it’s time to put your phone away and start hunting. A geocache will never be buried but the ones we found had to be retrieved from pretty deep amongst exposed tree roots and in holes in tree trunks. Once you’ve found it you sign your name in the log book (or not in our case as we forgot a pen!) or log it in the Geocaching app, pop everything back in the container and return it to the same spot you found it. Easy.
Where to start…
After a quick Google I found out that I needed to download the Geocaching app. The app is really easy to use and you are ready to go as soon as it’s downloaded. It will pick up your current location so you can get going straightaway or, like we did, you can enter the location you’ll be visiting to check there are geocaches there before you head off. However, with 5,667 geocaches near our home city we wouldn’t have to look far to find good spots to go to.
What am I looking for?
We had a vague idea we were looking for small boxes. Turns out we were wrong! Geocaches vary massively in size and appearance from micro caches which are normally in old camera film canisters (remember the days before digital when you had to rely on Boots to develop your unedited holiday pics?? Sorry! I digress!) through to large caches which are bucket sized with small and regular caches in between that are sandwich box and shoebox size respectively. The app tells you the size of the geocache you are looking for to help you out.
The three geocaches we found were a film canister, a Berroca tube and a wee sample pot (clean thankfully!).
Who can do it?
The app will tell you the terrain that you can expect to have to cover so that will help you to plan your activity around your families’ capabilities. I’d say if you have younger kids plan out your route before heading off as you can end up walking pretty far from cache to cache if they are spread across a bigger area. More urban areas should have geocaches closer together which will help you get a few per adventure.
Is it easy?
Well, our adventure didn’t get off to the best of starts as we couldn’t find the first geocache much to the disappointment of Mini Move it! That’s when we discovered the comments section for each geocache and in it people had left updates to say that particular geocache was no longer there. So, my advice to you is, check the comments section before you head off for a geocache just in case it’s no longer there! Along with the comments on each geocache there are descriptions of where to find it and clues to help you out if needed. We used the clues feature a lot for all three of our geocaches — we were in woodland so descriptions like ‘third tree on the left’ weren’t the most useful whereas the hints gave much more specific detail on where to search.
Top 5 tips for successful Geocaching
1) Arm yourself with a poking stick if you’re Geocaching in woodland. All three of our geocaches were hidden in the trunks of trees where we needed to poke about in a lot of leaf litter.
2) Take a pen — whilst you can log your success on the app it’s also lovely to be able to add your name to the log book for each geocache the old-fashioned way.
3) Make sure your phone is fully charged and/or you carry a powerbank with you. Running out of battery could leave you stranded!
4) Use the clues and hints, this can make it much easier for children (and adults) to enjoy the experience.
5) Be aware of your surroundings, look up from your phone and take in what’s going on around you so that you can stay safe.
Where can you do it?
There are millions of geocaches around the world so you can pretty much do it anywhere. We went to Oldbury Court Estate and our search for geocaches took us in a loop through the stunning woodland and back to the car park via the kids play park.
Do you need special equipment?
A fully charged phone
Suitable clothes for the terrain and the weather
Snacks — I never leave home without snacks — no one wants hanger to spoil Geocaching.
What’s the Move it! verdict?
All of us loved it! Mini Move it! enjoyed being the leader for a bit and heading off with the map and he loved opening the geocaches and checking out what was inside. The beauty of Geocaching is that it forces you to look up from your phone screen to search for the geocache which is where, for me, it beats other games such as Pokemon Go for encouraging you to actually take in and appreciate your surroundings. We were exploring a park we’d never been to before and it felt like we really did get to explore it more than if we were out for a normal walk. The sense of adventure that Geocaching added helped keep Mini Move it! engaged for over two hours of walking without once complaining of being bored.
Mini Move it! gave Geocaching a score of 10/10 and a double thumbs up!
The Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission.