Geocaching: It sounds like something involving hard hats, clipboards and bespectacled old dudes with pocket protectors, right? What if we told you that geocaching is more like treasure hunting for modern-age undercover super-pirate adventurers? No? Okay, that’s fair, we may be exaggerating. Slightly. But hang up your skeptical hat, because that was a closer description than you might think.
Geocaching is the fine art of finding stuff that someone else has hidden, using your own cunning and a GPS-enabled device, like your smartphone. There are treasures (“geocaches”, in modern-age undercover super-pirate terms) hidden all over the place, and almost certainly near you, right now. In fact, there are over 1,750,000 geocaches hidden throughout the world, and over 5 million geocachers worldwide hiding them and finding them and sharing their experiences online. These caches usually take the form of something simple and innocuous, like an old Altoid tin. Some larger caches contain a little trinket for you to take and replace with a similar surprise for the next geocacher; but generally there’s nothing more inside the box than a list with the names of your fellow intrepid explorers. So why is a rusty metal box so awesome?
Besides simply giving you an excuse to go outside (like you needed one), most geocaches are stashed in unique or important areas, letting you experience your chosen stomping grounds in a whole new way. For example, there’s a series of geocaches in San Francisco that are all hidden near especially impressive murals, and another one hidden on a cliff formed out of rocks that can only be found in the Bay Area. And even better, geocaches can only be found with GPS (whether it’s simply an app on your phone or an actual GPS receiver), so it forces you to understand and use GPS, which is incredibly useful for those of us who really, really like to get off the beaten path. Exploration with a purpose? We’ll take it.
Geocaching is treasure-hunting, but it’s not about the treasure – it’s all about the hunt. You’ll find yourself wandering through parts of town you never knew existed, climbing through underbrush and scrambling up hills and through alleyways, all in search of an old mint tin. But once you find it, once you sign your name onto that sanctified list, every scrape, every bruise, every sunburn will be worth it. There’s something incredibly satisfying about finding a cache; maybe it harkens back to our hunter-gatherer days, or maybe it just brings us back into the simple thrill of playing hide-and-seek as kids. It’s quite possibly the most straightforward activity imaginable – really all you’re doing is walking around outside and exploring – but you’ll be gearing up for the next cache the minute you find your first one, guaranteed.
So are you game? Learn how to get started at geocaching.com and check out their searchable database of geocaches near you.