Image by rdmott9

A beginner’s guide to treasure hunting, for grownups.

Geocaching, or treasure-hunting for waterproof boxes with mini prizes inside, has been around since 2000. If you’ve got a GPS, a little time, and want a puzzle to solve somewhere in the great outdoors, geocaching is an easy hobby to get into.

Here’s how a basic geocache breaks down:

Get a GPS (or a smartphone) and choose your Geocache

Image by Eric Schmuttenmaer

Sign up on a website like Geocaching.com or download an app like GeoBeagle to have access to coordinates of caches all over the world (including in Antarctica).

You’ll want to plug the latitude and longitude of the geocache into your GPS to create a waypoint, and write down and any other information available on where the treasure is hidden. Some apps make this step easy, they provide info on the cache, work as a GPS, and allow you to view and update field notes all in the same program.

This all sounds easy, I know, but it won’t be as simple as just walking to where your waypoint leads you. There’s X painted on the ground, friend.

Find it!

Your GPS will only take you so far: these babies are hidden, and well at that. Sometimes your geocache (this term is used for the physical treasure chest or waterproof container) will be in a hole in a tree, sometimes it will be in a hole under a tree, or hidden under a rock. Be creative, and keep looking.

Image by Samuel Mann

Sign the logbook and make a trade

All geocaches should at least contain a log book and a pen or pencil. Write down your name and how your adventure went, and be sure to date it. Many geocaches will also have small items inside that you can swap out for something of equal value; make a note of the trade inside the log book.

There are lots of very creative people who have created multi-step and otherwise very complicated geocache hiding places. For your first time, try to tackle something not marked as “expert,” as some caches can be quite tough to reach. Also keep in mind that some of these will require you to take a long hike, pay a museum entrance fee, or spend some time splashing around in a stream.

Community Connection

Are you way beyond this introductory lesson on Geocaching? Share your most exciting find in the comments below.