GEOCaching - General Information

For those of you who do not know what GEOCaching is, it is often referred to as electronic treasure hunting. The general idea is to use a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit to find a “cache” placed by another geocacher. Available caches are listed on the official GEOCaching webpage ( Currently there are more than 334,000 active caches worldwide. Within a 50-mile radius of Melbourne, FL, there are more than 750 active caches. A number of these have been placed along the FTA trail system, waiting to be found. Some caches are located in downtown Melbourne, FL, and others are in a remote section of the Tosohatchee Forest. Many more caches are close to the city than out in the woods. I personally have found quite a few of them during my hikes along the FTA trails and other trails. There are many cachers – from single cachers to whole families. I personally like to geocache with friends, but I’ve often gone out by myself to a cache no one else wants to hike to.

In order to find caches you must have at least a GPS unit and access to the Internet. GPS units come in many varieties and can cost from $100 to more than $500. Generally, the more a GPS unit costs the better it is and the more features it has. By being better, I mean it is more accurate and has more features. One desirable feature is “trip routing”. GPS trip routing allows you to use the GPS to tell you what roads to use to get as close to the cache as possible. Once you are near the cache, you switch the GPS to “local” mode to find the cache. In my opinion, the best all around unit currently available is the Garmin 60Cx. It costs around $400, and I wish I had one. Because caching is easier when you have as much information about caches as possible, I recommend that you have software loaded onto your PC to process cache data received from the GEOCaching webpage. I also load data about a cache onto a PDA that I take into the field with me while I’m searching for the cache.

Since GEOCaching is such a fast-growing sport there is much supporting computer software available. Mapping software like Google Maps is also very helpful. But don’t let all this computer talk discourage you; GEOCaching can be done on a very simple scale if you so wish.

The basic steps to GEOCaching are:
• Download cache information from the Internet.
• Load cache information into a computer program on your PC.
• Analyze the caches; determining which ones you want to search for.
• Transfer the cache data from your PC to your GPS.
• Either print the cache data out or, if you have a PDA, transfer it to the PDA.
• Find the cache.
• Report your found caches to GEOCaching using their website.

Although GEOCaching sounds simple, in some cases it is, while in other cases it isn’t! Some caches are out in the middle of nowhere, meaning you must hike out to them. And just because you get to a cache’s location doesn’t mean that you will find the cache. Some cachers who place caches are brutal; they hide the caches where you can’t find them. A cache’s description webpage contains ratings on the terrain and the difficulty of finding the cache. You may want to avoid some of the more difficult ones – I know I do!

Rather than go into any more detail here I suggest that if you are interested in the sport you go to and read more about it. You do not need to spend anything to become a basic member. All you need is a “handle,” a GEOCaching nickname, to get started. I suggest that if you have a GPS and enjoy getting out and around that you become a “premium” member. Premium membership gives you access to special functions and the ability to create “pocket queries,” which are necessary if you do a lot of caching.

Here are my recommendations; some are optional, but I find them all necessary:
• GPS unit: As I said earlier, the better it is the easier your caching will be. It must have the ability to connect to your PC and be WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System, an accuracy enhancement) enabled. Trip routing is a plus.
• PC Software: I recommend a software package called GEOCaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK). It costs about $30. You can find more information at EASYGPS is a free software package that is primitive, but works.
• PDA: I use a Palm unit (I found a ZIRE 21 cheap on EBay) but a PocketPC also works.
• PDA Software: I use a package for my Palm called “Cachemate” from If using a PocketPC you will need some other appropriate PDA software package.

Like everything else in this world GEOCaching has a learning curve. For some this curve will be quite steep; for others it will be relatively flat.

Good luck and happy caching,

No comments: