The days are longer and the smell of adventure is in the air, so why are you and your kids gathered around the television when there is so much fun to be had outside. Not all kids are made to play baseball or enjoy spending time at the lake fishing; they are more likely to found with a video game controller in their hand and weary look in their eyes. So what types of activities will test their intelligence, utilize cool technology and offer them a sense of adventure such as a treasure hunt? The answer is simple Geocaching!
What is Geocaching you ask? Well, basically it is a high tech treasure hunt that utilizes GPS (global positioning system) enabled devices. You know that voice in your car that tells you when to make a turn and how far you are form your destination? That is utilizing GPS technology. Geocaching is using hand held devices that assists you to navigate to a specific set of coordinates where someone else has hidden a geocache. The geocache itself need not be anything elaborate and quite frequently is nothing more than a waterproof container such as Tupperware or old used 35mm film canisters, which are called micro-caches. The may contain nothing more than a pencil and paper for you to record your name and the date you found the treasure or they may contain a various assortment of goodies. The rule of thumb when taking something from a geocache container is to place something else of equal or greater value in return. You can then go home and comment on your find and log it in your account on a geocache-listing site. It is at these listing sites that you can obtain the list of coordinates of geocaches that are in your area. Geocaching is a worldwide adventure so even if you are traveling you can enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
If you really get into the world of Geocaching you may consider leaving personalized trinkets for others to find and move around the world, taking one thing from one geocache while leaving a trinket taken from a different geocache somewhere else. Items called Geocoins and Travel Bugs are known as ‘hitchhikers” and are commonly moved from one place to another. On the listing sites you will be able to see when the last person to find that geocache logged it in and what the condition of that cache is. Geocaching began to increase in popularity near the same time that the movie “Harry Potter” became popular so those non Geocachers’ mulling about while you are on the hunt are referred to as ‘muggles’ and a vandalized cache is said to have been muggled or plundered.
The great thing about Geocaching is that it really doesn’t cost a great deal of money to get started, in fact many of the smart phones on the market today are equipped with GPS and there are many mobile apps for these phones that can be easily downloaded. Any of the major outdoor and camping stores will have a wide variety of GPS units to choose from so you really need to just concern yourself with your budget and what features are most important for you and your area. Some important factors to ask the sales person are how quickly the GPS unit acquires the satellite signals. It’s no fun to be standing in a field waiting for your GPS to be ready to get you right on the spot. Another factor that I feel is very important is battery life, its easy to carry extra batteries with you, but with most electronics, the longer the battery life the heavier the unit.
Finally make sure that you can read the screen well. Numbers will be changing and many units have the ability to download detailed maps so screen size and clarity is of the utmost importance. Make sure your Handheld GPS is waterproof as I have gotten caught in rainstorms and fallen in puddles more times than I care to remember.
If you have any preferences on which handheld GPS unit you feel is best for newbies up to advanced please feel free to voice your opinions here as enquiring minds need to know!