Aussie Geocaching And The Treasure Hunt Bug

Think of geocaching as a high-tech hide and seek: using a GPS receiver (like your phone) to find waterproof containers hidden at particular coordinates. It's not about the trinkets you'll find, it's about the thrill of the hunt, adding your name to the log book and geeking out with statistics. What are you up to this long weekend?

This is a guest post from Adam Cios, who two years ago escaped Sydney city life to go bush in the Blue Mountains, start a family and work with books and technology.

I first read about geocaching a few years ago; it might have been here on Giz. It sounded like a bit of fun if and when time allowed. Then recently my wife and I both got new smartphones and geocaching again came to mind. I downloaded the geocaching.com free intro app (iPhone, Android, WP7) and away we went. I had to convince my better half to participate but we had to kill some time one day and it didn't take long for her to get bit by the treasure hunting bug.

We didn't find the first cache we looked for, but that didn't stop us – we looked for another closer to home the same day and were rewarded with a large cache of books.

There are no hard and fast rules on taking or leaving items, but it's considered fair that if you take something, you should leave something. Just a little trinket will do. The same sort of item each time might become your 'signature'. For us, it's random mid-90s Tazo discs that we had lying around. 'Space Jam' Michael Jordan finally put to good use.

Getting Hooked

Soon enough I forked out $10.49 for the more feature-packed full iPhone app. While the intro version only shows you the closest 3 caches to where you search, the full app lets you search based on current location and filter by size, difficulty and more. You also get a more detailed cache description.

The app gives you a decent map and uses GPS to locate the cache, giving you distance and a compass as well. I have an iPhone 3G, so the compass worked best on my wife's digital compass-equipped iPhone 4.

It's worth noting that geocaching.com's app only displays caches that have been registered on its website. Though most caches are dutifully registered on geocaching.com , geocaching.com.au has a good pool of users that register unique caches (like trig points mentioned below) on the Australian site – so you'll need to find another way to locate those. My favourite app to do just that is Free GPS. It's free, lightweight, and easy to use. This app on my wife's phone along with firing up geocaching.com.au on my phone allows us to do any of the Australian-only listed caches.

Types Of Geocaches

There are a wide range of different kinds of geocaches — the main ones being: - Traditional (basic container and log sheet) - Multi-Cache (two or more locations that include 'hints') - Mystery (solve clues to determine coordinates) and - Virtual (find a landmark or location instead of container).

A common virtual cache type in Australia is the 'trig point' aka triangulation station — used by muggle geo surveyors for mapping and triangulation; but used by cachers as destination landmarks.

Two other type of caches I'm keen to explore are: - Webcam caches (where the idea is to get your picture captured on a public webcam) and - Trackables (items etched with a unique code so their real world movement – often hundreds of kilometres – can be tracked online via geocaching.com).

There are also many games inside the game that people have created like collecting photos of waterfalls, weird letterboxes or animals found at the cache location.

And this is cool: GPSMission.com has a caching mission that sends you around a few of the locations used for filming The Matrix in Sydney.

Something Different

There's almost certainly going to be a range of challenging and fun geocaches surrounding you right now. Go here to check. You're sure to discover some great views, historical sites and hidden nooks that you may never have otherwise stumbled upon. Plus it gets you out of the house in the geekiest way possible.

My wife loves the hunt and booty, and I love the problem solving and videogame-like statistics after a mission. It's also a great option for families – I look forward to the day my son can join the hunt.

I'm still only new to this game, but I'm in it for the duration. See you on the trails.


Comments

    Gets us outside into the fresh air with the kids--great

    Why waste your time with Apps, get a proper Garmin unit and get serious about having fun.

      Yeah, a GPS smartphone will be ok, but you'll be as much as 10s of metres more accurate with a proper GPS receiver.

      Geocaching is lots of fun!

    why waste money on a GPS when you can do it on the cheap just as easy

      Trust me. The difference between a handheld GPSr and a phone when trying to narrow a search to the nearest metre is massive.

        sure your right, but as a beginner the cheap way in is great and there have only been a few I haven't been able to find, and reading logs they are hard to find even with a GPS .

    Geocaching is a fantastic hobby and you get some fantastic treasures. On my last find someone included an Arturo Fuente cigar, top smoke and great reward for a hard find.

    Geocaching is best with kids along.
    There's a cache about 50 metres from my house. I can't find it! I might have to put my nephew on the case.

    I was rock climbing once and found one squirrelled away halfway up the cliff, just a random thing to run into.

    Hello, my name is Carl and I am an addict.
    I have been caching for about 3 years and have found, as of this weekend, 538 caches all over the country. In september I am heading to the US for a couple of weeks and I can't wait to find a few over there. Definately worth getting into if you haven't already.

    The game is awesome - I have been doing it for about a year now and love it.

    However, the iPhone app is a complete pile of SHIT!.. it is buggy to the max: often freezes and resets, map moving is slow and jumpy, often the font of the cache description means it is too big and unreadable..

    I greatly enjoy caching, but the app is a nightmare and should NEVER cost $10... don't wast your money!

      that's interesting because I have never had those problems. I did have some map issues on an older iPhone but no problems with the 4. Have you installed the app updates?

      I feel I have got more than my $10 worth out of it.

        Yes, using an iPhone4, with full iOS updates, non-joil broken and latest app. This is probably the worst app I have paid for, and it has cost 5 times more than any other. But price is not my complaint as a programmer I understand charging more that 99c is more than reasonable.

        My issue is that this app is really badly programmed, has a very unfriendly navigation path, overly complex when trying to set a manual waypoint, often frezzes as I said and is very unresponsive to map moves, zooms, etc.

        And no its is not my unlimited speed and data plan either.. the app is bunk as two other app developers mates agree (including my bro Ptolemy Oberin of Flight Control / Real Racing / and other quality apps)!

    If you have an Android phone, you might want to look for CacheSense in the Google Play/App store.

    We were coming home from swimming when one of our ladies was off collecting rubbish as is her thing ,and she returned with our find I was amazed and excited so now you have a new member lol

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