Geek Out

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.

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