So–Freddie Fantastic (AKA the husband) and I began Geocaching a few weeks ago, and I’ve got to say………Meh.
(If you don’t know what Geocaching is, here’s the official website.)
Before detailing why our start into the Geocaching community has been slow/rough–here’s a suggested list of equipment you should pack in your Geocaching Kit: (From our experience….)
*Pen & Paper
*Change of clothes–light or heavy, depending on the weather and terrain (Long sleeves/pants/hiking boots or sneakers for hiking through brush, “normal” clothing/comfy shoes for trail hiking–I wouldn’t wear flip flops or sandals unless you know that the cache terrain is an easy trail hike.)
*A couple bottles of water and snacks–in case you get lost
* Handheld GPS Navigator and extra batteries
*Map of the area you’ll be hiking in
*Compass–in case the GPS fails
*Charged Cellphone & extra batteries….pray it works!!
Here’s why we’re disappointed….
1] While the addition of GPS to the traditional “treasure hunt” style game is brilliant, you really DO need one of the more pricey GPS handhelds if you don’t want to waste your time wandering aimlessly (taking the risk of getting lost in the process). We first tried the Geocaching app for iPhone/Android with limited success, and then tried 3 different GPS handhelds with only consistent results from the Garmin GPS 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator–which sells roughly for $250-$300. (All equipment was borrowed because we like to try before we buy.) I’ve read that some people LOVE the Apispher Geomate Jr.–which is the first navigator that we tried and can be purchased for about $70–but we felt this wasn’t any better than the Droid app we began with. We also tried the Garmin xTrek H, and one of the handhelds by Magellan (I’ve forgotten which one, but it retails for about $150)–both were better than the Droid app/Apispher, but weren’t very consistent…and I would hate to spend all that money on equipment that occasionally decided to work.
The success of the handhelds also might depend on the area you’re caching in. We live in the city–which tends to have a lot of “data pollution” in the air, and I’m sure this interferes somehow with GPS. We’ve also only geocached close to home….so far I would love to plan a Geocaching Weekend maybe in the Fall and away from home. This would really be a true test of our equipment.
2] The caches we’ve found in our area are junk. We decided to go for “easy” Experience (XP) Level caches first–because we’re Noobs. These caches are ranked 1 to 2 stars out of a 5 star system. The first one we found was called a “Park and Grab” and was a extra small cache–which meant (usually) it didn’t have any item for you to take/trade, but just a log to sign for the Cache Owner (CO) to read. It was FUN–very cleverly hidden, had a nice note from the CO for the Finder to read. The next few caches we found were the same XP Level–varying in cache sizes of x-small to large–but we have yet to find items that we would want to swap for in any of our Finds. I’m not sure if this is the fault of the Geocachers in our area who have traded nice Finds for crap–you’re suppose to trade up or trade even IF you take something–or if it’s the negligence of maintaining the cache by the CO. We’ve tried more difficult XP leveled caches with the thought that the harder the find, the bigger the prize, but with no luck. We enjoy hiking–have even taken our children with us on a few Finds for something to enjoy together as a family–and you can’t believe the disappointment that’s felt when the “prize” doesn’t equal all the work you just put into finding it. =^P
3] The XP Level that the CO ranks his/her cache is based on their fitness level. (HAHA!) There were a couple of caches that we successfully found that were ranked Very Easy–but should have been rank Medium to Medium-Hard because of the terrain. It was difficult to maneuver–having to wade through waist-high thicket/brush and thickly wooded areas. I was wearing jeans, and had a sweatshirt in the car that I put on in order to protect my arms, but poor Freddie and to stay behind having only worn shorts/sleeveless shirt because it was 90+ degrees out. (Side Note–having to wear an “autumn” wardrobe in sweltering Summer weather in order to find a Cache–not fun!! Should be included in the cache description….but I was able to leave a comment in the Cache Log section, so hopefully others will read it.) I think I lost 10 lbs. that day from the amount of sweat my body produced. I was absolutely SOAKED.
4] Some of the descriptions of the Caches that are given by their respective CO’s are lacking–most of them ARE very helpful–but I think this also depends on the area you’re geocaching in…unfortunately. As everyone in the Node Community is aware–not everyone in this world is nice, and this goes for CO’s as well. (I wish there was a way you could report on bad chaches/Co’s….maybe there is and I haven’t been able to figure it out yet.)
I would also recommend that you ALWAYS read the comments that other Geocachers have left in the Log section for the caches that you plan to find! Many useful tips/hints can be garnered (if the CO isn’t a douche and doesn’t remove it!) As I’ve mentioned–it would have been nice to know that long sleeves/pants are required or that you need to bring certain equipment along with you. There’s also a “hint” option that the CO can fill out–especially if the GPS is buggy in the cache area–that I’m very disappointed more CO’s don’t utilize. I can understand not filling it out on caches that are ranked Easy, but some of the more difficult caches that we’ve attempted should have had at least one hint.
Our overall experience thus far has proved frustrating, but we’re not giving up. We haven’t been able to locate any caches in our area that require solving a puzzle in order to find the cache–which I think would be very fun to try and hopefully will be more rewarding–but there is a cache ranked Hard close to us that can be found only on certain days of the week between certain times because it’s guarded. VERY INTRIGUING! I’ve read the log entries of the Geocachers who have found it, and there are stories anywhere from, “The terrain was very difficult. For advanced hikers only…” to “It was an easy find once I got away from the two dudes who jumped me because they thought I had found the treasure!”
Geocaching is what you make it–bottom line. Freddie and I are trying to keep a positive attitude by realizing that we get to spend time alone together without our children, we’re getting fresh air/exercise, and not all the caches we’ve found have been a waste of time….it’s been very frustrating, but also really fun!