Walking boots, a pen, some trinkets and a GPS – it must be Geocaching!

Walkers with children will know that splendid scenery and fresh air doesn’t cut a lot of ice with kids. Trying to get the kids to use their walking boots, and to enjoy the walk without the whine can be a challenge. Turning the walk into a treasure hunt is a tried and tested trick – and now all the hard work of laying the trail is done for you.

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game that involves looking for hidden boxes both large and small in places throughout the UK and throughout the world.  A geocache can be anything from a tiny magnetic cylinder to a solid ammunition box, containing a logbook for signing and any number of treasures for swapping. The rules of the game are simple; when you find the cache, you sign the log and if you take anything, you replace it with a trinket of your own.

The person who hid the cache will also have given information about the area and maybe a clue to help you find the cache. There are often several caches linked together into a trail, which will give you a planned walk with some local background, a place to start and finish and even a place to park the car. Brilliant!

The only extra item of equipment needed to join the game is a GPS unit. This can either be a handheld specialist GPS, or increasingly an app on a smartphone which has GPS capability. With a GPS, you need to spend a few minutes on the website www.geocaching.com to find local caches and to enter the co-ordinates into the unit. You’ll need to set up a username and password to have access to the details. Smartphone apps can be used on the spot if there is coverage, and will tell you the nearest three caches to your location; however the app is less useful for planning a walk in advance. So a bit of preparation at home before lacing up the walking boots will pay dividends.

GPS units are often waterproof, but smartphones are not – so make sure that you have somewhere safe to stow it, your pen and a few small items to add to caches.  Have a look at the ranges from Marmot, Columbia or Patagonia for a suitable small rucksack for day walks, and make sure that your GPS is stowed securely in a weatherproof pocket.

You can add your own comments to the geocaching website to record that you have found the cache. You can also get really involved by hiding your own cache in a place that you would like other people to enjoy.

Hopefully this will mean that the kids get more use out of their walking boots, and will look forward to an outing as much as you do. Let us know if it works!