Geocaching For Dummies

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Find a high-tech hobby in the great outdoors!

Dig into this fast-growing detective sport that's fun for all ages

Once you get your coordinates, your GPS receiver, maps, compass, and this book, you're ...

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Find a high-tech hobby in the great outdoors!

Dig into this fast-growing detective sport that's fun for all ages

Once you get your coordinates, your GPS receiver, maps, compass, and this book, you're ready for adventure! Seek out containers of goodies hidden around the world by other geocachers, hide a cache of your own, see new places, and get a little exercise to boot. Here's where to start!

The Dummies Way
* Explanations in plain English
* "Get in, get out" information
* Icons and other navigational aids
* Tear-out cheat sheet
* Top ten lists
* A dash of humor and fun

Discover how to:
* Choose and use a GPS receiver
* Find and download coordinates
* Pack the right gear
* Share experiences with the geocaching community
* Search for benchmarks
* Use geocaching as a teaching tool

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764575716
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/3/2004
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Joel McNamara is a technology consultant, author, adventure racer, and veteran geocacher. He’s experienced in search-and-rescue and disaster response operations.
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Table of Contents


Part I: Getting Ready to Geocache.

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Geocaching.

Chapter 2: Selecting a GPS Receiver.

Chapter 3: Using a GPS Receiver.

Chapter 4: Using a Map and Compass.

Part II: Let’s Go Geocaching.

Chapter 5: Selecting Geocaches to Find.

Chapter 6: Searching for a Geocache.

Chapter 7: Discovering a Geocache.

Chapter 8: Hiding Geocaches.

Part III: Advanced Geocaching.

Chapter 9: Searching for Benchmarks.

Chapter 10: Organized Geocaching Clubs and Competitions.

Chapter 11: GPS and Geocaching in Education.

Part IV: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 12: Ten Internet Geocaching Resources.

Chapter 13: Ten Geocaching Programs.


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First Chapter

Geocaching For Dummies

By Joel McNamara

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-7571-6

Chapter One

An Introduction to Geocaching

In This Chapter

* Understanding geoaching

* Finding out how geocaching works

* Discovering the benefits of geocaching

* Minimum requirements for geocaching

Geocaching is a new, popular sport that relies on using a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, the Internet, and your powers of observation. In a nutshell, you find some stuff, take some stuff, leave some stuff, record it all in a logbook, and have fun!

To elaborate a little more, someone, somewhere, hides a container filled with goodies (toys, travel memorabilia, costume jewelry, you name it). He or she then posts the location coordinates on the Internet along with a few clues. You visit a Web site database, get the coordinates, and use your GPS receiver to zero in on the geocache location. (Your GPS receiver usually won't lead you directly to the cache, and this is where your powers of observation come into play in locating the cache's hiding place.)


Geocaching is pronounced GEE-oh-cash-ing. It's not appropriate to pronounce cache as ca-SHAY, even if you are French. So unless you want some funny looks, stick with good ol' cash.

In a few short years, geocaching has grown incredibly popular. Relatively cheap and accurate GPS receivers and widespread access to the Internet have helped the sport flourish throughout the world. As of April 2004, the site (; one of the first Web sites devoted to the sport and currently the largest geocaching site on the 'Net) had over 91,000 active geocaches listed in its database, spread out among 201 countries. And that number continues to grow each day. That's a lot of caches out there to find!

Although geocaching is based on a fairly simple idea, you need to understand a number of basic things - or at least be aware of them - before you get started. That's what this chapter is all about. I show you exactly what geocaching is, how the sport got started, why you should geocache, and what you'll need to get started with the sport.

What Is Geocaching?

If you're reading this book, there's a good chance you've heard about geocaching (or saw the title on a bookstore shelf, wondered what the heck it was, and started flipping through pages). The rising popularity of the sport has gotten a fair amount of media attention. Maybe you read a newspaper or magazine article about it or perhaps heard friends talking about some of their geocaching adventures.

Geocaching technology

Geocaching relies on two technologies:

  •   The Internet: Various Web sites list the coordinates of geocaches that you can search for.
  •   GPS: The satellite-based Global Positioning System (which everyone calls GPS for short) is used to help you zero in on the location of geocaches. (I discuss GPS in depth in Chapter 2. I even wrote a whole book about it: GPS For Dummies.)

People use these two technologies together for finding and hiding goodie-filled containers that, by now, you've probably guessed are called geocaches.

Geocaching explained

Take a more detailed look at the steps that are involved in geocaching:

1. Someone hides a geocache.

The cache consists of a waterproof, element-resistant container, such as a surplus ammo can or plastic tub, that's filled with small trinkets such as costume jewelry, toys, flashlights, old coins, fossils, or just about anything else you could imagine. (Chapter 8 has everything you need to know about hiding caches.) The container also contains a logbook and a pen or pencil so whoever finds a cache can record their discovery. A sample geocache with its goodies is shown in Figure 1-1.

2. The geocache hider logs the GPS coordinates of the cache and a brief description on a Web site. Several different Web sites list the geocache coordinates. The largest and most popular site is I primarily focus on this Web site throughout the book.

3. The prospective geocache finder (that's you) is interested in searching for geocaches in a particular area and queries the database.

You can do this by entering a ZIP code, state, country, or other search options. A list of all the geocaches in the general vicinity is displayed. (Read more about this in Chapter 5.) 4. Look through the list of geocaches, select a few that look interesting, and enter their coordinates in your GPS receiver.

5. Drive as close as you can to the geocache (unless you want some additional exercise by walking or hiking a bit farther) and start your search on foot, using the GPS receiver to guide you to the cache location.

The GPS receiver won't take you directly to the geocache - that would be too simple. Your GPS receiver will typically get you within 50 feet or so, and then you need to use your Sherlock Holmes powers of observation and deduction to locate the hidden cache.

6. Find the hidden container.

If the cache is more deviously hidden, I give you some strategies in Chapter 7.

7. Open it up and see what's inside.

Whee! It's Christmas morning, and you get to pick your present.

8. Exchange a trinket in the container that catches your eye with something you brought with you to trade.

9. Sign and date the logbook and carefully place the container back in its hiding place for the next geocacher to discover.

10. When you get home, log on to the Web site, record your find, and write up a brief account of your adventures. (This is optional, but most geocachers do it.)

That's how geocaching works. Repeat the above steps over and over again, having as much fun as possible each time you go out looking for geocaches. (I go into a lot more detail with each of these steps throughout the book.)

Deciding to Geocache

Why should you geocache? That's a fair question, and I'm going to give you a number of reasons why you should get involved in the sport. (If you're already an experienced geocacher, feel free to use some of these reasons to convince your friends and family members that they should give geocaching a try.)

  •   Master your GPS receiver: GPS receivers tend to have lots of different features and whistles and bells. Because successful geocaching depends on using a GPS receiver, the sport offers an excellent opportunity for you to get to know your receiver and how to use it. (I talk about how to use a GPS receiver in Chapter 3.)
  •   See new places: It's pretty easy to get into a rut and never go anyplace new. People tend to be creatures of habit and always visit the same places, over and over again. Geocaching breaks you out of this repetitive cycle. You've now got a good excuse to visit places you've never been before, and because new geocaches are being added all the time, it's pretty hard to get bored. Many people even incorporate geocaching into their vacations and business trips.
  •   Get some exercise: Face it; most people don't get enough exercise. For whatever reasons, it's easier just to sit on the couch and slowly (or quickly) put on the pounds. Geocaching is a great, low-impact way of increasing your fitness. It gives you a reason to get off the couch and get out in the fresh air to do some walking or hiking. Because geocaches are rated as to how difficult the terrain is and how far you'll need to walk to get to a cache, you can select outings that are based on your current level of fitness.
  •   Challenge yourself: There's scientific evidence that just like you need to exercise your body to be healthy, you also need to exercise your brain. Geocaching is a great way to do this because the sport involves a number of mental challenges. It's like doing a crossword puzzle, plus you get the extra benefit of the physical exercise. You need to use

* The Internet: To find geocaches you'd like to search for

* Your GPS receiver: To get to the general vicinity of a cache

* Your brain: To figure out just where the cache is hidden

  •   Hang out with friends and family: Geocaching can be an individual or group activity, and it's a great excuse to get the family together or turn it into a social outing for a group of friends. Geocaching is even pet-friendly. Lots of geocachers take their dogs out with them on hunts. (Just remember to be considerate to others and bring a leash and a plastic bag.)
  •   Educate kids (and adults): Geocaching, which is starting to find its way into the classroom, is a great way to learn about history, geography, maps, and science. There are a number of ways how you can apply the basic principles of geocaching in an educational setting to make learning fun. (I discuss using GPS and geocaching in education in Chapter 11.)
  •   Build teams: Geocaching is also showing up as a unique tool for organizational development in building teams and developing leadership skills. Small groups are given GPS receivers and are asked to find geocaches and solve other related challenges, with effective teamwork a necessary ingredient for success.

Who Geocaches?

One of the nice things about geocaching is that just about anyone can do it; your gender, age, or economic status don't much matter. (Geocaching is a relatively inexpensive sport when it comes to required equipment.) The main requirements are a spirit of adventure, a love of puzzles and mysteries, and a good sense of fun. Here are some of the people you'll encounter in the sport:

  •   Computer geeks: Because geocaching involves gadgets (GPS receivers and the Internet), in the early days of the sport, a number of computer geeks were initially drawn to the activity. If you're not a geek, don't worry. You definitely don't need a computer science degree, and geocaching has become so popular that the average-Joe non-geeks currently outnumber the technology geeks.
  •   Families and friends: Geocaching is a very family-oriented sport; more often than not, you'll find couples, friends, and families out scouring the countryside looking for caches. Although you can certainly geocache by yourself, the social aspects of the activity and having more than one set of eyeballs to look for a well-hidden geocache are well suited to multiple-person outings.
  •   Outdoor recreationists: A fair number of hikers, hunters, fishers, rockhounds, and other types of recreationists have been using the outdoors long before GPS came into being. Because they typically already own a GPS receiver, many of these outdoorsmen and -women have added geocaching to their primary outside interests, getting in a little geocaching while they're biking, hiking, fishing, four-wheeling, or engaging in some other sport or pastime.
  •   Retired folks: Geocaching is popular with the retired set because it's a good excuse to get out of the house and do something interesting. Geocaches vary in how difficult the terrain is and how far off the beaten path they are. (Some caches aren't even off the beaten path but are in easily accessible urban areas.) You can select geocaches to search for that match your physical abilities. Geocaching is also well suited for RVers and people who like to travel because they can go geocaching where they're staying or on the way to their next destination.

What You Need to Geocache

The requirements for geocaching are fairly minimal. In fact, from a bare-bones standpoint, you need only two things:

  •   Geocache coordinates: If you don't know where to look, it's pretty hard to find a geocache (at least in most cases) There are numerous stories of non-geocachers accidentally stumbling onto caches, even some that were very well hidden. Geocachers turn to various Web sites on the Internet where they find tens of thousands of geocaches listed. Each of these caches has a set of coordinates associated with it, in a map grid system such as latitude and longitude or UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator). I tell you everything you need to know about how to find geocache location coordinates in Chapter 5.
  •   GPS receiver: With a GPS receiver, you enter the geocache coordinates, and the receiver guides you to the general vicinity of the geocache. (If you don't already have a GPS receiver, read Chapter 2 for some pointers on selecting one.) You don't need an expensive GPS unit with lots of features to geocache; a basic model priced around $100 will work just fine. (Don't forget to bring the GPS receiver user manual, especially if you just purchased your receiver and are still trying to figure out how to use it.)


You can go geocaching without a GPS receiver and use only a map and compass. (My adventure racing team does this to practice our navigation skills.) This is more challenging and makes the sport more like orienteering, where you run around the woods trying to find control points as fast as you can, using a map and compass.

Although the geocache coordinates and a GPS receiver are the two basic requirements for geocaching, I won't kid you and say that's all you need. Geocachers also tend to carry things like maps and compasses (which you can read how to use in Chapter 4), cellphones, food and water, and other pieces of gear. In Chapter 6, I give you a comprehensive and detailed list of other essentials that are commonly used when geocaching.


Excerpted from Geocaching For Dummies by Joel McNamara Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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