Keep in mind that the distances can be deceiving. When you use your GPS to find a geocache, it only gives you the distance between you and the geocache as the crow flies (straight line, unless you use the function “autorouting”). There is perhaps a mile between you and the cache, but you may have to cross a river, a cliff, or bypass the mountain and you deal 3 more kilometers to walk. You get the idea?
Get a map of the area to more easily locate geocaches near or too far from the trails. Topographic maps (which show details of gradients and terrain) are the best to give you a good idea of the type of terrain you must traverse.
For a geocaching drive (for geocaches accessible by car and for which a short walk is required), you can use MapQuest. The geocaching.com site allows you to access MapQuest through a link on each of the geocaches. Make sure to zoom in on the location of the geocache well located in relation to road access.
Since this is your first time geocaching, you must also read the notes of the geocache, look at the pictures of the geocache (if any) and read the experiences of other geocachers have found the geocache. Some geocaches may be obvious if 10 meters away, while other geocaches located in the busiest locations can be hidden under some rocks (or in one case, in an underground WWII bunker!). In addition, each geocache has a difficulty rating and a rating field. Do not be too ambitious for your first cache!
Step 2 – Preparation
Preparation is key for any outdoor activity, and cannot overemphasize the importance of preparation and safety. Keep in mind these tips in looking for a geocache:
Have a friend with you! Never go off into the woods where remote sites without a partner, especially when you do geocaching. It Many caches are off trail. Be sure to monitor your environment. If you focus on your GPS, look around you from time to time for holes and other obstacles.
Also drink water constantly, and do not drink directly from a river! For certain types of difficult travel, bring a water filtration system. You can get in most stores camping equipment.
Tell your family where you plan to visit, and the time of your return.
Step 3 – Hunting
Now you are ready for the hunt. It is not unusual to reach a geocache with your vehicle with less than a mile to walk. If you’ve done your research and have located the geocache, follow your map to find the place. It is inevitable that your GPS will lose satellite signals when the foliage is dense, or when you are surrounded by mountains. If you use a topographic map, the roads you see can be much smaller than it seems. It is recommended to always bring a compass (even if your GPS is itself equipped).
When you leave your vehicle, select your starting location with your GPS! It may seem silly, but once down in the woods, it is easy to become disoriented and get lost.
When you are close enough to the geocache (about 100 meters, which corresponds to the length of a football field), check if your GPS is receiving satellite signals. Sometimes the GPS indicates a margin of error of accuracy of 10 to 30 meters. As you approach the site, you can concentrate less on the arrow on the GPS.
For the last 10 meters, ask your partner to stand in the direction pointed by the compass, and the distance indicated. Most of the time, you can define a circular area within which the cache should be.
The last 10 to 30 meters are the most difficult. It helps to think like the person who placed the geocache. Check the logs at the base or in the tree. Watch the rock pile. Some geocaches, especially in public places are cleverly hidden, so it is useful to know what type of container was used.
Step 4 – The Discovery
Hooray! You’ve found the geocache! Congratulations! And now?
Usually, you take an object and you leave one, you enter your name and experience in the book. Some people prefer to leave their name in the book. Make sure to close the container of the geocache and replace it where you found it. If there were some stones that covered the geocache, please replace them. The idea is to let the geocache in the same condition as you found it.
Do you remember that we had suggested marking your starting location with your GPS? This is the time to use it for getting back!
Back at home, enter your discovery on the geoaching.com website. The owner of the geocache will be happy to know the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the geocache.