When you’re up at the cabin enjoying a bit of nature, it’s frustrating to hear the kids murmuring, “I’m bored.”
It happens all the time. You finally get away for a nice, slow weekend full or relaxation. But that slow pace is so counter to what people are used to today, that relaxation quickly turns to boredom. Well, I have a solution for you. In fact, I can think of dozens of them. But this one in particular is a ton of fun and doesn’t require a lot of preparation. If your kids are complaining about chronic boredom, or if you’re looking for ideas for activities to get outside and enjoy nature, I highly recommend geocaching.
What is Geocaching?
In case you haven’t heard of geocaching, here’s the basic rundown of what it is.
People all around the world have created little caches they are hidden everywhere. Each cache has a little notepad called a logbook where you write your name and the date whenever you find the cache. They usually contain little knick knacks that you can trade out or add to. Some caches are really small so they might contain things as miniscule as paper clips of different colors. It’s good practice to bring something with you to add to or trade with an item in the geocache.
When these caches are placed, the information about the cache is shared online. The largest and most official geocaching repository is at Geocaching.com (This is not an affiliate link. I enjoy geocaching and this website is the best resource out there for geocache coordinates). There you can find GPS coordinates, difficulty levels, and hints to help you find the cache once you get to the coordinates.
Then you just get outside and go find a cache.
There are 2 million geocaches around the world. Yeah, that’s a lot. And it’s always surprising to see where they turn up. You would be surprised to find out how many geocaches are within only a few miles from your house. If your cabin is somewhere that gets a reasonable number of visitors, you may find that there are geocaches nearby. But if there aren’t, I suggest you make some for your own family, visitors, and other complete strangers to find.
What’s so fun about it?
First of all, geocaches get you outside and moving. That alone is usually more exciting than sitting around the cabin.
Second, geocaches are a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Going on a hike is great and all, and can be thoroughly enjoyable, but geocaching adds an element of excitement. It’s like a treasure hunt. There is a specific goal—to find the cache. And that adds a lot of excitement to any hike or walk.
When you find your first cache, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
What stuff do I need?
To find a geocache, the first thing you’ll need is a GPS. What’s pretty cool is that many of us carry one of those in our pockets every day in the form of a smartphone. The only problem with a smartphone is that they’re not the best GPS receivers around. And if you’re trudging through the woods down in a canyon, you may not get a very strong GPS signal.
The other problem is that if you’re using the maps on your phone, those maps are actually stored online, not on your phone. So if you’re going to be somewhere without a data signal, like 3G or 4G, then you’ll need to plan ahead and download the maps for the area. I have the maps for the route to my cabin and the surrounding area downloaded to my phone for that very reason. I don’t have a data or even cell signal for most of the area around my cabin, so it’s important to me to have those maps available.
The cool thing is that at Geocaching.com you can actually download an app for your phone to do all the geocaching you want in areas with data access.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking, geocaching, and exploring in areas like I described above though, you might want to consider something a little better than your smartphone. There are some fantastic GPS receivers that have much more functionality than your smartphone. Here are a couple great options.
The Garmin eTrex 20 is a great starter GPS. With expandable memory, it can store a lot of maps and data. You can enter waypoints and plan out a great hiking trip. It can also accept GPX files which are geocaching files with the coordinates, terrain, cache difficulty, hints, and everything you need to know all in one file. So you don’t have to worry about printing that information off and punching the coordinates into the GPS manually. However, to download the GPX files from the website you have to be a premium member. If you’re interested, check out current pricing on Amazon by clicking here.
If you’re looking for something even more awesome then I would definitely go with the Garmin GPSMAP 64st. It has a ton more features like the quad helix antenna that makes it work even when you’re in a deep canyon. It also comes with 250,000 GPX files for geocaches from all over the world already loaded on the GPS. You can see current pricing on this one on Amazon by just clicking here.
How do I get started?
Once you figure out what you’re going to use for GPS coordinates, you just need to find some caches nearby and get going. Go to Geocaching.com and setup a free account to get free access to coordinates for the many geocaches near your current location. It’s really that easy.
If you have internet at your cabin, then it’s okay if you didn’t come prepared. Just use your phone to download the maps of the surrounding area and look up some nearby geocaches. Make sure you download the maps of the area to your phone. Most map and gps apps have this functionality. Then, enter the coordinates for the cache you want to find, and take note of the hints. You might need them.
Now get outside. There’s no excuse to be bored at the cabin on a beautiful day.