Geocaching for RVers: A Fun Hobby for All Ages
Geocaching for RVers: A Fun Hobby for All Ages
What to expect when looking for your first cache and why families love it!
By: Sue Ann Jaffarian
Officially, geocaching is defined as a type of global treasure hunt where people look for caches (objects hidden by other people). The hiders provide clues online and the searchers use GPS devices to find the hidden goods. But talk to a seasoned geocacher and they will tell you with a laugh that geocaching is a hobby in which people use multi-million-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.
An Intro to Geocaching for RVers
For centuries, people have stashed stuff all over the world. Pirates, gold prospectors, and even robbers have hidden their booty and prepared maps for relocating it. Even today, there are modern treasure hunts with wide-spread appeal. But geocaching is different. Did you ever go on scavenger hunts as a kid or at parties? Geocaching is more like a scavenger hunt, albeit more global and interesting.
I first heard about geocaching years ago but never tried it until last summer when I was looking for something new to add to my travels. I was immediately struck by how great of a hobby this would be for RVers of all ages, especially for families.
Geocaching is a pastime that is pretty inexpensive and accessible for most everyone. While many of the caches can involve miles of hiking, most are fairly easy to reach. Maybe not find, but reach. Even me, with my old knees, can do it quite easily. On the most popular Geocache site and its app, you can filter finds to fit difficulty and terrain types, as well as types of containers.
But, besides this, why is it a perfect hobby for families and most anyone? I set out to talk to some seasoned geocachers in the Winnebago family to get their thoughts on this very popular hobby.
Why Families Love Geocaching
Sean and Kaitlin Orsburn have been geocaching since 2012 and have done it internationally. Like me, they had heard about geocaching for years, but it did not click until their first find. Now they geocache with their four-year-old son Tyler who ‘found’ his first cache at two weeks old. Kaitlin has 4,000 finds and Sean about 6,000. They are currently in the second month of a seven-month trip in their 1997 Adventurer 37RW.
Sean shares: “There are countless times that we've been out geocaching and are taken to some extremely interesting places, often just off the beaten path, that we wouldn't have known about. Interesting historical locations, beautiful views, fascinating architectural features, incredible geological formations, etc. As a family, this is a great excuse to get outdoors together and see these things.
Additionally, any tool we can use to convince our four-year-old to go on a multiple-mile hike is very useful! For our son, the lure of a trinket as a prize for his efforts is usually all it takes. We carry a small bag of trinkets and interesting rocks that he has collected and use those for trading when we are lucky enough to find a cache large enough for trades. Geocaching also is a great way to teach navigation and course plotting.”
Chris Miller and Noel Fleming are retired teachers who have been geocaching since 2006 and have 2,014 finds under their collective belt, including 100 First to Finds (FTFs). A FTF means that they were the very first ones to find and log a particular cache. They traveled full-time for three years in a 2019 Travato GL, but now are temporarily off the road awaiting their new EKKO.
Here are their insights on why RVer families will love this activity: “Geocaching is GREAT for families because it takes you to places you may have otherwise never found that might even be within five miles of your home. There are a variety of levels in terrain, difficulty of the hide, and size of the cache. Often, in larger caches, there is swag that kids love to find and trade. What young kid, or kid at heart, wouldn’t love all of that?!”
Mark and Julie Lenz began geocaching in 2008 and have 300 finds to their credit. They travel in a 2019 Travato GL they named Candie because of her deep cherry color. They travel in their RV several times a year. Mark particularly loves creative and unusual caches.
Mark had this to say: “There are riddles, hidden tips to locating the caches in most of the synopsis about that certain cache. So, it's a problem solving, self and family discovery process while binding your family to a stronger connection all while having fun. Oh yeah, and it gets the kids out of the house into fresh air and away from video games.”
What to Expect When Geocaching
So, what exactly are you looking for when you geocache? Containers can be as tiny as the end of your pinkie or as large as someone wants to make them. Hiders of geocaches can get pretty creative, often hiding them in containers that look like bolts, snakes, tree limbs and even dog poop (Really!). I found two on metal gates that looked exactly like the bolts holding the gates together.
They can be hidden anywhere — under trees, on lamp posts, attached to picnic tables, hanging from fences or trees, in cemeteries or in caves. They can be placed in parks, parking lots, trails, rest areas, playgrounds, or at museums. The places and types of caches are limited only by the cache hider’s imagination.
There are many types of geocaches. You can see a list of the different types with explanations here. I love virtual caches because they don’t involve crawling under trees or hiking or bugs crawling over me. Sean said his son does not care for the Virtual or EarthCaches because there are no trinkets to find, but Tyler’s mom and dad love them because they provide educational material while they are exploring.
Sometime caches can stump you or take a long time to find. I asked everyone I interviewed what their most difficult find was:
- Noel: “A pavilion cache in our old stomping grounds in Virginia! I spent at least 21 hours trying to find that thing! I finally prevailed! Whew!”
- Mark: “[The hider] took a fallen branch about three inches in diameter sawed it in half, created a pocket in the middle for a cache tube, using pins also in the center area put it back together, now it was placed leaning against a tree just inside a park’s tree line. Took us two days to find that one.”
- Sean: “There is a cache in Paris that ‘requires’ teamwork to complete. Being the crazy overachievers we are, we wanted to try to do it alone. The cache is a mystery cache, with clues hidden in about a dozen major cities around the world. Tucson, our home base, happens to be one of those cities. You get information from the sister city, and then solve a puzzle and can find the cache in Paris. We happened to be in Germany that summer and made a short detour over to Paris in order to grab the cache!”
However, do not let the difficulty, time spent, or the locations in the above comments deter you from trying geocaching. I have found many in Walmart parking lots, museums, and rest areas that only took minutes to locate. I remember one at a rest stop that I had trouble finding. I sat down on a bench to admire the view and — BINGO — there was the cache across from me, staring me in the face.
Unique & Fun Caches!
I also asked everyone to describe their most fun cache to date:
- Noel and Chris: “The A.P.E. Cache! It’s a 2.25-mile hike each way in a pitch-dark abandoned train tunnel in Washington state. The entire hike is six miles. This is not open year-round due to weather conditions.”
- Mark: “We found a virtual cache which was very cool. We didn't know it even existed near us. It was a private grave site for the family of Thomas Heyward who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence! Which was not only a cool historical find but also told a short story of his life and his family's life.”
- Sean’s most fun and favorite was a cache he arranged to hide and use to propose to Kaitlin. Prior to a family trip to Kauai, he arranged with another geocacher to find a good spot to hide the special cache. He chose Hanakapiai Falls, an offshoot from the Kalalau trail. “I wrote a portion of my proposal in a logbook and mailed it to Kauai, and then wired some money to the other geocacher to buy some supplies. A couple weeks before we were set to arrive, I received dozens of pictures and directions for finding the cache — as we left it unpublished so my wife could be the First to Find. On the morning of the big event, we hiked and geocached our way to the waterfall — only then did I understand the monumental effort my fellow cacher had gone through to help make this possible. The hike is four miles each way, and quite strenuous. My dad, who acted as courier for the ring, was in on the plan, but Kaitlin and my mom were unaware. Once she found the cache and opened the logbook, I proposed, and we had a new favorite cache!”
My personal favorite was a trackable that I carted through many states before leaving it at another cache. A trackable is an item that has a unique tracking number that allows it to be tracked wherever it goes. They are often called Travel Bugs. I picked up a toy car in Minnesota that a man had left at a rest stop for his granddaughter’s entertainment. I took photos of it in various locations and sent those to the owner who shared them with his granddaughter. It even made it to the Winnebago Service Center in Forest City, IA. I finally left the little car in another cache in Montana. Additionally, my van is now a Travel Bug. If you ever see Novella and me, check out one of the decals on her back window and claim the find!
A Few Notes on Geocaching Safety
Be aware that sometimes geocaching can be dangerous, depending on the trail and location. There can be critters, bad weather, heavy traffic, uneven terrain, or other events that could cause harm if you are not careful.
Noel provided the most complete advice for anyone wanting to try this fun hobby, including safety tips:
- Mark your parking spot!
- Carry supplies like you’d take on a hike - safety first!
- Use a “pokey” stick of some kind to investigate holes/crevices! Do NOT stick your hand in places you cannot adequately see into.
- Be aware of the description of the cache before you go hunting and know your limitations.
- Pay attention to the weather.
- Let someone know where you’re going.
- Caching is like a secret community, be stealthy!
- Always replace a cache exactly as you found it.
- Always take a pen and a spare! You’d be really sorry if you couldn’t log your find at the cache.
- Be sure to log your find online!
- Thank the cacher who placed and maintains the cache. There are some codes for this, i.e. TFTC = thanks for the cache!
- Be respectful of the environments.
- Try a variety of caches - size, difficulty, types (multi-cache, puzzle cache, ghost).
These tips should help you get started, but there is way more to this fun hobby than I could ever put in this article. The best site for more information is Geocaching.com.
Do you take part in geocaching while RVing? I’d love for you to share your favorite stories in the comments.