Aside from helping modern people liberate themselves from maps (or perhaps, ruining modern peoples’ ability to read maps), the Global Positioning System (GPS) has also created opportunities for new outdoor entertainment possibilities. One such activity is geocaching – a popular worldwide activity that thousands of people enjoy every day.
Geocaching is an increasingly popular outdoor activity that depends on the use of portable GPS positioning devices, or the use of a GPS enabled mobile phone. Participants in geocaching play a glorified game of “hide and seek”, whereby some geocachers hide “caches” – hidden containers – and others seek to find the caches. Usually, the caches are sturdy containers that contain a small logbook. Individuals that successfully find the cache leave their code name/alias on the log book, along with the date and time that they located the cache. The cache is then returned to its hiding spot. Some caches are very small, and very difficult to find (such as a 35-mm film canister), while others may be quite large. Geocachers often use larger caches to leave toys or trinkets, which are traded out for new ones by the next person that finds the cache.
Caches are usually logged on a variety of web sites, where geocachers can post approximate GPS coordinates for the caches they leave, or can find coordinates of others’ caches. Though GPS coordinates are sufficient to get close to a cache’s location, they do not reveal the exact location. As such, locating a cache can sometimes be quite difficult. Exposing the hidden location of a cache is generally considered to be quite rude, as it spoils the fun for other geocachers (who usually participate in the sport because of the challenge involved).
Caches can be located in any part of the world. Though public spaces like parks are very popular cache hiding spots, not all caches are located in such easily accessible locations. Some more extreme geocachers prefer to leave (and seek) caches that are located in extremely remote areas of public land or national parks. Others will attempt to hide geocaches in highly trafficked or highly maintained areas – whereby extra-evasive hiding tactics must be employed. Popular locations for this kind of cache include theme parks, stores or shopping malls, universities, and other locations that are easily accessible, and make hiding an object difficult. In some cases, a geocache will occasionally disappear. They might be stolen, mistaken for trash, or in some cases discovered by an irritated or confused property owner.
Geocachers often take pride in their collection of trinkets and items that they trade with other pseudo-anonymous geocachers. Cache items are usually not very expensive (and generally are very cheap), and most geocachers focus on trying to leave unique or interesting items as trades. In addition, some caches leave “Travel Bugs” or “Geocoins”, or attach them to the items they leave as a trade. Travel bugs and geocoins have unique serial numbers that allows their movements to be tracked on geocaching websites. This depends on a geocacher reporting the location of a travel bug or geocoin find.