Geocaching is something I found out about back in July or August 2009, but didn’t have a GPS receiver of any sort, so it might have been tricky to take up the hobby. In hindsight, you could probably get away with using a 2G iPhone if you’re in a built-up area and able to read a map on your own!

The idea of it is that people leave caches all over the world. There are apparently 977,256 in place, worldwide, today. They can take the form of a tupperware box discretely hidden in a park or, much to my surprise, 35mm film canisters with magnets attached in seemingly noticeable places in the centre of a city. In short, geocaching is a little like a massive, unspoken treasure hunt that is running at all times.

Larger caches may contain trinkets that you take and place in another cache later on. These are ‘traveling objects’ that are also marked with their own codes to the original owners can see how far they travel on the geocaching website. I’m quite tempted to take one of these to another country in future, but haven’t yet found a cache big enough to hold more than a rolled up logbook (pictured above – my first find, near the Golden Hinde, SE1, London).

In a way, it seems like a pointless hobby – many of the hints and descriptions for the locations of the caches make them almost too easy to find. The two I found today on my first outing were easily visible, if you knew where to look. But that said, I visited seven sites and couldn’t find five of them. I’m sure I could have if I spent more time, but with the heightened security in central London, let alone all the tourists, it’s really easy to get paranoid for acting ‘suspicious’! As a side note, the one thing that I’m not too happy about is that geocachers refer to non-geocachers are ‘muggles’…

The positive side of it, though, is a reason to go for a walk around areas you may already know, and you might (like I did) find alleyways and shortcuts you didn’t know about before. I could also see geocaching being more fun with friends, and it would take the edge off the paranoia of being moved along by police or security! On the two logs I found, there were a few group entries, so it seems people like to do it in teams.

If you want to try it out, the best place to start is the home of geocaching, http://www.geocaching.com/ . Thanks to many mobile phones now having GPS receivers in them, the hobby is a lot more accessibly than it was previously, and GroundSpeak, the people who started the geocaching.com website, also offer an iPhone application (£5.99 but worth it, even for just one day of searching) for finding nearby caches and navigating to them on-the-go. You can also access the hints and logs for each cache within the application, which saves you taking notes before leaving, and also allows you to find further caches while you’re out, if you want to keep going.

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