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Geocaching with Scouts and Guides

There is a geocaching badge for both Scouts and Guides. This leads to lots of questions from leaders who have never cached and have Scouts/Guides who would like to obtain the caching badge, or who would like to take their troop or unit caching.

This guide to caching with Scouts/Guides has been put together following asking leaders “what do you want to know about caching?” and to Scouters and Guiders who already cache “what info would you like to share?”

This question came up quite a few times, from leaders who had only heard of it because of the badges. Geocaching is basically a worldwide treasure hunt, where you find the locations of the “treasure” (in this case, the cache container) using GPS coordinates. You can either find these using a handheld GPS, or one of the smartphone apps. Most caches are a small Tupperware box, but they can be as small as your little finger nail, right up to the size of a shipping container!

You can find out more about geocaching here, and view some examples of geocache containers on this page.

Using a Geocaching app is a great way to get started, as buying a GPS can be expensive, whereas the apps are either free, or very low cost, and most smartphones now are as accurate as a GPS (both have their advantages).

There is an official Geocaching app, which is available on both Android and iPhone. However, this is not your only option - a number of other apps are available, and you can view a list of them here. For Android, C:Geo is a very popular option, and for iPhone many people use Cachly. The official app and C:Geo are both free to download, but there is a small charge for Cachly.

Yes and no. Other than Cachly, the apps are free to download, and basic membership is also free. Some caches are premium member only, so with basic membership you won’t see these online. The apps do restrict considerably the caches you can see when you are starting out with basic membership, however this usually shows you easier caches that are good for your first few. If you want to, you can learn more about premium membership here.

If you are carrying on with caching a GPS is a good investment. However, you may find that a lot of areas have a stock of GPSs that you can borrow if you wanted to try caching with a GPS. If you use a phone you will instantly have access to all information about the cache, whereas to get this onto a GPS you will either need premium membership, or a computer programme to transfer the information. However a GPS is also far more robust than a phone, which is a big consideration when being used by Scouts and Guides.

This is a very broad question! Traditionally caches are Tupperware boxes, but can be film pots (very popular at one point as a container, not as common now with them being harder to obtain generally), hot chocolate containers, but can also be very clever, hidden in plain sight caches. You can view some example caches on this page, or have a look for cache containers on places like eBay; this can give you a good indication of what you are looking for.

You may find that thinks like a pile of sticks at the base of the tree, are hiding the cache! Look for something that doesn’t look “quite right”, and over time you’ll become better at spotting these things.

Geocache containers
Searching

This is where it pays to do a bit of research beforehand. If you have just downloaded the app you should only see the easier caches that are recommended for beginners. You can check the recent logs, if there are a lot of recent ‘Did Not Find’ logs (DNFs) that is an indicator that the cache may be missing (though not always!). Check if they are on the same date, and with a group of people caching together as that would be one group who have not found it, or if they are more spread out as that indicates more people have been unable to find it.

Previous logs also give you an indication of what you are looking for.

If you live nearby you could go and have a look yourself in advance so you can point your Scouts/Guides in the right direction.

Select the cache on your phone/GPS that you want to look for. You will have the option of using the arrow on the compass, which shows the direction you need to go in and the distance to the cache or using the map. When you are close you will have to use your eyes (and hands!) to hunt. Most caches will also have a hint which will help you.

Caching

You need at least one phone with an app, or GPS. If you have more than one to go round then that means more than one Scout/Guide can be directing the others at the same time.

You could also advise the parents in advance what app they can download, so if they are happy for their child to use their own phone they can do so.

Look at where you are going. If you have a park with several caches this may be better than town centre caching. You are also more likely to find larger caches in a park or rural area than in a town centre.

Think about your group size. In busy areas (with lots of muggles, as non-cachers are known), stealth is really important; if you have a large troop/unit all hunting in the same bush then stealth becomes virtually impossible. A large group also means that each child has less chance of finding something, which could take the fun away. A few smaller groups would solve this.

When you find the cache, you need to sign the logbook. Especially if the logbook is small, everyone’s name will fill it up quickly, so think about signing with your troop/unit name, or a team name of your choice. If the Scouts/Guides (and leaders, of course!) then log the cache online, mention in your log what it was signed as.

Remember to hide the cache back exactly where it was, and if there was any camo on top, like a pile of sticks, put these back too.

Most UK service stations have a cache hidden somewhere in the grounds, usually in the trees away from the building. If you are on a long coach trip, and have a service station stop, you could take your troop/unit to find the cache there as a good way of stretching out everyone’s legs.

Small cache

If you want to set an official cache, you will need an account. Remember that with an account you also get access to the messaging centre, meaning anyone can contact you, from a safe from harm perspective it would therefore be wise to have a troop/unit account that the Scout/Guide can use to publish their cache, so that any messages that you receive go to you, rather than a child. If the Scout/Guide is from a caching family, of course there is no reason they can’t use the account they normally use.

Remember maintenance! All caches must have a lifespan of at least 6 months – is the Scout/Guide going to keep up the maintenance for this time at least? This isn’t covered in either badge, but is a requirement of Geocaching.com. There is concern from cachers about Scout/Guide caches being put out so that they can get the badge, then being forgotten about. These then end up being not maintained which is frustrating for the caching community, and eventually will be archived by the reviewer, becoming geo-litter. Having the cache under a troop/unit account does also meant that you can then keep an eye out for any maintenance issues.

Cachers love a clever cache. You don’t have to go out and buy fancy containers, they can be made from things you have around the home. For Guides, how about combining this with the Upcycling badge? Make sure what you do use is sturdy, as it is going to be outside exposed to the elements, and also waterproof.

Before you consider publishing a cache, this page contains some handy information you need to consider first.

Cachers are a friendly bunch, who love to share their hobby with others! Most areas have a local caching Facebook group, so you could ask there if there are any local cachers who would be willing to come and help your troop/unit get started. Many cachers are Scouters and Guiders so you’ve even got quite a high chance of someone coming to help who is DBS checked.

You may also find the answers to any further questions elsewhere on our website - check out our list of help resources.

We also recommend that you visit Geocaching Scouts. This website contains lots of useful information, including the details of the Scouting and Guiding geocache badges.

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The answers to these questions are based on an article written by Jennifer Hill (Jennthefunkyranger), published in Seeker Issue 43