Avoid muggles when hunting first cache

Last updated 14:31 28/12/2012

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The is the third part of a nine-part series on geocaching. Today we show you what you need to get started. On Monday we'll give you details of five geocaches around the south for you to try.

LET'S GET STARTED

So you've got your GPS, as discussed yesterday. Now head to the website geocaching.com. You can either sign up and become a member or get hunting for a cache straight away. You can also download the app from Groundspeak Incorporation - $13.99 for the Apple version and $12.23 for the Android option - but it's not vital at this point.

If you register on the website, you can post any comments about your search and the cache - people love feedback - as well as log any caches you want to set up.

Try typing "Invercargill" in the search engine and check out how many caches are to be found. Then zoom out to see how many there are in Southland . . . then try New Zealand. Then zip over to the United States . . . and you'll start to see how big geocaching is around the world.

There are 1,962,465 active geocaches - growing all the time - in more than 180 countries, with more than 5 million geocachers worldwide. So there are plenty to choose from.

CHOOSING A CACHE

Each listing has difficulty and terrain ratings - choose an easy one in easy terrain to begin with.

Put the latitude and longitude co-ordinates into your smart phone or GPS unit . . . and start following the arrow. Honestly that's it. Obviously, if it's some distant away, you may want to drive but, once you're near the waypoint, you're walking.

Once you get closer, you need to do two things - think about where the person would have hidden it, and how you will be able to find it without being spotted by a muggle (a non-geocacher).

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

To be honest, it could be anything. There are various types of caches, usually waterproof:

■ Traditional - such as a plastic lunchbox, a key container, a film cannister, an ammo box;

■ Microcaches - much smaller caches for wherever there aren't that many nooks or crannies, such as in cities;

■ Virtual - where you just have to get to a spot.

Inside will usually be a logbook for you to record your name and make any comments (remember people love feedback) and a selection of PRIZES (more symbolic than valuable). There may also be other things, such as trackables, which we'll cover later.

If you do take something, it's etiquette to leave something in return of equal value. Remember there are more hunters to come after you. If you don't take anything, just write ‘TNLN' (for "took nothing, left nothing") in the logbook.

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WHAT'S NEXT?

Once you've found the cache, well done! Hopefully, you've got the idea and you're hooked. Write in the log your geocaching nickname, date and time you found it, and any other interesting message. Reseal the container and put it back in its hiding place as you found it.

Once home, log on to geocaching.com and register your find. That way you can keep tabs on how many you've found and which ones you've discovered, so you don't end up hunting for the same one. Post comments about the cache, even if you couldn't find it - but don't give clues about how to find it.

AND NOW?

Well, you've done one . . . so get cracking on the next one. If you get the bug, you might find yourself popping out in your lunch break like one of our colleagues did. You can do it almost anywhere, as you'll have seen from the maps. Or you could go on a geocaching holiday and discover places you never knew existed. Or even go global! There are infinite possibilities.

- The Southland Times

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