12/03/2012 | By Capt. Dale McCurdy Headquarters, 95th Training Division (IET)
What sounds like a special operations mission is actually an event happening thousands of times a day in local parks, rest stops, and other public places. The hunters are geocachers, and the activity is geocaching.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a free, real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can share their experiences online (www.geocaching.com). With over 1.9 million geocaches and over five million geocachers worldwide, geocaching has become a popular hobby for many (and an obsession for some). Geocaching provides Soldiers and units an opportunity to sharpen basic military skills, connect with families and the community, and develop leaders.
Geocaching provides an opportunity to sharpen land navigation skills. While the sport relies heavily on GPS technology, geocachers must develop strong skills in terrain analysis to successfully find challenging geocaches. Geocache coordinates are reported in degrees and minutes that can easily be converted into military grid reference system coordinates using free smart phone apps or websites such as www.legallandconverter.com. Soldiers can plot geocache locations on maps, conduct terrain analysis to identify best avenues of approach, practice pace counts, and use terrain features to help locate the hidden caches.
Geocaching can be a physically challenging activity. Many caches are hidden in remote areas or along trails. Every geocache has both a terrain rating from one (handicap accessible) to five (extremely challenging terrain).
| iPhone screenshot of geocaching app shows coordinates as well as the difficulty and terrain ratings.
Geocaching provides a natural scenario to conduct risk assessment, develop operation orders, and team building. Before incorporating geocaching into a unit activity, leaders should conduct a risk assessment, reconnoiter potential caches, and develop scenarios that provide purpose for the mission. Leaders in training can be tasked with providing warning orders, briefing the mission, and leading teams in developing courses of action.
Geocaching is a family-friendly activity. In addition to terrain ratings, each geocache has a difficulty rating ranging from one (can be found in a few minutes) to five (extreme, may require special equipment). Most geocaches contain treasure (called swag) that can be traded. Many geocachers trade in collectables such as geocoins, tokens, and other trackable items.
There are many different varieties of geocaches. Traditional geocaches range from micro caches(key holders) that usually only contain a log book, small caches (peanut butter jar) that hold small tradable items, medium caches(ammo cans) which can hold larger items, to large caches (five gallon buckets) that can hold a wide variety of swag.
Many geocaches are found alongside highways, usually located in cemeteries, roadside parks, and points of interest. Families can use geocaches to break up long road trips and provide natural safety breaks. Many historical markers have geocaches hidden nearby, providing educational opportunities for Families.
Units can use the hobby to foster a community presence. Units can sponsor geocaching events as a community service. Soldiers or units can hide and maintain geocaches in the community.
Geocaching provides Soldiers an opportunity to sharpen basic military skills. Leaders can use this hobby to develop training events that promote development of land navigation and teamwork skills. Geocaching is a healthy, family-friendly hobby that can serve as a combat multiplier.
Don’t be a muggle (non-geocacher) — get out there and start hunting!
For more information on geocaching, visit www.geocaching.com.