Geocaching and Other GPS Games
by Andrew Mead
GPS games are a fun way to get out of the house and explore the world around you. Today's games are like modern treasure hunts: All you need to get started is a GPS device and a lot of enthusiasm. Geocaching, geodashing, letterboxing, and waymarking have been gaining in popularity over the years as technology has improved. Keep reading to learn more about these fun GPS-related games and how you can get started with this unique, adventurous hobby.
Geocaching is a real-life treasure hunt in which players use a GPS system to track and receive "caches," or small containers. These containers could hold anything, usually notes or small, fun, or useful items. When taking an item from a geocache, you must leave something of equal or greater value in its place. Each geocache container holds a logbook to keep track of how many users have visited the site. According to Geocaching.com, it's important to place cache items in a waterproof plastic bag for protection.
Geocaching got its start in 2000 as GPS devices became popular. In fact, all you need in order to play the game is a reliable GPS. Find available caches in your area by going to Geocaching.com and entering your ZIP code. Each cache is ranked by difficulty on the site, so beginners should pick easy caches in order to get the hang of it. You can easily hide your own geocaches: Just make sure to follow the rules of the community. Because of the danger of wild animals, food should never be put in a geocache. Remember that people of all ages enjoy this hobby, so items should be family-friendly and not dangerous.
Every now and then, geocachers will come upon a "trackable." Trackables are items that have been moved from cache to cache, sometimes all across the world! These items have a special code that can be entered online so that users can see where the trackable has been.
Letterboxing is another fun hobby that involves GPS tracking. According to Letterboxing.org, this activity got its start as far back as the mid-19th century, when a Victorian man hid his calling card inside a bottle. It started in the U.K. and became popular in the U.S. around 1998.
To get started, you need a personal journal, a rubber stamp and ink pad, and a pen or pencil. Stamps can easily be carved (letterboxers love to make their own handmade stamps), but you can just as easily buy one in a craft store. Just like with geocaching, boxes can be found by following the clues posted online. The letterboxer then stamps the logbook with their personal stamp and uses the letterbox's stamp in their own journal.
It's very important for letterboxers to be environmentally friendly. Some letterboxes might be well hidden, so it's important to leave the area as clean as, if not cleaner than, you found it.
Geodashing is similar to geocaching and letterboxing, but instead of leisurely finding and leaving caches, you are competing against others to get to a point first (and generally, there is no prize). Each month, worldwide coordinates called "dash points" are randomly generated. Geodashers pick a point and quickly try to find it. Points are awarded after the winner describes the location and hunt online. Some geodashers even take and submit photos of their journey and the point.
Some points are very difficult to locate, which adds to the fun. They might be in the middle of a lake or even on the runway of an airport! Users must safely get as close as possible. According to GPSGames.org, players have to get within 100 meters of the location to be awarded points.
Waymarking is a way to pinpoint specific locations and share unique information about them. Waymarks can be historical signs, statues, restaurants, filming locations from movies or anything that users feel like they want to share with the world. For example, you could take a photo of a historical site, post it online with its coordinates, and describe the site briefly. You do not need a GPS to get started with waymarking, although it is encouraged to make sure you receive accurate coordinates.