We've covered geocaching in our links page including geocaches located in Ramsey & nearby) ...someday soon we hope to have 1stramseyscouting cubs & beavers actively geo-caching in order to have lots of fun but also improve their map reading & location skills...
In the meantime here's a good piece from the latest edition of Scouting magazine on the subject, hope it's of interest to some of you!
Geocaching is a high-tech way to make the great outdoors more interesting and makes for a brilliant patrol activity. A simple hand-held GPS device costs between £80 and £100. We have one for each of our three patrols, which we use in a number of ways to brighten up a day or night hike. Geocaching can also be done with smartphones.
What is geocaching?
Ever since GPS devices first became available, people have been hiding messages (or caches) in small containers and concealing them all over the UK. The precise locations of these caches are recorded online at geocaching.com; by registering with the site you can see all the caches hidden in a particular area and download selected caches into your hand-held GPS as ‘waypoints’. An arrow points the direction and the read-out indicates the distance, often with a short clue such as ‘1 metre up’. Each cache has an identifying name or number. Often a whole run or trail of caches has been hidden along a route: Cuckoo 1, Cuckoo 2 etc, forming a ready-made patrol hike!
Getting a good fix
The caches might be easy to find. More often they are frustratingly difficult, which adds to the challenge. Your hand-held device needs to lock onto a minimum of five satellites (the greater the number of satellites the greater the accuracy), so it’s helpful if the sky is free of trees and tall buildings. A poor fix might only give accuracy within five metres, while a good fix might bring you as close as a metre.
What you might find
The cache itself could be tiny – often a 35mm film container – or slightly larger, a plastic tub or a lunch box. Finding one is huge fun and searching can become totally addictive. Inside, you should find paper or a logbook so you can record finding it and see who else has. In bigger containers people leave presents like key fobs, buttons and badges. It’s good practice to leave a unique gift of your own so the cache always contains some ‘treasure’. For example, we always take some spare Group name tabs, so that we can leave a gift whenever we take one. Don’t forget to upload your successful finds to the geocaching website when you get back to base.
Why not construct a cache of your own to represent your Scout Group? Hide it in a special place, register online at geocaching.com and follow the guidelines – it should be safe, accessible, on public land (unless you’ve got permission from the landowner), and somewhere that won’t raise suspicion or damage the environment. The cache should include some ‘treasure’ – look at our geocache glossary to the right for ideas – a logbook and a pencil, stored in a weatherproof container and marked as an official geocache, including the name of the cache and contact information. Remember to record its GPS co-ordinates accurately, and note its location for any distinguishing features.
Register your geocache online, with clues and a description to help and attract others. Check the website and its location periodically so you can see who discovers your cache.
Trackables are treasure items such as patches or key rings with a unique code. If you find one, log the code online and move it to another geocache so the owner can track its movements. Some trackables travel hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to geocachers who move them from cache to cache.
Travel bugs are trackable tags attached to an item that geocachers call a ‘hitchhiker’. Each travel bug has a goal or challenge set by its owner – for example, to visit every country in Europe or travel coast to coast.
Geocoins are special coins created by individuals or groups as a signature item and function exactly like travel bugs and trackables. They should be moved to another cache, unless otherwise specified by their owners. A special Scout geocoin is available from Scout Shops.
More activity ideas using GPSChalk orienteering
Using chalk, paint a simple trail of tiny letters (for example spelling out a Scouting word) around an area, record a ‘waypoint’ on your GPS device each time. Copy the information to all the devices and send your Scouts off to hunt down the lettered waypoints. Leave caches of goodies as an extra incentive.
Radioactive peg race
Divide a group in half and give each party about 10 coloured clothes pegs, before sending them around a circular route in opposite directions. The task is to hide each peg, logging the locations as GPS ‘waypoints’ as they hide them. On return, the teams swap devices and retrieve the others’ pegs. A leader accompanying each team on the initial leg will discourage bending of the rules – like burying a peg six feet underground!
Bug the bag
Send the patrol out on a conventional map and compass hike, but with the GPS device in the Patrol Leader’s pack. On return, connect the device to Google Maps and see exactly where the patrols went.
In addition to the fun involved wemust not forget some basic common sense rules.... follow the read more page opener....
As with any Scout event, rule No. 1 is safety. Boys are likely to be excited about finding the cache and may or may not use common sense to get to it, so take care that you don't place a cache that in any way leads them into a dangerous situation. This includes the following obvious rules:
- Stay far away from road traffic and railroad crossings.
- Don't place a cache higher than 6 feet or require any dangerous climbing to reach it.
- Don't require Scouts to swim to reach the cache.
- Public caches are often magnetic containers stuck onto electrical switch boxes. Common sense says to avoid these as well.
- Always enforce the buddy system.
Rule No. 2 is to respect the environment.
- Never bury a cache in the ground. You can place a pile of sticks or rocks over it, however.
- Avoid sensitive eco-systems. Remember that hunters will make a bee-line for the cache and might trample vegetation in the vicinity. Place caches so that they can be reached by existing trail access.
- Don't place caches in archaeological or historic sites.
- Don't deface any object, natural or manmade.
- Many geocachers hide small caches in lightpost bases, sprinkler heads, etc. These should be avoided, as we don't want the Scouts ripping up all the bona fide hardware looking for the loose or "fake" one.
Rule No. 3 is to respect private property.
- Get permission from land managers to use parks, Scout camps, etc., for your events
- Do not put caches on national park land, national wildlife refuges, etc. These are currently not allowed. Local laws and policies vary, so check with any relevant agency before placing caches.
- Caches in or near military installations are not allowed.
- Caches are not allowed on elementary and secondary school property.
Rule No. 4 is to be a positive ambassador for Scouting. As with all else we do, cache using the Scout Oath and Law.
We want Boy Scouts to go above and beyond the regular guidelines. It only takes one or two groups who don't follow the rules to give all of Scouting—and geocaching—a bad name. There is a growing concern about Scout troops who set up caches and then abandon them, or who have unsupervised kids who trash the area. Don't let this be your group. There are a number of ongoing negotiations to open up state parks, open-space districts, etc., to geocaching, and we can help this effort by doing our best to be good geocaching citizens.
- Practice Cache In and Trash Out (CITO) - always carry a rubbish bag and remove litter along your route.
- Follow Leave No Trace guidelines in the natural environment. This doesn't mean you can't find or place a cache near a trail in the woods. It does mean that we follow all LNT guidelines, especially in the wilderness.
- Be careful of the area around the cache - don't trample the grounds, rip up all the sprinkler heads, etc in your frenzy to find the cache
- Follow all laws and Regulations - never enter private property without permission
- Write an entry in the logbook at the cache.
- Take a toy, leave a toy. Items are there for fun and for trade. Try to leave something of equal value to what you take for yourself
- Respect other visitors around the area.