Frugal Activity: Geocaching

I’m bored!” the lad says
The lad’s loyal confidant squeals “let’s go to the movies!”
“nah, popcorn cost about $20, plus a $8 soda” the lad responds, he also adds “and I’ve already seen the Avengers go to Pluto like 20 times”
The lad loyal confidant sighs in defeat, “fine, let’s play PS4”
The lad says “Sure, but I have no money to pay for my subscription, so I can’t play Call of Duty 12, Wood’s revenge”

I’m sure conversations go like this frequently – or if not, the point being that people are occasionally bored, despite all the potential sources of stimulation.  Additionally, lots of activities have a very crisp sale tag attached.  Fortunately, there is an activity that is free – providing that you have internet access and a GPS device(a smartphone counts as such), that activity is geocaching.

what the heck is geocaching?

using multi billion dollar military defense satellites to find tupperware in the woods  -Urban Dictionary 

It’s a technological fuelled scavenger hunt, people set off, device in hand, looking for containers (called a cache) scattered around the world.  Sometimes it’s a peanut butter jar wrapped in camo tape placed in the bush, sometimes it is a sophisticated container with a magnet on it stuck on the superstructure of some infrastructure or perhaps it is a pill bottle container wrapped in digital camo in the park down the street.  The game is simple, get the coordinates and set off to the location and find the cache.  Once you find it, you sign the log with a pen or pencil.  Some caches have trinkets that you can trade.  These trinkets are usually the dollar store variety vis-a-vis value, but some people like having the physical souvenir.  One time there was a broken flip phone in a cache, so I traded for it.

Geocaching is fairly popular, there is a geocache on every continent, including Antarctica.  Parks Canada even got in on this, PC hosts a special series of caches to be found in northern Ontario, and once you have become a bonafide explorer and you find enough Park Canada caches you can receive a geocoin (check the link for details).

So why should you don the explorer hat, holster a pen, charge up the smartphone and head out to find some geocaches?

1)It’s a frugal activity

It’s frugal if you are a typical Canadian since statistically you will have access to the internet and a smartphone. If you live in a city chances are there is a cache down the block, so induced costs (e.g., fuel) is low. It’s cheaper than going to the movies but is more exciting than a standard walk.  The only cost associated are the ‘infrastructure’ cost, a GPS capable device (although you might be able to geocache with a decent map), the internet to obtain the cache information, then induced costs such as fuel (if you drive) or any other adventure related costs.  The only formal costs for geocaching is for people who want premium status, you do not need a premium account to play, premium status only adds a few marginal features.

2) Adventure!
Abandoned Mine

There was a geocache in this abandoned mine!

I just hiked 1 kilometre down an old service road that was unmarked.  I came across a clearing, old abandoned rusted out metal contraptions littered the ground.  There was an old abandoned foundation for what was probably an old mill.  Then at the base of a cliff, I found a pile of rubble, behind it was a cave: the abandoned copper mine.  Right inside the mine, I found the geocache, the air seeping out of the cave was chilly.  At the back of the cave there was some water on the floor, was it 5 cm deep, or 10 meters deep? I don’t know, I didn’t want to find out.  It was definitely a cool experience, an adventure.
In various circles, there is a debate on the dichotomy of stored value in a good versus the experiences.  In other words, adventures vs. new TVs.  Geocaching is a low-cost way to have an adventure.  If you need an extra incentive to go check out an area, geocaching will be there to provide you that incentive.

3) it’s fun!

It’s cheap, it can be a source of adventure, add a few friends in and you got yourself a good time.  Geocaching can get frustrating, it can get exciting, and can bring you to new exciting places.  I know lots of people make it a family activity, so if you have kids this can be a cheap way to have an adventure.

So what do you need to get started?

  • Go to to view all the caches
  • It is advised to make a free account on the aforementioned site so you can log the caches online.
  • You probably have a smartphone, Android users, I suggest you use C:geo.
  • Get a few buddies together and set out and find some

Once you set out and get to the location you will be looking around, if you are in an urban area try and not to look like an undesirable and employ some stealth.  Once you find the cache you sign the log.  Then you can sign it online if you want.  If you sign your logs online you can have a running tally of how many you found and you can communicate to other people online on your experiences, especially if the cache is damaged.  If you didn’t find it, you can log online that you didn’t find it.  This lets the cache owners know that it is possibly stolen.

Here are some tips for geocaching
  • Bring your own pen. Smaller caches will never have their own pens.
  • Some caches are pretty easy to find, but even seemingly easy ones can take a bit to find.  Don’t get discouraged and keep on it.  This is why it is helpful to bring an extra set of hands to help look.
  • Gloves, you might have to put your hand in a dark hole or pit.  There is no getting around it if you wanna find the cache, so bring gloves because you do not know what you are getting yourself into.
  • Do your research beforehand. It’s like calling the store beforehand to make sure that it will be open before you jump in the car and head over.  In terms of geocaching, check the cache online beforehand, make sure that it has been logged recently, or, at least, doesn’t have a torrent of DNF postings (did not find).
  • Try to be stealthy, if it is an urban area, it looks sketchy to be trawling an area.  Cops sometimes get called on geocachers, but law enforcement is usually pretty understanding once they know what is going on.
But can I make my own?

Yeah you can actually.  I would recommend finding at least 50 before you make your own, that way you have a good idea of what a good cache is or a bad cache.

So there it is, go to the site and sign up. Go out and cache! Below is a gallery of a few caches I have found.


Geocaching guide

Glossary of Terms

Ontario Geocachers

Reddit Geocache community

A List of Tips for a Geocacher (From Reddit)

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