Thursday, 19 December 2013

Family Fun - Geocaching with a Garmin Oregon 600

I have to admit, I had no idea what geocaching was until recently. Just in case you don't know I guess I should start out by explaining it all! It's described as a modern treasure hunting game by those who love it. The idea is actually pretty simple - people will put together and hide a small box or 'cache' often in woodland or somewhere you'd have a nice walk, then you use coordinates found on the internet and a gps (or smartphone) to find it. There are a few big geocaching websites out there, but since I was kindly sent a Garmin unit to try out I'll be focusing on Opencaching as it's the most simple to use.

We were sent a little geocaching kit which contained a gps and an 'Official Opencaching Kit' which contained everything we needed to get started and create our own cache to hide. I'll admit we've not done this yet as we wanted to get a bit more to grips with it all and find out what's normal to be left in a cache before we did this. The cache kit however is nice to have and contains a plastic box (about sandwich tub sized), pencil, log book, leaflet, geocoin, badge and lanyard for your gps. You can buy this kit bundled with an Etrex 10 or alone for about £20. I'm not sure I'd go to the expense of buying it separately, but in a bundle it's nice to have. We'll update you later on once we've made up our cache with the kit!

The gps I had to get to grips with was the Garmin Oregon 600. I won't go into much technical detail because you can find long in depth reviews like that elsewhere. It came boxed with a carabiner clip, usb cable, guides and the gps itself. Whilst it says it comes with a worldwide base map, it's important to note that you will have to buy or load additional maps onto the device as the whole town where I live wasn't even marked on the basemap, and even ones that were had no real detail at all. Whilst Garmin maps are available to download and buy on sd card they are really pricey (apart from the road navigation map at about £25) and cost between £100 and £200 which is a lot to spend after you've just paid a fair amount for the device (and other some brands come with them preinstalled). Luckily I was told about open street maps - if you have a look around on the net you'll find them compiled for gps and instructions on how to install them. Doing this has made my gps a million times more usable!

Once I'd wrangled with all that I took a look at Opencaching to find some caches relatively close to home to try out. Luckily the website is really easy to use and let's you filter the caches based on size, difficulty and terrain (which is great if it's an activity you plan to do with a toddler in tow!). It was really simple to transfer these to the device and once they are on there it has a special geocaching profile and they all appear easy to find in a menu. It's totally paperless geocaching so all the hints and clues are on the device too.

For my first outing I chose a cache in an area I knew relatively well and knew the terrain etc would be suitable. I won't give you any details about the cache as I don't want to spoil it for others, but I found the gps very easy to use and after a few minutes of head scratching once I reached the right coordinates found the cache. Small found this adventure quite exciting even if she didn't fully know what was going on. I think it' something she'd enjoy more when a little older, although it's great now too as we get an excuse to explore new places!

Disclaimer: I was provided with products to enable me to write this blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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