Geocaching is a kind of modern treasure hunt! It is an activity in which participants use GPS devices or maps to find geocaches hidden by other enthusiasts in interesting places. Geocaching is practised all over the world and is suitable for people of all ages. Caches can be found hidden in protected areas or national parks. Combine a snack break at a rest spot with your outing, explore the natural features of the park, or just admire the views.
Registered geocaching enthusiasts can view the descriptions and location data of geocaches, i.e. their coordinates, on the website of the worldwide geocaching community at www.geocaching.com. Finnish users can also register on the Finnish site (www.geocache.fi), which retrieves data from the international site. Registration is free of charge. All you need to start geocaching is a web connection and a device or smartphone suitable for GPS positioning. You can also search for geocaches with the help of a simple map.
The description of each cache includes not only the coordinates, but also the size of the cache box and other tips making it easier to find the cache. The size of the cache usually varies between that of a film container and a two-litre freezer tub, but some may be as big as a 10-litre bucket. Geocaches come in five levels of difficulty. The easiest caches are usually quick to find, but the most difficult ones can be tough nuts to crack.
Caches are also classified into five categories according to the difficulty of the terrain. Caches with the easiest terrain classification can even be reached using a wheelchair, but the most difficult ones may require physical effort, special skills or equipment, such as climbing or diving gear. Known as "muggles", people not involved in geocaching tend not to notice the caches in the terrain, as most are placed out of sight, for instance in holes in rocks or trees, or in bridge structures.
Each cache box contains a log book and, in most cases, a pen and various items for trading. Sign your find in the log book and log it online on the geocaching community website. This enables other enthusiasts to check how many people have visited the cache and when it was last found. It will also tell the cache owner that the cache is in good condition. If you are looking for a challenge, you can compete with respect to, say, who is the first to find a new cache, or who has found most caches.
Rules of responsible geocaching
Remember the rules of responsible geocaching created by the geocaching community:
- I do not pose an unnecessary danger to myself or other geocachers.
- I take account of Everyman's rights and duties.
- I comply with the principles of litter-free hiking and make a minimal impact on nature and the environment when searching for and placing caches.
- I respect the rights of property owners and residents, and ask permission whenever necessary. Whenever a cache is placed in a protected area, the geocache owner is under an obligation to notify Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland.
- I will ensure that geocaches remain safe, meaning that I will hide the cache in the same place and in the same way as it was when I found it, I will restore the camouflage if the cache is too visible or the camouflage is clearly damaged, and I will inform the cache owner of all cache repair needs through the geocaching community. I will also remember to keep travel bugs, the precious articles circulating from one geocache to another, in circulation and to log any travel bugs found or left, in accordance with the instructions.
Establishing a geocache in a state-owned protected area
Geocaches may be placed in a state-owned protected area. The caches must be placed responsibly with regard to the environment, without causing harm to or disturbing nature, or other users of the area. Caches may not be placed in such a manner that searching for the cache is particularly dangerous. If caches are linked to structures in the terrain (e.g. buildings, bridges or information boards), such structures may not be damaged in any way.
Whenever a cache is placed in a state-owned protected area, Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland must be notified. If the protected area is presented on the Nationalparks.fi online service, contact information will be listed in the More information page of the destination. If the area in question is not presented on the Nationalparks.fi online service, contact details can be checked from the list of Metsähallitus facilities (www.metsa.fi, in Finnish).
The notification must include the correct name and contact information of the founder of the cache, sufficiently accurate details on the cache's location, and data enabling the identification of the cache on the geocaching website. The description of the cache must state that the cache is located in a protected area, describe how people searching for the cache may be affected by the protection regulations, and provide a link to the site on the Nationalparks.fi website. Metsähallitus may ask the founder to remove the cache if it is found to be located in an inappropriate place, for example a site prone to wear and tear, or in a dangerous location. No caches may be placed in parts of protected areas subject to movement restrictions.
Geocaches may be established in wilderness areas, hiking areas and commercially managed forests in compliance with the rules of geocaching, with no obligation to notify Metsähallitus. Metsähallitus will not take caches into account in its activities and does not accept liability for any damage caused to caches by its operations.