Why Geocaching is better than Pokémon Go

For starters, it is real.
For starters, it is real. Photo: Getty Images

There comes a point in the school holidays where everyone starts climbing the walls. The lazy days we were all so desperate for a few weeks back start to drag. The house begins to feel cramped and we all get cabin fever.

When this happens there is only one thing for it. We need an adventure -something that will inject a bit of excitement back into the school holidays. Something different. Something that gets us all out in the fresh air.

For me, that 'thing' came in the form of a modern day treasure hunt. It required a GPS enabled smart phone and a new app.

But it wasn't Pokémon Go. It was Geocaching.

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game that uses a GPS compass to find caches or 'treasure chests' that other participants have carefully hidden.

Geocaching has been going on since the year 2000. But it has gained popularity in recent years, thanks to a handy smart phone app, which can literally point you in the direction of the nearest cache.

Like Pokémon Go, Geocaching can take you on an adventure in your own neighbourhood.

And, just like there are Pokémon everywhere, there are caches everywhere too. Right now, there are six caches within a kilometre of my Sydney home.  

But while there are some similarities, there is a critical difference that gives Geocaching the edge. It is real. 

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Opening up the cache you have found is exciting. Inside you find treasure (usually small token items such as pin badges, 'Kinder Egg' toys or old Christmas cracker trinkets) that you can actually hold in your hand. You can see them with your eyes, not just through the screen of your smart phone.

The aim of the game is to take a piece of 'treasure home' and leave something in its place. You record the transaction in a logbook. Later on, you log your experience on the geocaching website.

It is fascinating. Flicking through the logbook reveals the cache's history. How many visitors have discovered its secret location. How long it has been hidden, undetected.

If you want to take the game a step further you can hunt for 'trackables' – unique 'game pieces' that have a special code that is used to track their movements. Some of these items have travelled thousands of miles around the world as geocachers move them from cache to cache.

I took my kids Geocaching in our neighbourhood and they were enthralled.

They took turns to use the compass, pretending to be pirates out looking for buried treasure. They got to use their imaginations as they trampled through familiar parks that were suddenly new.

When the GPS told us that we had arrived we used a series of clues to uncover the treasure. My six-year-old carefully read out the clues and my five-year-old tried to figure out the puzzle.

By the time we got home, my girls had enjoyed a long walk, worked together as a team, practiced their reading and writing skills, used their imaginations and even had new toys to play with.

I've got nothing against the Pokémon Go fad, but Geocaching is a game built to last. And when all the Pokémon have been caught, caches will be waiting.