I just had the unique pleasure geocaching for the first time. I’d always been interested in the concept: someone hides something tiny in the wilderness and you use a GPS tracker to find it. However, the thought of traipsing around in the woods to look for someone hippie’s Tupperware did not compute. Then we got the GeoMate Jr., a small GPS tracker designed for kids and discovered that it wasn’t all dream-catchers hidden in stately old oak trees.
The GeoMate Jr. is a dead simple geocaching system for kids. It has 250,000 caches pre-programmed into its interface and you scroll through them using the large button on the left. Then, when you find a cache, you mark it using the button on the right. You can set the tracker to also take you home by pressing both buttons simultaneously. It’s literally so simple a five year old could use it (and reader: mine did).
Hunting consists of selecting a cache and following the onscreen arrows and distance calculations. As you move closer to a cache the distance reading falls and once you’re there you’re unfortunately on your own. Sadly, all of the hints and descriptions available on sites like geocaching.com are unavailable on this device. The caches come up in order of distance from your current location so if you don’t mark previously found caches you may end up being led to the same one over and over again.
You can also type in geocache code manually using the buttons, but it’s a bit of a chore. The device costs $69.95 and $24.95 for an update kit to program new geocaches onto the device.
We were initially frustrated while looking for caches near us until we began to understand the size of these things. In the city, most people hide tiny little microcaches, no bigger than a pebble. Without the hints it’s considerably tougher to find them but once you know what you’re looking for it’s fairly simple.
Luckily, when we went out into the wilds of Brooklyn with the GeoMate Jr., we stumbled upon a cache held by a helpful fellow who goes by the name of schbus86 (he drive’s a school bus). His cache, CRETE, contained a trackable coin that we will later drop off elsewhere. It’s this mixture of adventure, a search for pirate booty, and electronics that makes geocaching so compelling.
The GeoMate Jr. runs on two AA batteries and the interface could be a bit complex for smaller kids. However, paired with a responsible adult and access to a geocache database online, it’s an excellent and fun way to get kids excited about exploring the outdoors.