I was feeling a little sceptical about geocaching. Would the app work out there in the wild (well the local woods but still)? Would the kids be interested enough to make it fun and most importantly would we actually find anything? But I discussed it with the children and I must have bigged it up pretty well because they were very excited.
The next morning my youngest was up and dressed straight away, eager to get going. This was gratifying as she has always been the least enthusiastic about family walks.
We had recently received some kit to review from the outdoor brand ‘Mountain Warehouse’. This included:
- a pair of leather walking boots for me,
- two small day packs for the children,
- a food flask.
Our geocaching adventure seemed the perfect opportunity to put this kit through it’s paces.
The children were surprisingly excited by the prospect of carrying their own lunch in their own bags, it added to their sense of adventure. The bags feature elastic lacing across the front, very handy for carrying extra jumpers etc that you need easy access to, also elasticated pouches at the sides for drinks bottles. In fact the design is identical to the backpack that I have used for years but in a smaller size.
I found it a little tricky to find where we were to start from and we had a false start when I stopped at the wrong woodland! No matter, all part of the adventure (I said that quite often…).
Second time lucky we found the right path and somewhere to park. I fired up the app and checked our location in the map, the first cache looked pretty close so I was feeling fairly buoyed. I switched to the compass function and was further encouraged by the fact that the compass pointed straight up the path in front of us. I handed the phone over to one of the children who led the way, following the pointer on the compass.
This really did all seem very easy. As we ascended a steep hill (with more energy and enthusiasm than I have ever seen in the youngest when faced with a big hill) the pointer suddenly swung to the right directly into the woods, a small trail led of the main path passing through a muddy water channel on the way. The app showed that we were only 20m from the cache will a 12m accuracy. The time had come to start physically searching for our first cache.
It was also a perfect moment to test the waterproof qualities of my Mountain Warehouse boots as I helped the girls leap across the muddy stream. The boots had proved to be very comfortable from the first time I put them on and now they had no problem at with the mud and water. They are definitely waterproof!
The cache was called ‘The Ents are Marching’ which suggested to me the cache was to be found in a tree. Ok so here we are in a wood and we need to find a tree. This could take a while. We gazed around us a little bewildered, our former positivity rapidly fading as we realised we hadn’t a clue what we were looking for. We looked in the branches of a few nearby trees but couldn’t see how anything could be hidden in them. We tramped around for a few minutes and I began to feel a little touch of panic that our adventure would quickly become a failure.
Then I remembered the ‘hint’ option on the app. It said ‘ Home tweet home, Look for the G’. It seemed pretty obvious to me we needed to find a bird house but I couldn’t see anything. Fortunately my eagle-eyed 5 year old (who has a reputation for finding lost things) shouted excitedly ‘I’ve seen one!’ and led us directly to a tree a little way off the small track. Lo and behold there was a bird house at about shoulder height which when you think about it is too low for a ‘real’ bird house. I reached tentatively inside and let out a squeal of delight as my hand closed around a glass jar. Our first cache! (I never worked out what the ‘G’ clue was about.)
Once we had written in the log and swapped out little toys we were off with a spring in our step to find the next one on the series. My youngest was in charge of the compass this time and even though she is only 5 she found it was easy to follow. However, we were about the experience the highs and lows of Geocaching. Despite very clear instruction and at least 10 minutes searching we could not find the next cache anywhere.
However, the advantage of choosing a series of caches was that we had more to find. The adventure continued and we found 4 more caches including one large one. It’s hard to believe that such a large box can remain successfully hidden, but they do!
On the way we stopped for a our picnic. The girls had not complained at about carrying their bags and relished the independence of responsibility for their own things. My oldest was particularly impressed by how comfy the straps were. The bags were just the right size with enough depth for a sandwich box, fruit and a bag of popcorn, plus a drink in the outside pouch. They also carried their treasure in one of the many pockets.
I had also cooked some sausages and stored them in the food flask. What a treat to eat steaming hot sausages on our picnic! It worked perfectly. My only criticism would be that the extra compartment in the lid holding a folding plastic spoon is unnecessary and I found I had to undo this compartment before I could get a good grip on the lid to open it. Piping hot sausages fab though! Very useful if you have kids who aren’t really into sandwiches.
In all our adventure lasted about 3 hours, we didn’t cover all that much distance but we had found a good variety of caches and really enjoyed ourselves. In fact so much so that we did it again the next day!
A round-up of the Mountain Warehouse items we were testing out:
The bags were a real hit, I know we will use them a lot and they really are well priced. (£6.99 in the sale, £12.99 full price)
My Leather Walking Boots performed well and again are a really good price (only £59.99 at the moment £130 full price).
The food flask was a great treat, but I found it hard to think of things I would want hot on a picnic and the design was a bit fiddly though did the job fine. (currently £10.99, Full price – £22.99)
I haven’t used Mountain Warehouse before but I will definitely be looking at their site in the future, particularly as they have stonking sales!