How to Begin Camping and Hiking

  • Pull up Google Maps and find the closest patch of green area. Ideally a public area managed by city/state/national resources, or the equivalent in your country. Research that area to find trails. Often simply googling the area + “trails” will provide results. Then buy/print maps for that area. http://caltopo.com/ and http://www.hillmap.com/ are 2 great online resources for free maps. They help with planning and on-trail route finding. You can also look for National Geographic maps (for the USA) or use Google Maps/Earth tracing functionality.
  • If convenient – drive to these trails and check things out in person. You don’t even have to hike the first few times. Just get comfortable with locating a trail / trailhead. Park and look around the start area. There are normally signs or registration boxes. Walk a few minutes down the trail and see what it’s like. This will all give you information for when you are ready to take your first real day hike. It’s never a bad idea to find the local ranger or land manager. Stop in for a chat and see what local advice they have. Every area is unique and you must obey local regulations (food storage, permits, closures, etc.).
  • These first day hikes should start out easy. Pick something that’s only a few miles/kilometers long and see how difficult it is for you. Everyone hikes at different speeds and prefers different terrain. Hiking to a mountain top is the classic adventure, but down into valleys or towards waterfalls can be rewarding too. Remember that elevation gain is equally important to distance. 1000 ft of elevation gain will typically add 1 hour to a hike. The average hiking speed is 2 miles per hour, depending on conditions / terrain / fitness. Start looking for potential overnight camping spots as you do these hikes.
  • Out-and-back is the popular type of hike. This is where you start at the trailhead, where you park your vehicle, and hike to a certain location – then turn around and hike the same path back. This is ideal for beginners because you know what to expect on the 2nd half of the hike. It also allows you to turn around at any point to shorten the trip. Loop (start and end at the same place but never re-hiking the same section) and Thru/Section (start and end at different places) are other popular types of hikes.
  • Build up the miles / elevation of these day hikes. Explore more tails and learn the skills of hiking. Many day hiking skills transfer to overnight backpacking. Understanding how much water to carry, what footwear to use, time management, what gear is required in different conditions, weather forecasting, navigation, and others are critical to successful backpacking and day trips alike. This will build your confidence and prepare you for the upcoming overnight adventures.
  • Do all of these things in a variety of conditions and seasons. Get comfortable hiking in the rain, you won’t be able to avoid it forever. Hike in warm and cold temperatures to find what you prefer. The trail may be icy or muddy certain times of the year and it’s best to find this out on a short day hike compared to a longer overnight + full pack.

Car Camping

  • Camping next to your vehicle is relatively safe and easy. You can bring ‘large’ things from home including a cooler, comforter, chairs, and beer! This limits the initial investment because things you already own can be re-used for camping. This will begin to teach you skills important for backcountry travel. Things like fire building, cooking with limited resources, water management, sleeping on the ground, setting up a tent/tarp, etc. If any of these things fail (tent falls over, sleeping bag gets wet, dinner is burned, animals eat your food, etc.) – your car is right there and you can simply drive home.
  • Combine this with day hikes for more of a ‘full weekend’ experience. It will be very similar to backpacking, just with added comfort/protection.

Short overnight

  • Once you’ve become familiar with an area, try an overnight trip. Ideally on a trail you’ve already day hiked. If you keep it short (1 mile for example) – you can get away with heavy or extra equipment. This again limits the initial investment required to start backpacking. If things go badly – you are close enough to the vehicle / trailhead to simply go home. Setting yourself up for success is key. Always have backup plans for backup plans. It’s often harder than expected the first few trips.
  • Start practicing skills like water purification and fire making. Understand how to read a map (or trip reports) for finding a campsite and water. This is the time to use the skills you’ve been reading about, getting proficient where you feel comfortable relying on them

Long overnight

Long overnights will get you comfortable with spending real time outdoors.

  • Ideally you will pick another trail you’ve already day hiked. Step it up in miles / elevation and get farther from the trailhead.
  • This is still only 1 night, so there is safety built in. If you get cold or wet, you don’t have to spend a second night outdoors. If you are hungry – the end of the trip is not too far away.
  • Start to take notes on what equipment you used or didn’t use. What can be dropped? What should be added? What should be upgraded? What items are your favorite? All this will help you optimize your kit, making trips more successful and enjoyable.
  • Take this extra time on the trail and camp to continue practicing skills. Become an expert at cooking on your stove. Hang a bear bag with little effort. Pack your bag quickly.
  • After trip work is also important to note here. When you get home you should be taking care of your equipment. Unpack your bag/car and make sure things are dry. Putting away wet gear can easily ruin it. Come up with a routine that extends the life of your gear, if you plan to backpack a long time this is critical. It’s also nice to have clean and prepared gear when you begin to pack for your next adventure. This makes it more likely you’ll go on that next impromptu trip.

How to get Started Geocaching

Welcome to Geocaching!  Geocaching is a worldwide scavenger hunt that uses a GPS or phone app with GPS. There are over 2.5 million active caches around the world so chances are you have walked right past one at some point. Geocachers are a great group of people who like to discover the world around them.

 

How to get started Geocaching

You will need a smartphone or a GPS and a free account on Geocaching.com. The sidebar has links to the two most popular apps. The Official Geocaching App which has a free and paid version, and c:geo. Both apps work great. You can also use a GPS. There are ways to input the cache information on most newer models but for now you can just punch them in by hand.

Now look at the caches around you, we suggest looking for something with a difficulty/terrain rating of 2/2 or under to start off. These ratings start at 1 and go up to 5 with 1 being the easiest, and 5 being the toughest. We also would suggest looking for a small or regular sized cache as micros are sometimes tough for new cachers.

 

Finding a Geocache

Finding that first one can be very tough. You have no idea what to look for, or how to look. Hopefully you have good accuracy (within 15ft or 5m) on your GPS. If so once you get to within 15ft or 5m start looking more at your surroundings. Look for something out of place, or an interesting feature. A small or regular will usually be hidden under a pile of sticks, in a hole, or behind something. Poke around and think about where you may hide something. This is the fun part of geocaching; you will not find every cache right away and I know that can be frustrating, but the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun. If you are having no luck see if there is a hint, read some past logs, and look at pictures. If all else fails you can send the owner a message.

Once you have found the cache add the date and your name to the logbook. If there are trade items trade even or up so the next finder also has something cool to find. Close the container properly and return it just as you found it.

 

Logging your Geocache find

Once you have found a cache and signed the physical log book it is time to log your find. It is nice to leave some feedback to the cache owner. A short 2 sentence log about your experience is something that can make another person’s day.

 

Trackables and Geocoins

Each Trackable is etched with a unique code that can be used to log its movements on Geocaching.com as it travels in the real world. Some of these items have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to geocachers who move them from cache to cache! If you find one of these remember a few simple rules:
* 1 This belongs to someone else. It is not to keep.
* 2 Look at the trackable’s goals. You may be able to help complete the mission. If not try to drop it another Geocache soon.

 

Hiding a Geocache

Most veteran cachers suggest finding around 50 Geocaches before going to place one. This lets you see what hides are good, fun, and well liked by the community, test your GPS accuracy, learn about local laws and regulations, and to make sure you are dedicated to sticking with the hobby. When you are ready to hide look over the Anatomy of a great cache hide

 

What should the Difficulty/Terrain be?

Coming soon

 

Phone vs GPS for Geocaching

Each has it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages you should consider. A lot of veteran cachers will use both to supplement the other.

Phone: You most likely already own a smartphone so that is a big advantage, and the apps use the live information which allows you to be able to see the most recent information on each and every cache. The phone is great for urban caching. However there are some issues. Accuracy is dependent on your phone GPS chip, some are great others are awful. Battery life will be drained so you will either be taking short trips or need a charger. Durability is another key concern especially when you leave the city for more rugged terrain. A GPS can survive a drop into the water much better than a phone.

GPS: There are lots of models to choose from. Older cheaper models have limited functionality. Newer models can link to the site and get full cache information. A GPS does require a little more planning ahead to download the information. However it allows you more sense of mind when traveling and doing high terrain caches. The accuracy of most units is also a huge plus for those deep woods caches. Check out the GPS Device thread for more info

A GPSr will improve your geocaching experience. They have better battery life than phones, lasting up to 36 hours on a charge or fresh alkalines. They are much more rugged, can easily survive drops and are usually water resistant if not downright waterproof. While they don’t always get a position from a cold-start as fast as a phone, and they’re sometimes less-accurate in highly built-up urban areas, they’re still an incredibly valuable addition to your geocaching toolbox.

What is the best Geocache app?

We recommend c:geo for android or Cachly for iOS. Descriptions coming soon.

 

How do I find the best Geocaches in _____?

You probably don’t need to make a post on this sub to ask. In stead, harness the power of the collective and see which caches get the most favourite points. In order to find the great caches, you can use the built-in search function to find great caches around you, or around any city you plan to visit.
1. Click on Play and then select Find a Geocache
2. Scroll down to the three preset searches. Select “Nearby Geocaches with favorite points”
3. To change the city just type in your destination in the search box and select the Add Filters below the search bar.
4. There is a box called Minimum favorite points. Set this to 10 (or greater if the area is very populous or touristy).
5. You can also use the “Limit Search By” to select an entire state/region.

Alternatively, you can refine this search by using www.project-gc.com. They have tools to find caches by favourite percentage in an area so that you won’t miss out on the new or seldom found excellent caches. You just have to link to your GC account before you can do it. Instructions coming soon.

What are some cheap hobbies that are fun?

  • Learn to enjoy board games and card games! We love 500, Lost Cities, Blokus, Samurai, etc and can play them over and over again. Pennies per hour of entertainment, if that. Also party games are great for larger groups–we love Cards Against Humanity and Murder in the Dark.
  • Most museums have free nights, student discounts, or failing that get passes from the library
  • The library! Books, DVDs, magazines, lectures, book discussion groups, wine tastings (no, really, my library has this) all for FREE! And Kindles get a bad rap, but if you are a dedicated reader who doesn’t stick to the bestseller list, or if you enjoy “literature,” Kindle books are CHEAP. If you have a good library in your area, it’s not worth it, but in areas like mine where the library options include the one story, mostly kids’ section public library, or the $1/day late fee school library, they’re awesome. I got the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft for free.
  • Most cities have free movies happening at libraries, in parks outside in the summer, for special events, etc.
  • There are many resources online for purchasing discounted movie tickets in advance (just do a google search; I think the Entertainment books have them too) and usually the only restriction is you can’t use them opening weekend. Many employers will sell them as a perk also.
  • Use your parks! Hike, bike, camp, walk, play frisbee, fish, etc.
  • Beaches, lakes, and public pools
  • Also, older or less popular video games don’t always suck. If you have a system sitting around, look online for some cheap games (some eBay lots for “crappy” games can go for $10 for 10-20 games!). This works for computer games, too, I assume (I haven’t had a decent computer in like 6 or 7 years, so computer games are foreign to me).
  • Disc Golf. Grab a disc or more and head to the local (most likely free) course.
  • Bicycling is not only a frugal hobby, it’s also a frugal lifestyle. Up front costs, a little higher than your average ‘frugal’ hobby. But spend a little money on a good bicycle (I spent $500), and it will last you a lifetime. Pretty good return on your investment. When buying a bike remember, cheap≠frugal.
  • Geocaching is a great hobby, and almost free! It’s easiest with a smart phone but printing out directions and clues from a local library works too. My fiance and I spend entire days hunting for caches, there are plenty of them and searching means you get to explore your local area as well. Even better if you make your own and hide it!
  • Baking days as well. For a small amount in start-up costs (for cupcake trays, loaf tins, weighing/measuring equipment etc) you can make loads of tasty treats for far cheaper than buying bread or cakes at the supermarket. I made the most amazing loaf of bread today from an add-water mix that cost less than £1, and I probably could have done it cheaper.
  • Invest in a decent antenna and cut the cable/satellite TV.
  • Cheap dates: hiking, coffee/ice cream dates are good 1st date ideas, a cheap 2nd or 3rd date is a movie night. Cook an interesting (try a new ethnicity perhaps) meal, pack a picnic, walk around downtown, go to local museums (or battlefields, monuments, whatever you find interesting), check out free concerts in your area, give each other a massage, walk around a scenic park, hiking, bike rides, movie nights at home.
  • Get a cheap/free laptop or desktop off craigslist, and put Linux on it for absolutely free! Chances are, you are reading this from a PC that you will be able to install Linux on. You can just pop in the CD, restart the computer, and something like Ubuntu will automatically split your disk so that you can keep windows and put Ubuntu on as well. You can do everything you did on Windows/Apple, and more. Virtually everything is free. You can install GIMP, basically a free Photoshop, OpenOffice, and stay productive while saving money. There are great, free games. You can learn how to program, and learn in detail how computers actually work, if you have the patience.
  • Learn to play an instrument. There is a little startup cost, but pick only one well made instrument, stick with it and master it. Don’t switch. Doesn’t matter which one, could be a guitar, banjo, piano, trumpet, harmonica, tropical pan flute. They all sound good if you know how to play well enough.
  • Programming is fun, and if you have a computer of any type already, free! Not only that, you get to practice a useful skill that can help you find a good paying job, or help you simplify the one you already have.
  • Yoga can be a very cheap and worthwhile hobby. You can invest in a cheap yoga kit (approximately twenty dollars, if you take care of it, it can last for years.) You can find instructional videos or a number of instructional videos online. Many yoga studios also offer free classes/discounted rates for beginners! it’s very spiritually and physically rewarding, as well as frugal! Try it out!
  • Golfing is a cheap hobby if you know where to get deals. (Buy clubs and gear online or used and don’t get sets… buy individual clubs.) Buy a golf pass/membership through your city. Most cities have something where for about $350 you can play unlimited golf for the whole summer… Also, most courses, even nice ones, have something called twilight golfing… if you go after 5pm. I know a course by me costs about $60 for a round of 18… but if you go after 5pm, They drop the price to $15, sometimes they even let you go for free. All courses do this.
  • Rock climbing can be quite a cheap hobby/lifestyle, much more so if you live near somewhere with outdoor climbing. The initial investment in gear is about $150 minimum, and $400-500 on the high end, assuming you don’t know anyone with gear to use. (This is for sport climbing.) Most places are free, or close to it, to go climb outdoors. Sometimes there is a park entrance fee, but those are usually paltry, and have great deals on annual passes or the like.