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An Introduction to Geocaching: How to Get Started

Posted On: 08/14/2020

Geocaching is a game of hide-and-go-seek that is played across the globe with more than 3 million active geocaches. They are located on all seven continents and in 191 different countries. Geocaches range from bustling urban areas to remote hiding places in the wild. There are nearly 7 million active geocachers and almost 200 geocaching organizations around the world, making geocaching a highly accessible hobby for adventure seekers worldwide.

What Is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunting game that is played using GPS-enabled devices. Participants use their GPS-enabled devices to attempt to find the “geocache” or container that is hidden at the coordinates.

The history of geocaching stems from a “GPS Stash Hunt” mailing list that was later renamed “geocaching” in 2000. The term geocaching is a blend of two terms; The prefix, “geo,” describes the global and natural aspects of the hunt, while the second word, “caching,” is used to describe a hiding place used to store items.

Types of Geocaches

There are many types of geocaches that vary in purpose and play. Some of the most common include:

  • Traditional Geocache: This is the most straightforward and original style of geocaching. Containers are hidden at given coordinates, may vary in size, and are accompanied by a logbook.
  • Mystery or Puzzle Geocaches: Coordinates are discovered by solving a puzzle. Many geocaches that do not fit into other categories or are new and unique are often included in this category.
  • Multi-cache: There are many versions of multi-caches, but they typically include two or more locations with each stage leaving clues to find the next location. The final location includes a geocache and a logbook.
  • EarthCache: Hosted by the Geological Society of America, EarthCaching explores geological wonders and often contains educational notes alongside the coordinates. The geocache offers information on the geological aspects of the landscape, its resources, and information on the scientific gathering of evidence. Logging a geocache often requires providing answers to questions through observation of the landscape.
  • Letterbox Hybrids: Letterboxing is typically a treasure hunt-style of geocaching. The first location may include coordinates to a letterbox geocache that has clues to the following location/s and stage/s. Each letterbox in the treasure hunt often includes a stamp that letterboxers use to log their visit.
  • Cache In Trash Out Event (CITO): Cache In Trash Outare geocache events that take place with the purpose to clean up litter, preserve natural landscapes, plant trees, trail build, or remove invasive plant species. Attendees often earn virtual souvenirs for participation.

How to Geocache

Geocaches are hidden by members of the geocaching community and listed on geocaching.com. Participants register on the site for a basic membership and look up coordinates to find a geocache. Once a geocache is found, participants sign the logbook, return the cache to its original site, and share their stories and photos with the geocaching community online.

When geocachers search for caches they have the opportunity to gain knowledge of natural resources and history, a connection in the network, and enjoy a sense of adventure. Geocaching can be done right alongside other outdoor hobbies, such as hiking, backpacking, and with the right carrier and ramp equipment, motorcycling and ATVing. There are also lists of motorcycle and ATV geocaching for motorcycle and geocaching enthusiasts. Geocaching from a motorcycle can create a sense of adventure and exploration, as motorists ride to the GPS coordinates and then search for the cache on foot.

There are a few rules for geocaching that address etiquette, safety, and environmentalism.

Geocaching Rules

There are a few rules for geocaching that address etiquette, safety, and environmentalism.

Etiquette:

  • If you take something from a geocache be sure to leave something of equal or greater value.
  • Write about your experience in the logbook, and post online.
  • Respect and do not enter private property without permission.
  • Geocaches and geocachers must be aware of local laws and policies.
  • Geocaches should not be placed in National Park lands, national wildlife refuges, school properties, or military installations.
  • Respect other visitors in the area.
  • Do not deface objects, natural or manmade, when placing or retrieving a cache.

Safety:

  • Geocaches should not be placed six feet above the ground, or require swimming to reach them.
  • Be aware of road traffic and railroad crossings.
  • Use the buddy system.
  • Be aware of your surroundings in both wilderness and urban areas.

Environmentalism:

  • Never bury a cache in the ground.
  • Avoid sensitive ecosystems and place caches in easily accessible locations near trails.
  • Do not place caches in archaeological or historical sites.
  • Participate in cache-in-trash-out (CITO) when participating.
  • Follow leave no trace guidelines.

How to Create and Hide a Geocache

Geocaches are hidden by volunteer members of the community. To place a geocache, consider the variety and placement of other geocaches in your area and look for a unique and interesting location. Be sure to review the geocache hiding guidelines that include important measures such as:

  • Obeying local laws.
  • Getting the proper permissions for public or private locations.
  • Respecting the minimum distance requirements.
  • Accessibility requirements
  • No harm requirements for plants, animals, and the environment.
  • Choosing the correct container and logbook.
geocaching container
Geocaching sealed container | Image by Settergren from Pixabay

Geocaches must also be submitted to geocaching.com and reviewed by a volunteer to ensure that the cache meets the provided guidelines. It may take a week for the cache to go live on the website. Those who place the cache are required to monitor the cache page and maintain the geocache container.

Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Experience

Like most outdoor activities that include hiking, camping, or motorized riding, there is gear and safety know-how that you will need to make the most out of your caching experience.

What Equipment Will You Need?

If you choose to geocache while on a camping trip, consider the seasonal camping needs you may have to accommodate your trip. If you choose to incorporate motorized vehicles, you may also wish to consider motorized sport safety tips for children before heading out. For any geocaching experience you may wish to bring the following equipment:

  • Items to replace in the geocache, should you wish to take an item.
  • A GPS enabled device.
  • A logbook and camera to record your experience, and a pen of your own to write your name in the cache logbook.
  • A flashlight and spare batteries.
  • A first-aid kit and basic first-aid knowledge.
  • Any necessary off-road gear for your motorized vehicle including loading ramps, ATV carriers, personal protective equipment, or satchel bags to carry your items on your trip.
  • Basic utility tools that may be necessary for opening caches.

Safety Best Practices When Geocaching

Participating in outdoor activities such as geocaching can improve physical and mental health, as well as promote active aging. Including safety measures in outdoor activities is an important aspect to enjoying and receiving the overall health benefits of participating. Geocachers should be sure to include a first-aid kit and basic medical supplies when adventuring outdoors. Utilizing the buddy system can help keep geocachers safe and able to seek medical assistance if required.

Participating in outdoor activities such as geocaching can be a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with your family. By maintaining an awareness of your environment and respecting other geocachers and individuals in the area, participants can enjoy an activity that is physically, mentally, and socially enriching while creating a lasting family experience.