Geocaching: Your Ultimate Beginner's Guide

edited September 27 in Acer Corner

Geocaching is a fun activity that exercises your mind and body. It combines hiking with a tech-aided treasure hunt. Instead of using a treasure map where X marks the spot, you use a smartphone app to find hidden caches worldwide.

Geocaching can be a thrilling experience, whether you're a beginner or an experienced geocacher. It's a GPS-based game where hiders provide online clues for seekers. It's family-friendly, as kids love to go treasure hunting. We will teach you everything you need to know about geocaching, how it works, and the basic rules.

What is geocaching? 

Simply put, geocaching is a scavenger hunt-style game where participants try to find hidden containers (geocaches) using GPS coordinates provided by the cache owner. Geocaching is the world's most giant treasure hunt.

Geocaching is short for:

  • GEO: the GPS location 
  • CACHE: containers stored in a hidden place 

Once you find the geocache, open it, see what it contains, sign the logbook, and log the cache online. Geocaches are hidden in 191 countries on all seven continents- including Antarctica! With more than 3 million active geocaches worldwide and 10 million geocachers - it's a fast-growing outdoor activity. 

Geocaching basics 

  • Create a free account on geocaching.com
  • Use the geocaching smartphone app to find one of the millions of geocaches hidden worldwide. 
  • Navigate to the geocache hiding place. 
  • When you find it, sign the logbook, exchange one item, and place everything back where you found it. 
  • Log your experience online via the app or website. 
  • Follow the fundamental rule of geocaching: Leave No Trace during your search. 

What is a geocache? 

A geocache is a hidden treasure and usually has two or three parts:

  1. A waterproof container made of metal, wood, or plastic 
  2. A logbook to record who has visited 
  3. Sometimes an inexpensive prize, a trackable or a geocoin

In larger geocaches, you may find items to trade. The prizes you can swap in and out. Trackables are meant to move between geocaches. A geocoin is a unique metallic coin made by individual geocachers or organizations that acts as a calling card.

Geocaches are in all shapes and sizes and will be hidden but not buried. So, they never require digging. Caches use a 5-star rating for the difficulty level and the terrain, so if you're a beginner, start with an easy one close to your home.

When you find a geocache, sign the logbook, then place it back as you found it. You can log your discovery online to let others know you were there!

What items can you find geocaching? 

Swag (Stuff We All Get) is the word geocachers use for the trinkets that get left inside. Items include:

  • Foreign coins 
  • Toy cars 
  • Trading cards 
  • McDonald's Happy Meal toys 
  • Keychains 
  • Ornaments 
  • Marbles 
  • Flag pins

You should leave a trinket of equal or greater value if you take something meant to be exchanged! All items should be family-friendly.

Geocaching does not allow food items, valuable objects, illicit material, or other items that could be easily damaged. Anything with a scent should be avoided as animals may think it's food and destroy the cache. 

How to start geocaching? 

Geocaching is simple to get started. Just follow these steps:

1) Sign up for a free account 

Head over to geocaching.com to sign up for a free account.

2) Download the free Geocaching® app 

This official smartphone app helps you locate over three million hidden geocaches. Download on:

3) Choose a geocache to find 

In the app, select a geocache you want to go to. Use the app to navigate to the coordinates. Bring a pen so you can sign the geocache's logbook.

4) Search for the geocache 

Latitude and longitude provide the geocache location, but your smartphone will only get you within about 30 feet of its area. So, put your phone away when you're close, think like Indiana Jones, and start searching. Use your eyes and hands to find the cache.

Some geocaches are well hidden and very small. Some may only be visible from a certain angle. Look for something unusual - a strange-colored rock or an oyster shell in the forest. Leave no stone unturned nor any park bench unsearched. Patience is the key.

Mystery/puzzle geocaches require you to solve a set of clues or a puzzle to open the cache. Multi-Cache geocaches involve multiple steps to find the log.

If you need help finding a cache, check your app for more clues and hints about the cache's location. View the latest activity log for details. 

5) Find the geocache 

When you find the container, record your visit in the logbook. You can also log your achievements online in the app to help you keep track of your finds. If there's Swag inside, you can leave an item of equal or better value than what you take for yourself. You don't have to bring something to leave something new. 

6) Put the geocache back as you found it 

After you've finished:

  1. Return the cache to its original location before heading off on your next search. 
  2. Remember to respect the area's environment, private property, and other visitors. 
  3. Follow Leave No Trace guidelines. 

How to find geocaches near me? 

Over 3 million geocaches are hidden in more than 191 countries. So, there's a geocache near you right now. Use the geocaching app to find one near you. 

Beginner tips to find a geocache 

These tips will help you find a geocache: 

  • Search high and low, all around, over and under. 
  • Examine items that seem out of place - anything unnatural or unusual. 
  • Don't look only for a box. Some containers are magnetized or hidden inside another object. 
  • Keep in mind the cache size found on the app. 
  • Remember, geocaches are never buried. 
  • Check if the geocache owner left any clues on the app. Other geocachers leave valuable hints when they log their experiences. 
  • Scan through the app's latest user activity. 
  • Play as a team. Two sets of eyes are better than one. 
  • Be patient.

Geocaches are frequently updated online, but there is always a slight chance that the geocache was tampered with or removed. If you can't find a geocache, record that in the cache's online log so other geocachers will know that it may no longer be there, and the owner can check.

What do you need to geocache? 

What Tools Of The Trade (TOTT) do you need to geocache?

  1. A pen or pencil: Pencils are handy in cold and wet weather. Extras are good in case they break. You'll need to write in the logbook. 
  2. Handheld GPS or smartphone: Also, extra batteries or a charger are a good idea. 
  3. Swag for trading: If there are any goodies inside the cache, you should leave something of your own. 
  4. Flashlight: You'll never know when you might need to look in a dark place. 
  5. Magnet: Helps with hard-to-reach metal containers. You can use a telescoping magnetic pick-up tool or a small magnet attached to a string. 
  6. Mirror: Using mirrors helps you look in places you can't see. A telescoping inspection mirror can extend and makes searching under park benches simpler. 
  7. Hiking pole or stick: It helps with poking into dark places where snakes or spiders could be. 
  8. Tweezers: You can extract logs from tiny containers. 
  9. Extra Paper: If a logbook is full, add a piece of paper for others to sign. 
  10. Sunscreen or bug spray: Keep the mosquitos away if you head into the wild. 
  11. Snacks and water: Stay hydrated and energized, especially if the cache requires hiking. If you're with your kids, they'll often get hungry. 
  12. Be prepared: Bring appropriate clothing like rain gear, footwear, and a first-aid kit. Gloves are helpful for foraging.

Geocaching is simple. Initially, you'll need a smartphone, the app, and a pen, as when you first begin, there will be local caches that won't require any special equipment.

Geocaching Etiquette 

Here are 5 simple rules to help with geocaching: 

  1. BYOP (bring your own pen): You'll need to sign the logbook with your Geocaching username and the date 
  2. Leave No Trace: Make sure to Cache In Trash Out (CITO): pick up any litter along the way and don't leave anything behind. Respect local wildlife and ecosystems. 
  3. Bring your own trade items: Keep a few small trinkets in your bag to trade. 
  4. Replace the geocache exactly as found: The geocache owner put it there for a reason, so placing it back will help the owner and others find it. 
  5. Move Trackables Along: If you remove a trackable, ensure to move it to another geocache and post a retrieved log as soon as possible.

The geocaching website has additional rules and etiquette to help you on your adventure.

Geocaching can introduce you to new locations you might not have been to before. You can do it independently, with your kids, or with a few friends. After more than two decades, geocaching has evolved into a passionate community of over 10 million geocachers. So, if you're looking for a way to exercise your brain and mind, try geocaching for a fun and unique experience.

*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.

About Robert Stark: Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech. 


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