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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One of the most widely used symbols for Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container (usually a tupperware or ammo box) containing a logbook. Larger containers can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is most often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek", sharing many aspects with orienteering, treasure-hunting, and waymarking.

Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.[1] As of March 8, 2010, there are over 1,007,477 active geocaches over the world.[2]



Geocaching is similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was imagined shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 1, 2000, because the improved accuracy[3] of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.[4] The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav[5] as 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W / 45.291°N 122.4133°W / 45.291; -122.4133. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once (by Mike Teague of Vancouver, Washington). According to Dave Ulmer's message, the original stash was a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground and contained software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot.[5]

The Oregon Public Broadcasting program Oregon Field Guide covered the topic of geocaching in a February 2010 episode, paying a visit to the original site. A metal memorial now sits on the actual site, but a functioning cache is located nearby in some bushes.

Origin of the name

The activity was originally referred to as GPS stash hunt or gpsstashing. This was changed after a discussion in the gpsstash discussion group at eGroups (now Yahoo!). On May 30, 2000, Matt Stum suggested that "stash" could have negative connotations, and suggested instead "geocaching."[6]


Geocache Pfalz Werla in Germany.

For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and trade items then record the cache's coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a listing site (see list of some sites below). Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from that listing site and seek out the cache using their GPS handheld receivers. The finding geocachers record their exploits in the logbook and online. Geocachers are free to take objects (except the logbook, pencil, or stamp) from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value.

Typical cache "treasures" are not high in monetary value but may hold personal value to the finder. Aside from the logbook, common cache contents are unusual coins or currency, small toys, ornamental buttons, CDs, or books. Also common are objects that are moved from cache to cache called "hitchhikers", such as Travel Bugs or Geocoins, whose travels may be logged and followed online. Cachers who initially place a Travel Bug or Geocoin often assign specific goals for their trackable items. Examples of goals are to be placed in a certain cache a long distance from home, or to travel to a certain country, or to travel faster and farther than other hitchhikers in a race. Higher value items are occasionally included in geocaches as a reward for the First to Find (called "FTF"), or in locations which are harder to reach. Dangerous or illegal items, weapons, and pornography are generally not allowed and are specifically against the rules of most geocache listing sites.

Geocache container sizes range from containers as small as the tip of your little finger ("nanos") that are too small to hold anything more than a tiny paper log to five-gallon buckets or even larger containers.[7]. The most common cache containers in rural areas are lunch-box sized plastic storage containers or surplus military ammunition cans. Ammo cans are considered the gold standard of containers because they are very sturdy, waterproof, animal and fire resistant, relatively cheap, and have plenty of room for trade items. Smaller containers are more common in urban areas because they can be more easily hidden.

If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen it is said to have been "muggled" or "plundered." The former term plays off the fact that those not familiar with geocaching are called muggles, a term borrowed from the Harry Potter series of books which was rising in popularity at the same time Geocaching got its start.[8]

Putting food in a cache, or even anything else with an odour, is not advised and not suggested. Animals can smell food through the container and will find a way to get into the container or just take it. That will ruin the cache and the owner will have to replace it.


Geocaches vary in size, difficulty, and location. Simple caches are often called "drive-bys," "park 'n grabs" (PNGs), or "cache and dash." Geocaches may also be complex, involving lengthy searches or significant travel. Examples include staged multi-caches;[9] underwater caches,[10][11] caches located 50 feet (15 m) up a tree,[12] caches found only after long offroad drives,[13] caches on high mountain peaks,[14] caches located in challenging environments (such as Antarctica [15] or north of the Arctic Circle[16]), and magnetic caches attached to metal structures and/or objects. Different geocaching websites list different variations per their own policies (e.g. Geocaching.com does not list new Webcam, Virtual, Locationless, or Moving geocaches). The traditional Geocaching gave birth to GeoCaching - one of active urban games of Encounter project. The game is quite similar to Geocaching but has time limitations and hints in it.

A small traditional geocache in the Czech Republic.

Variations of geocaches include:

  • Traditional: The basic cache type, a traditional cache must include a log book of some sort. It may or may not include trade or traceable items. A traditional cache is distinguished from other cache variations in that the geocache is found at the coordinates given and involves only one stage.[17]
  • Multi-cache: This variation consists of multiple discoveries of one or more intermediate points containing the coordinates for the next stage; the final stage contains the log book and trade items.[17]
  • Offset: This cache is similar to the multi-cache except that the initial coordinates are for a location containing information that encodes the final cache coordinates. An example would be to direct the finder to a plaque where the digits of a date on the plaque correspond to coordinates of the final cache.[17]
  • Night Cache: These multi-stage caches are designed to be found at night and generally involve following a series of reflectors with a flashlight to the final cache location.[citation needed]
  • Mystery/puzzle: This cache requires one to discover information or solve a puzzle to find the cache. Some mystery caches provide a false set of coordinates with a puzzle that must be solved to determine the final cache location. In other cases, the given location is accurate, but the name of the location or other features are themselves a puzzle leading to the final cache. Alternatively, additional information is necessary to complete the find, such as a padlock combination to access the cache.[17]
  • Letterbox Hybrid: A letterbox hybrid cache is a combination of a geocache and a letterbox in the same container. A letterbox has a rubber stamp and a logbook instead of tradable items. Letterboxers carry their own stamp with them, to stamp the letterbox's log book and inversely stamp their personal log book with the letterbox stamp. The hybrid cache contains the important materials for this and may or may not include trade items. Whether the letterbox hybrid contains trade items is up to the owner.[17]
  • Locationless/Reverse: This variation is similar to a scavenger hunt. A description is given for something to find, such as a one-room schoolhouse, and the finder locates an example of this object. The finder records the location using their GPS hand-held receiver and often takes a picture at the location showing the named object and his or her GPS receiver. Typically others are not allowed to log that same location as a find.[17]
  • Moving/Travelling: Similar to a traditional geocache, this variation is found at a listed set of coordinates. The finder uses the log book, trades trinkets, and then hides the cache in a different location. By updating this new location on the listing, the finder essentially becomes the hider, and the next finder continues the cycle. The hitchhiker concept (see above) has superseded this cache type on geocaching.com.[citation needed]
A Geocacher finding a Virtual Cache at McMurdo Station, Antarctica
  • Virtual: Caches of this nature are coordinates for a location that does not contain the traditional box, log book, or trade items. Instead, the location contains some other described object. Validation for finding a virtual cache generally requires you to email the cache hider with information such as a date or a name on a plaque, or to post a picture of yourself at the site with GPS receiver in hand.[17]
  • EcoCache: A “green” variation of a traditional geocache. Placed by geocachers at environmentally significant locations around the world, an EcoCache site helps raise awareness of the role we all play in restoring, preserving, and sharing the environment.[18][19][20]
  • Earthcache: A type of virtual-cache which is maintained by the Geological Society of America. The cacher usually has to perform a task which teaches him/her an educational lesson about the earth science of the cache area.[17]
  • Webcam: Similar to a virtual cache; there is no container, log book, or trade items for this cache type. Instead, the coordinates are for a location with a public webcam. Instead of signing a log book, the finder is often required to capture their image from the webcam for verification of the find.[17]
  • Event Cache: This is a gathering organized and attended by geocachers. Physical caches placed at events are often active only for the event date.[17]
  • Cache-In Trash-Out (CITO) Events: This variation on event caching is a coordinated activity of trash pickup and other maintenance to improve the environment.[17]
  • Mega Event: An event that is attended by over 500 people. Mega Events are typically annual events, usually attracting geocachers from all over the world.[17]
  • GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit: An exhibit at various museums and science centers in which participants in the maze learn about geocaching. These "events" have their own cache type on Geocaching.com and include many non-geocachers.[17]
  • Wherigo cache: A Wherigo cache is similar to a multi-stage cache hunt that uses a Wherigo cartridge to guide the player. The player plays the cartridge and finds a physical cache sometime during cartridge play, usually at the end. Not all Wherigo cartridges incorporate geocaches into game play. Wherigo caches are unique to the geocaching.com website.[17]

Project A.P.E. Cache Type.

In 2001, 20th Century Fox in conjunction with Geocaching.com released a series of caches intended to promote the movie Planet of the Apes. The containers were all 60mm ammo cans with the phrase Project A.P.E. stenciled on the side. Clues were given to the location of the cache each week, getting more and more specific. Eventually, the cache would be published. Inside each container was an item from the movie.[21] In 2003, 20th Century Fox separated themselves from the promotion completely and most of the caches were adopted by their respective owners. Many were soon archived, and only two caches of the Project A.P.E. type remain active today (one near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and one near Seattle, Washington). At least one former Project A.P.E. cache has been re-listed as a traditional using the same coordinates and the original container.[21]

Obtaining data

GPX files contain information such as a cache description and information about recent visitors to the cache. Geocachers may upload geocache data (also known as waypoints) from various websites in various formats, most commonly in file-type GPX, which uses XML [22]. Some websites allow geocachers to search (build queries) for multiple caches within a geographic area based on criteria such as Zip Code or coordinates, downloading the results as an email attachment on a schedule.

Converting and filtering data

A variety of geocaching applications are available for geocache data management, file-type translation, and personalization. Geocaching software can assign special icons or search (filter) for caches based on certain criteria (e.g. distance from an assigned point, difficulty, date last found).

Paperless geocaching employs PDAs or other electronic devices to carry geocache information instead of paper. Various applications are able to directly upload and read GPX files without further conversion. Newer GPS devices released by Garmin have the ability to read GPX files directly, thus eliminating the need for a PDA.[23] The release of numerous cellphones which have a GPS chip built in, has enabled another platform for paperless geocaching.


There are various acronyms and phrases commonly used in logs, both online and in logbooks. These words and phrases include, but are not limited to:

  • "DNF" is an acronym for "Did Not Find", or when a geocacher hunts for a particular cache however is unable to find the container.
  • "FTF" is an acronym for "First To Find", used by the first person to locate the cache and sign the log.
  • "ICT" is an acronym for "Ivy Covered Tree", used in the description on where a cache may be hidden.
  • "LPC" is an acronym for "Lamp Post Cache", used in the description on where a cache may be hidden.
  • "TFTC" is one of the more commonly used acronyms, standing for "Thanks For The Cache". This is often used at the end of logs to thank the cache owner, or CO.
  • "TFTH" is an acronym similar to TFTC, however it stands for "Thanks For The Hunt" or "Thanks For The Hike" or "Thanks For the Hide". It shares the same purpose as TFTC.
  • "TNLN" is an acronym for "Took Nothing, Left Nothing", used when a finder of a cache does not trade any items in the cache. Just "TN" or "LN" can be used individually as well.
  • "SL" is an acronym for "Signed Log", used when the participant visited the cache and signed its logbook. This acronym can be combined with the one above, and then condensed to make "XNSL", which stands for "exchanged nothing, signed log".
  • "GZ" is an acronym for "Ground Zero" or "Geo-zone" and refers to the general area in which a cache is hidden.
  • "CITO" is an acronym for "Cache In Trash Out" and refers to picking up trash on the hunt.
  • "GPSr" is an acronym for "GPS receiver".



Individual geocaching websites have developed their own guidelines for acceptable geocache publications. Though not universally required, the Geocacher's Creed provides ethical search guidelines. Government agencies and others responsible for public use of land often establish their own guidelines for geocaching.[25][26] Generally accepted rules are to not endanger others, to minimize the impact on nature, to respect private property, and to avoid public alarm.

Controversy and issues

Cachers have been approached by police and questioned when they were seen as acting suspiciously.[27][28] Other times, investigation of a cache location after suspicious activity was reported has resulted in police and bomb squad discovery of the geocache. Schools have been occasionally evacuated when a cache has been seen by teachers or police, as in the case of Fairview High School in 2009.[29][30][31] A number of caches have been destroyed by bomb squads.[32][33]

The placement of geocaches has critics among governmental personnel and the public at large who consider it littering. Some geocachers try to mitigate this perception by picking up litter while they search for geocaches. Geocaching is not illegal in the United States, and is usually positively received when explained to law enforcement officials (e.g. police officers). However, certain types of placements can be problematic. Although disallowed, hiders could place caches on private property without adequate permission (intentionally or otherwise), which encourages cache finders to trespass. Caches might also be hidden in places where the act of searching can make a finder look suspicious (e.g. skulking near schools, children's playgrounds, banks, courthouses, or in residential neighborhoods), or where the container placement could be mistaken for a drug stash or a bomb (especially in urban settings, under bridges, near banks, courthouses, or embassies). Hides in these areas are discouraged[30], and cache listing websites enforce guidelines that disallow certain types of placements. However, as cache reviewers typically cannot see exactly where and how every particular cache is hidden, problematic hides can slip through. Ultimately it is also up to cache finders to use discretion when attempting to search for a cache, and report any problems.

The South Carolina House of Representatives passed Bill 3777[34] in 2005, "that geocaching players must receive permission from landowners before coming onto property.[35]"


Numerous websites list geocaches around the world. In the United States, where most geocaching services are hosted, only a cache's coordinates are in public domain. Other cache information, including the description, is protected by copyright law. Geocaching websites vary in active protection of cache data.

First page

The first website to list geocaches was announced by Mike Teague on May 8, 2000. On September 2, 2000, Jeremy Irish emailed the gpsstash mailing list that he had registered the domain name geocaching.com and had setup his own Web site. He copied the caches from Mike Teague's database into his own. On September 7, Mike Teague announced that Jeremy Irish was taking over cache listings.


Typical GPS receivers as used to locate the co-ordinates of a Geocache.

The largest site is Geocaching.com, owned by Groundspeak Inc., which began operating on September 2, 2000. With a worldwide membership, Geocaching.com lists hundreds of thousands of caches. Each cache is reviewed by regional cache reviewers before publication with an emphasis on family-oriented caching. Free basic membership allows users to see coordinates for most caches in its database; premium membership includes a fee for additional features, including advanced search tools and caches designed for premium members. The website includes over 1,000,000 caches in over 200 countries around the world, as of March, 2010.[36]

Geocaching.com no longer lists new caches without a physical container, including locationless/reverse and webcam; however, older caches of these types have been grandfathered in (except for locationless/reverse, which are completely archived). Earthcaches are the exception to the no-container rule; they are caches in which players must answer geological questions to complete the cache. Groundspeak created a waymarking website to handle all other non-physical caches.

Geocaching.com also supports the discovery of benchmarks, which are a location (only in the USA) "known to a high degree of accuracy"[37] Sometimes these can be metal disks, radio towers, or a bolt in central locations or on a highway. Their main purpose is for surveying an area. Geocaching gives the longitude and latitude to this location and the user must rely on given clues to find the benchmark.


Navicache.com started as a regional listing service around February 2001, but quickly gained popularity among those looking for a less restrictive alternative to what was currently available. While many of Navicache.com's listings have been posted to other sites, they also offer many unique listings. Navicache.com also lists nearly any type of geocache (within reason) and does not charge to access any of the caches listed in their database. While all submissions are reviewed and approved, Navicache is more liberal in approving caches believing that the pastime belongs to participants rather than a governing agency.


Terracaching seeks to provide high-quality caches made so by the difficulty of the hide or from the quality of the location. Membership is managed through a sponsorship system, and each cache is under continual peer review from other members. Terracaching.com embraces virtual caches alongside traditional/multi-stage caches and includes many locationless caches among the thousands of caches in its database. It is increasingly attracting members who like the point system. In Europe TerraCaching is supported by Terracaching.eu. This site is translated in different European languages, has an extended FAQ and extra supporting tools for TerraCaching.

Other sites

In many countries there are regional geocaching sites, but these mostly only compile lists of caches in the area from the three main sites. Many of them also accept unique listings of caches for their site, but these listings tend to be less popular than the international sites. There are some exceptions though, e.g. in the former Soviet Union the site Geocaching.su remains popular because it accepts listings in the Cyrillic alphabet. An additional international site is Geocaching.de, a German website. Statistics websites such as CacherStats and CachingTree allow cachers to track statistics online.

Geocaching Terms

muggle- a non geocacher that is in your way of finding a cache

See also

Further reading

  • The Essential Guide to Geocaching by Mike Dyer (ISBN 1-55591-522-1)
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching by Jack W. Peters (ISBN 1-59257-235-9)
  • Geocaching For Dummies by Joel McNamara (ISBN 978-0764575716)
  • Geocaching: Hike and Seek with Your GPS by Erik Sherman (ISBN 978-1590591222)
  • The Geocaching Handbook (Falcon Guide) by Layne Cameron and Dave Ulmer (ISBN 978-076273044)
  • Let's Go Geocaching by DK Publishing (ISBN 978-0756637170)
  • It's a Treasure Hunt! Geocaching & Letterboxing by Cq Products (ISBN 978-1563832680)
  • Open Your Heart with Geocaching: Mastering Life Through Love of Exploration by Jeannette Cézanne (ISBN 978-1601660046)


  1. ^ "List of caches in Antarctica". Groundspeak. 2007-12-11. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/nearest.aspx?lat=-77.532717&lon=167.081967. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  2. ^ Geocaching.com http://www.geocaching.com/
  3. ^ Improved GPS accuracy
  4. ^ Geocaching.com http://www.geocaching.com/about/history.aspx
  5. ^ a b Dave Ulmer (2000-05-03). "GPS Stash Hunt... Stash #1 is there!". sci.geo.satellite-nav. (Web link). Retrieved on 2008-12-15.
  6. ^ Stum, Matt (2000-05-30). "Cache vs Stash". Yahoo!. http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/gpsstash/message/62. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  7. ^ Team Desert Eagle (2006-08-19). "Big Boy". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=1008aa58-1224-45ce-8acc-f6502cb61c2d. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  8. ^ Matthew, Amy. "Global treasure hunts catching on among geocache fans". The Pueblo Chieftain. http://www.chieftain.com/life/1176964526/1. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  9. ^ NFA (2005-07-06). "Adirondack Murder Mystery". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=bfd77652-25cd-487d-8a6d-5bc9c204ad53. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  10. ^ Freefloat (2004-06-06). "Ambitious Snorkeller". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=e357a41d-80c8-4979-b46d-088247b9660c. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  11. ^ Mathieson, Doug (2005-07-17). "Scuba Cache:Innerkip Quarry". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=e4552463-fe71-4905-96a5-cf04cb3d3aeb. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  12. ^ Team Bridgebuilder (2004-10-07). "Hypostyle Hall". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?wp=GCKR3C. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  13. ^ Headybrew (2006-04-18). "Clamshell offroad and hike". TerraCaching.com. http://www.terracaching.com/viewcache.cgi?C=TC7QL. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  14. ^ GPearl (2004-07-25). "9 Summits - Kärnten". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=1c322b4e-2f8d-40f9-9f3e-4d1bf9daeb6e. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  15. ^ Arbalo (2003-02-05). "Magnum's Cache". Navicache.com. http://www.navicache.com/cgi-bin/db/displaycache2.pl?CacheID=1273. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  16. ^ Iceshelf 2002 Research Team (2002-05-05). "As North As It Gets!". Groundspeak. http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?wp=GC5803. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Geocache types". geocaching.com. http://www.geocaching.com/about/cache_types.aspx. 
  18. ^ www.ilega.org http://www.ilega.org/ecocaches/ecocaches.htm
  19. ^ http://www.ecocaching.info
  20. ^ http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ns/cbreton/activ/activ9.aspx
  21. ^ a b "What the Heck is Project A.P.E.?". http://www.markwell.us/projectape.htm. 
  22. ^ "GPX: The GPS Exchange Format". http://www.topografix.com/gpx.asp. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  23. ^ "Outdoor-Navigation mit dem Garmin Colorado 300" (in German). connect.de. 2008-04-01. pp. 1. http://www.connect.de/themen_spezial/Outdoor-Navigation-mit-dem-Garmin-Colorado-300_1596951.html. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  24. ^ "Glossary of Terms". http://www.geocaching.com/about/glossary.aspx. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  25. ^ Fredrick Kunkle, Geocaching Craze Pushes Officials To Set Guidelines, Washington Post, September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2008.
  26. ^ "Geocaching puts some authorities on edge". Associated Press. January 17, 2006. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10894835/. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 
  27. ^ "GAGB - Agreements Database". GAGB Land Agreements Database. http://www.gagb.co.uk/gagb/glad/agreement_view.php?p=40. Retrieved 02 October 2009. 
  28. ^ "MyWestTexas.com - Suspicious Package Not a Bomb". http://www.mywesttexas.com/articles/2010/01/08/news/top_stories/pipe_bomb_geochaching_geocache_midland_academy_sports.txt. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  29. ^ Hide and seek game causes Auckland bomb scare
  30. ^ a b Mike Vogel. "Geocache player broke all the rules of Internet treasure hunt". Boise, Idaho. http://www.ktvb.com/news/topstories/stories/ktvbn-sept2805-geocaching.a28aee2c.html. Retrieved 2005-09-28. 
  31. ^ Bomb scare closes main entrance at the University of California, Santa Cruz on the morning of May 21, 2009.
  32. ^ "Detonated 'bomb' turns out to be box of toys". The Deseret News. November 12, 2005. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/635160668/Detonated-bomb-turns-out-to-be-box-of-toys.html. 
  33. ^ "One person's game is another's bomb scare". Ottawa Citizen. July 29, 2008. http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=c7628126-a0f6-4a9e-a396-a40fa1948eab. 
  34. ^ 2005-2006 Bill 3777: Geocache, geocaching, and letterboxing South Carolina Legislature Online
  35. ^ Haynie, Rachel (May 20, 2005). "High–tech scavenger hunt Geocachers invade hallowed ground". Columbia Star. http://www.thecolumbiastar.com/news/2005-05-20/Front_Page/001.html. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  36. ^ http://www.geocachingpolicy.org/whatisgeocaching.php
  37. ^ Benchmark Hunting

External links


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