Geocaching Frequently Asked Questions
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching ("geo-cashing") is an entertaining adventure game for gps users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a gps unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache.
What is a GPS device?
A GPS unit is an electronic device that can determine your approximate location (within around 6-20 feet) on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in Longitude and Latitude. You can use the unit to navigate from your current location to another location. Some units have their own maps, built-in electronic compasses, voice navigation, depending on the complexity of the device.
What are the rules in Geocaching?
The rules for geocaching are very simple:
1. Take something from the cache
2. Leave something in the cache
3. Write about it in the logbook
What is usually in a cache?
A cache can come in many forms but the first item should always be the logbook. In its simplest form a cache can be just a logbook and nothing else. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache's visitors. The logbook can contain much valuable, rewarding, and entertaining information. A logbook might contain information about nearby attractions, coordinates to other unpublished caches, and even jokes written by visitors. If you get some information from a logbook you should give some back. At the very least you can leave the date and time you visited the cache.
Larger caches may consist of a waterproof plastic bucket placed tastefully within the local terrain. The bucket will contain the logbook and any number of more or less valuable items. These items turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the founder or other visitors of the cache may have left there for you to enjoy. Remember, if you take something, it’s only fair for you to leave something in return. Items in a bucket cache could be: Maps, books, software, hardware, CD's, videos, pictures, money, jewelry, tickets, antiques, tools, games, etc. It is recommended that items in a bucket cache be individually packaged in a clear zipped plastic bag to protect them.
What shouldn't be in a cache?
Use your common sense in most cases. Explosives, ammo, knives, drugs, and alcohol shouldn't be placed in a cache. Respect the local laws. All ages of people hide and seek caches, so use some thought before placing an item into a cache.
Food items are ALWAYS a BAD IDEA. Animals have better noses than humans, and in some cases caches have been chewed through and destroyed because of food items in a cache. Please do not put food in a cache.
Where are caches found?
The location of a cache can be very entertaining indeed. As many say, location, location, location! The location of a cache demonstrates the founder's skill and possibly even daring. A cache located on the side of a rocky cliff accessible only by rock climbing equipment may be hard to find. An underwater cache may only be accessed by scuba. Other caches may require long difficult hiking, orienteering, and special equipment to get to. Caches may be located in cities both above and below ground, inside and outside buildings. The skillful placement of a small logbook in an urban environment may be quite challenging to find even with the accuracy of a gps. That little logbook may have a hundred dollar bill in it or a map to greater treasure. It could even contain clues or riddles to solve that may lead to other caches. Rich people could have fun with their money by making lucrative caches that could be better than winning the lottery when you find it. Just hope that the person that found the cache just before you left a real big prize!
Are there any variations in the game?
YES! It is strongly encouraged, actually. Geocaching is a game that constantly reinvents itself, and the rules are very flexible. If you have a new idea on how to place a cache, or a new game using GPS units, Groundspeak.com would love to hear about it.
Some examples -
* Offset Caches - They're not found by simply going to some coordinates and finding a cache there. With the Offset Cache the published coordinates are that of an existing historical monument, plaque, or even a benchmark that you would like to have your cache hunter visit. From this site the cache hunter must look around and find offset numbers stamped/written in or on some part of the marker site, or continue based on instructions posted to Geocaching.com or Waymarking.com.
* Multi-caches - The first cache gives coordinates (or partial coordinates) to the next location, or multiple caches have hints to the final cache.
* Virtual caches - A cache is actually an existing landmark, such as a tombstone or statue. You have to answer a question from the landmark and let the "cache" owner know as proof that you were there. See Waymarking.com for virtual cache information.
How long do caches exist?
It all depends on the location of the cache and its impact on the environment and the surrounding areas. Caches could be permanent, or temporary. It's up to the cache owner to periodically inspect the cache and the area to ensure that impact is minimal, if not nonexistent. When you find a cache, it's always a good idea to let the cache owner know the condition as well.
Periodically, Geocaching.com and Waymarking.com will review each cache to ensure that everything is still current. They cannot guarantee that a cache will exist at any given time, but they'll do their best to ensure the list is as current as possible.
Hiding Your First Geocache
Step 1 - Research a cache location
Geocaching is just like real estate - location, location, location! When thinking about where to place a cache, keep these things in mind:
* Will it be easy to get to? - If it is only a couple hundred feet from the highway, there's a strong chance someone may plunder it. Try to find a place that will take a bit of time to get to, preferably on foot.You are ultimately responsible for the cache so make sure you know the rules for the area where your cache is being placed.
* Will it be easy to find? - If it is too visible, or too close to busy roads, trails, etc. there's a good chance someone may stumble upon it. Several of the original caches were discovered this way, but the people who found it were nice enough to leave them there (or participate). But don't make it too difficult! If you hide it well, give hints on Geocaching.com as to the location.
* Will it be on private or public land? - If you place it on private land, please ask permission before putting it there! If you place the cache on public lands you need to contact the managing agency to find out about their rules. You will be in violation of federal regulation by placing a cache in any area administered by the National Park Service (US). The National Park regulations are intended to protect the fragile environment, and historical and cultural areas found in the parks.
* Will it cause unnecessary concern? - Please use common sense when choosing a location for your cache. Do not place your cache in any location where it might be confused with something more dangerous.
* Does it meet requirements to be listed on the site? - Make sure to review the guidelines for listing a geocache on this web site during your research.
Ultimately you'll want to place a cache in a place that is unique in some way. The big reward for geocachers, other than finding the cache itself, is the location. A prime camping spot, great viewpoint, unusual location, etc. are all good places to hide a cache.
Note: Please be respectful of the areas you are thinking about placing the cache. For example, if it's the location of the spotted owl, or off-trail with delicate ground cover, keep in mind that others will be walking in these areas.
Please do not place caches on archaeological or historical sites. In most cases these areas are highly sensitive to the extra traffic that would be caused by vehicles and humans. If you find a cache in one of these areas please remove it and replace it a safe enough distance from the site to ensure that the site will not be impacted by people searching for the cache and unknowingly traveling over or through a site.
Step 2 - Preparing Your Cache
First, you need a container. Anything water resistant, snow resistant, etc (depending on your climate), will do, but geocachers have had good success with plastic buckets, tupperware (or Rubbermaid) containers, ammo boxes, or unused sewer pipes (really!). You'll also want to invest in some zip-loc baggies to put the items into in case your container leaks.
Whatever the container, make sure to mark your cache so that someone who doesn't play can figure out what it is. Most folks mark the container with Geocaching.com, the name of the cache, and any contact information they feel is necessary. More info is better than less.
Next, you'll need a logbook and a pen. A small spiral notebook does the trick. Make sure to put a pen in the cache as well! The author always forgets to bring one when searching for a cache.
(If you are an area where the temperature dips below freezing, make sure to bring a soft lead pencil to place in the cache. Pens tend to freeze and are rendered useless :)
It's also recommended to have a note to welcome the cache finder and let them know what it is all about (if they accidentally found the cache). We have a letter you can use in both Microsoft Word format and Text format.
Lastly, you can put goodies in the cache. It's recommended, but not necessary! Some ideas of items to give as gifts:
* Disposable camera - Put one in and ask everyone to take a picture of themselves and put it back in the cache. Later you can develop the photos and place them online.
* Inexpensive toys - play-doh, silly putty, action figures, etc
* CDs, VGA Cards, gift certificates, dollar bills, gold bars, etc.
It's up to you what you want to put in your cache, budget permitting. If you are a Dot com millionaire, you could pony up a bit of cache (err cash), but most of us can spend less than $10 to place a decent cache.
Do not put food in a cache! Critters have better noses than we do, and will bite, nibble or swallow your cache in an attempt to get to the goodies. Bottled water is a good alternative (and refreshing to geocachers).
Please! No alcohol, tobacco, firearms, prescription or illicit drugs. Let's keep this safe and legal.
Step 3 - Placing Your Cache
When you reach the location to place your cache, the hardest part (depending on the model of your GPS unit, the terrain, etc), is getting exact coordinates from your GPS unit. It all depends on how visible your cache is, but you'll need to get the coordinates as close as possible to the cache.
Some GPS units have the ability to do averaging, but if yours can't, the best suggestion is to take a waypoint, walk away from the location, then return and take another waypoint. Do this around 7-10 times, then pick the best waypoint.
Once you have your waypoint, write it in permanent marker on the container, the log book, and make sure you have a copy to bring back with you. Write a few notes in the log book if you like, place it in a zip-loc baggie, and place it in the container. Make sure to secure the container with a rock, etc, to decrease the chance of it blowing, floating, or being carried away.
Step 4 - Report the Cache
Fill out the online form
Step 5 - Maintain the cache
Once you place the cache, it is your responsibility to maintain the cache and the area around it. You'll need to return as often as you can to ensure that your cache is not impacting the area, and ensure that the cache is in good repair.
Once people have visited the cache, inquire about the cache and their opinion of the location. Does the area look disturbed? Are visitors disrupting the landscape in any way? If you have concerns about the location, feel free to move or remove it from the area.
If you do find that a cache is missing/defaced, please let the cache owner know as soon as possible!
Off-limit (Physical) Caches
By submitting a cache listing, you assure us that you have adequate permission to hide your cache in the selected location. However, if we see a cache description that mentions ignoring "No Trespassing" signs (or any other obvious issues), your listing may be immediately archived [the cache information deleted from the listings on the www.geocaching.com web site]. It is assumed that your cache placement complies with all applicable laws. If an obvious legal issue is present, or is brought to our attention, your listing may be immediately archived.
Caches may be quickly archived if we see the following (which is not inclusive):
* Caches on land managed by an agency that prohibits geocaches, such as some units of the U.S. National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuges)
* Caches that are buried. If a shovel, trowel or other “pointy” object is used to dig, whether in order to hide or to find the cache, then it is not appropriate.
* Caches that deface public or private property, whether a natural or man-made object, in order to provide a hiding place, a clue or a logging method.
* Caches attached to any historic structure or located in any designated culturally significant area.
* Caches placed in areas which are highly sensitive to the extra traffic that would be caused by vehicles and humans (examples may include archaeological or historic sites).
* Caches hidden in close proximity to active railroad tracks. In general we use a distance of 150 ft (46 m) but your local area’s trespassing laws may be different. All local laws apply.
* Caches near or on military installations.
* Caches near, on or under public structures deemed potential or possible targets for terrorist attacks. These may include but are not limited to highway bridges, dams, government buildings, elementary and secondary schools, and airports.
There may be some exceptions. If your cache fits within one of the above areas, please explain this in a note to the reviewer. If you are given permission to place a cache on private property, indicate this on the cache page for the benefit of both the reviewer and people seeking out the cache.
In addition, there may be local regulations already in place for certain types of parks in your region (state parks, county preserves, etc.). There are many local caching organizations that would be able to help you out with those regulations. If your area does not have a local caching organization please contact your local reviewer for information on regulations. If you have complied with special regulations by obtaining a permit, please state this on your cache page or in a ‘note to the reviewer’. A reviewer may request that you provide contact information for the person who gave you permission to hide your cache.
If the Geocaching.com or Waymarking.com websites are contacted and informed that your cache has been placed inappropriately, your cache may be archived or disabled and you may be contacted with any information provided by the individual or organization who contacted us.