The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching

Geocaching for Beginners | Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching | Outdoor Adventure| Best Geocache| Geocaching Containers

If you’ve ever loved treasure hunting as a child, or even been that overly-excited kid in the run-up to the yearly easter egg scavenge, then geocaching is for you.

Geocaching opens up a world of social connection between strangers through time. Even if you decide to be a lone-ranger in the geocaching sphere, you’re never alone. You’ll be effectively adding yourself to a unique community of like-minded people. Meaning, with time, you could become a part of a culture of time-capsule generators (depending on the type of geocache, but we’ll get to that later) to wow future generations of hunters. 

For example; have you ever loaned a library book, looking at the stamped dates where the book has previously been loaned, and finding dates from before you were even able to walk? Didn’t this create a sense of awe and make you question whether that could be the case with your date and future generations?

Well, you’re in the right place to start making a mark on history while roaming the great outdoors for a hobby you love; geocaching.

This article is the ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching, so we’ll cover everything from what it is to how to hunt. Read on to learn more:

  1. The Glossary of Common Outdoor Adventure Geocaching Jargon
  2. What is Geocaching?
  3. 5 Reasons You Will Love Geocaching
  4. What are the Rules to Geocaching?
  5. What Tools are Needed for Geocaching for Beginners?
  6. The different Types of Geocache You can Find
  7. Staying Safe on your Hunt
  8. Finding the Best Geocache

The Glossary of Common Outdoor Adventure Geocaching Jargon

It might not seem like it, but a treasure hunting hobby comes with its own language of terms and acronyms. And, they’re not ‘x marks the spot’ or ‘land ahoy’. 

So, we thought we’d start this article off by letting you know some of the common terms you’ll come across on the website, app, forums, communities and often in the logbooks, too.

Muggle

Based on the term ‘muggle’ to mean non-magical folk in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a muggle in the geocaching community is someone who is a non-geocacher. They are also referred to as a geomuggle.

Archive

Archiving a cache takes the listing off the site and any apps. This is normally done by a moderator or by the original cache owner. Sometimes it is simply if the cache is full and the owner would like to keep it, or if the geocache has not gained any traction.

Micro

When someone refers to a find or a geocache as a micro, they mean the size is the smallest official size a geocache can be. These can range from the size of a film cannister all the way to the size of a rubber on the end of a pencil. However, the latter is unofficially referred to as a ‘nano’.

Logbook

The logbook is the physical record of everyone who has visited that geocache. They can come in all shapes and sizes such as a small book or even a rolled-up piece of paper. These are the mementos that bring each and every geocacher closer together through time and space.

GPS

Standing for ‘Global Positioning System’ you may have heard this term when using a car’s Satnav. It is a system of satellites that work with a receiver (your phone, a watch or a tag) to find your location and help with orienteering skills. 

Geocache

This is the goal find for all geocachers. It is a hidden container known as a cache that has been awarded a specific geo-location. Hence, geocache. The geocaching container locations are provided as a set of co-ordinates which can be followed using a GPS signal 

FTF

Carrying on with the acronyms, FTF stans for ‘First to Find’. When a geocacher is the first person to find or log a geocache, they will often note this in the cache’s logbook, in the online forums, in the app or on the website. 

DNF

While not an acronym many want to write, ‘Did Not Find’ can present a fun challenge for many geocachers off on their worldly searching adventures. As this is a guide to geocaching for beginners, we suggest steering away from these particular geocaches until you’re more accustomed to the hunt. 

CITO

‘Cache in, Trash Out’ is part of an environmental initiative that was created by geocachers in 2002. When out on an outdoor adventure, the idea is to always clean the trail you walk to ensure it is clean and safe. It doesn’t stop there, the initiative promotes the use of friendly geocaching products, i.e. not plastic bags.  

TNLN

This acronym means that a geocacher ‘Took Nothing, Left Nothing’. As geocaching is a free and fun hobby, there’s no obligation to take a cache and replace it with something else. Many people enjoy writing their names and becoming part of the community. But, it also lets each geocacher trace back to who left the cache. 

GAGB

The ‘Geocaching Association of Great Britain’ is an organisation that works to help geocachers, muggles, landowners and the media understand what geocaching is.

Power Trail

With geocaching for beginners, finding a geocache labelled as a power trail means that there are lots of geocaches within a close proximity of each other. This is great for building a find count and confidence.

Hitchhiker

Unconventionally, this term relates to a geocache rather than a geocacher. In fact, a hitchhiker is also known as a geocoin, bug or trackable. It refers to a geocache that has had a specific code attached to log its travels. So, a geocacher may pick it up and place it elsewhere. The fun is to track it down and place it in a new spot. 

BYOP

You may be familiar with the partying phrase ‘Bring Your Own Beer’, well, now it time for the adults to come into town with ‘Bring Your Own Pen’. Simply put, many geocaches don’t or can’t fit a pen, so it’s up to you to make sure you can log a find in the future history of the geocache.

TFTC

This is a kind term to mean ‘Thanks for the Cache’. It is also written as T4TC and is simply a way for each geocacher to say thank you to the owner. 

SWAG

A final term to consider would be; ‘Stuff We All Get’. This term refers to all the items within the geocache. It can be a personal trinket, collectable or handmade item. These items are either left or traded with another of equal or greater value. This way, the geocache will improve with age much like a fine wine.

What is Geocaching?

Now we’ve got the nitty gritty glossary of terms out of the way, we can start to explain how the SWAGs, power trails, logbooks, micros, muggles and geocaches came to be.

In May of the year 2000, the US Government released a system update to all GPS devices. Afterwards, the push of a button would allow people to share the location of themselves or items left to be found.

On one outdoor adventure in Seattle, a man placed the first geocache and the idea was a rapid success. Since then, geocaching has become a global community with a website, app, and over three million active geocaches across the globe and beyond. 

The hobby has become a fun outdoor activity whereby owners place geocaching containers with a trinket, logbook and GPS signal in a camouflaged location. They’ll then register this geocache on the Geocaching.com website for everyone to see, participate and find!

As a geocacher, you log into the website, create a login and start searching in your area. Don’t forget to log your visit in the logbook, stating what you did, e.g. FTF or CITO.

5 Reasons You Will love Geocaching

Each person has their own reasons for loving the geocaching outdoor adventure and the community. And while some may geocache for one reason, others will explore for another. Either way, there are many reasons so many people get involved with geocaching.

The SWAG

The ‘Stuff We All Get’ is one of the fun reasons to becoming a geocacher. Whether it’s an all-year hobby or an on-location whim, each person has their own reasons for finding a cache. Often people explore the geocaching community and international hunting grounds simply for the challenge of trying to find the best geocache. 

With each person leaving something of value for the next person to see, there’s no limit to what treasures can be found. Not to mention the stories that each one holds.

The Fun

The fun of using our legs and putting in some manpower to research, hike and find the geocache can be everything to some people. There are many out there that would even say that the lead-up is the best part. 

Like we’ve already said, it can be a way to embrace the inner-child by going on a modern and high-tech version of the good old treasure hunts we used to play in our gardens and fields. 

The Community

There’s nothing better than getting in touch with an entire community of like-minded individuals. That’s why, in this ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching, we wanted to let you know that the community spirit is strong. 

Being able to log your adventure – after you’ve found a geocache – is a great way to talk to other geocachers in dedicated forums and chats. In fact, this is even a tip given by the Geocaching.com website: always write a great log because the owners love to read them!

The Adventure

Geocaching containers can be anywhere. And, we mean anywhere. From down your road to the other side of the globe – even Antarctica. Vast numbers of people incorporate geocaching into their worldly travels to visit people and places they would have never seen without them. 

Often you may find a geocaching container camouflaged up in a mountain, and if you’re on the hunt at the right time of day, you could witness a stunning sunset over an awe-inspiring landscape.

The Cost

The good thing about geocaching for beginners is the lack of investment. While we’ll be noting the tools you’ll need later, many of them are items you’ll already have around your home. For example; a pen. If you don’t have a pen, maybe you should consider a shopping trip prior to your first outdoor adventure into the world of geocaching.

While Geocaching.com is free and having a membership is free, they offer premium memberships to unlock a world of new geocaches for just £24 per year ($29 USD at the time of writing).

What are the Rules to Geocaching?

Ok, now you know the basics, we’ll go over the less fun part. There are some rules to the games which cover respect and environmental health. And, while they won’t impede your geocaching fun, it’s always important to be mindful about your outdoor adventure for you, other geocachers and the habitats surrounding the area.

Here’s a list of rules and regulations you should be aware of before setting off on your first geocaching for beginner’s hunt:

  • Obey Local Laws
  • Always Get the Landowner’s Permission
  • Choose A Hiding Location Wisely
  • Do Not Bury a Geocache
  • When Taking a Cache, leave Something of Greater or Equal Value
  • Don’t Damage Any Property
  • Never Harm Any Animals, Plants of the Environment
  • Avoid Restricted Locations
  • Choose Environmentally Friendly Containers
  • Don’t Place Illegal, Edible, Allergen, Make-Up or Liquid SWAG in the Cache
  • Be Kind to Those Around You
  • Always Write in the Logbook
  • Do Not Include Commercial or Promotional Content
  • Remain Family Friendly in your Logs and Reviews
  • Take Care When Handling or Maintaining a Cache or Hitchhiker
  • Apply a CITO Memento

What Tools Are Needed for Geocaching for Beginners? 

As we’ve mentioned, there are a few things that should be on your person while out and about. Most of these may sound obvious so we’ll skip the essay, but for the most part, they each have their integral role in your best geocache outdoor adventure.

Walking Boots

Not every geocache will be in an easy-to-find or suitable city location. If you’re on the hunt for a day’s worth of geocaching, you’ll need to have some suitable footwear. 

Maybe have a look at the spray-on water repellents for shoes. This way, if you ever get stuck in a British woodland or uncharacteristically muddy field, you can simply wipe them clean back at your vehicle. 

Rain Jacket

This is a necessity for outdoor adventures that search for the best geocache in the UK. Our natural weather is set to rain so there’s no harm in being prepared.

On the off-chance that the sun pops his head out, you’ll want your raincoat to be foldable and portable so you can catch some rays on your hike. 

Pen

Like we said earlier, not all geocaches have pens or pencils to hand. For example, a micro-sized geocache would not be able to fit a pen or pencil in the geocache container. So, always be prepared and bring a pen with you. 

Don’t forget, it’s part of the guidelines and etiquette to write your name and your story in the geocache logbook! With this in mind, try taking a couple of ball-point pens. This way you always have a back-up if you lose or break one. And, the longevity of the ink will remain over a pencil’s granite. Make your mark on history by bringing your pen.

GPS Device

This one isn’t a necessity, but it will certainly help. As this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching, we have to let you know the most common ways to geocache. As each cache is given a specific location and GPS signal, the way to find them is looking on the website or app. Then you can use a GPS device to orienteer your way to the geocache.

However, if you’re confident with the location and know your way around a good old-fashioned map, then there’s nothing stopping you!.

Access to the Internet

The internet is an at-home requirement. While there’s no need to be a part of the grid while on your outdoor adventure, you’ll still need to make a profile on the Geocaching.com website to unlock all the possible geocache containers you could find!

Membership with Geocaching

Again, while not a necessity, it would open your treasure hunt to a vast number of other geocache sites that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. 

The membership is only £24 ($29 USD) per year, so would work out at under £2 per month. It is a small expense for a year’s worth of adventures looking for the best geocache around the globe.

The App

Using the Geocaching app is one of the best ways to access both the website and the GPS locating benefits at the same time. The app can point you in the right direction and then you’ll be able to effectively write your log down after you’ve found it. 

Don’t forget, if you feel the geocache has moved, been lost or stolen, write this in the review of the co-ordinates stating ‘DNF’!

Snacks

Last, but most certainly not least; you’ll need snacks. Everyone needs snacks for the road no matter how long or short it may be. 

However, as this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching and we want to promote a healthy CITO mentality for the environment, we suggest using pre-made meals in re-usable containers. This way you’re not creating rubbish that could potentially fly away in the wind.

The different Types of Geocache You can Find

Ok, so each geocache is different. Be it from the location, the activity or the look of the cache. However, there are 10 specific categories of geocache that you could come across. While many of these will be stated on the website, the app or the forums, they can sometimes be a surprise and will need to be logged. Especially if you’re the FTF. 

With that in mind, we thought we’d run you through each type and what you can expect. This way you have a better chance of picking and choosing the geocache outdoor adventure that suits you.

Normal Cache

The normal – or, traditional – cache will be a sturdy container such as Tupperware or even a lantern. They will contain a logbook for you to write your name, the date and details of your travels. They may also contain a cache for you to swap with something of equal or higher value, but this is not mandatory. Just pop in the logbook: TNLN.

Puzzle Cache (AKA Mystery Cache)

A puzzle cache provides a little extra mystery and challenge to the normal geocache. Instead of the website simply telling you some coordinates, you sometimes need to decipher a cluefirst. These can be before you head out the door or at the location, itself. But, if this seems daunting try out the 1-star difficulty challenges, first and work your way up. This is the ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching, after all. 

Letterbox Cache

A letterbox cache has a historical story behind it, where a letterboxer would hide a box like a geocache but people would leave a self-addressed envelope inside to see if it would ever be posted back. Today, however, it is a special part of geocaching where stamps are involved. The box houses a stamp from the owner, an ink pad and a logbook. The idea is to stamp the owners stamp in your logbook and then leave your personal stamp in theirs. However, if you’re choosing to go on a letterbox activity, we suggest taking your own stamp, ink pad and logbook with you!

Earth Cache

An Earth cache is part of the GAGB initiative for people to learn and appreciate more about our planet. With each Earth cache, you can learn a lesson about how our Earth was formed and the geological processes that continue today. They will most likely be themed around the location they were found as well as its community.

Multi-Cache

A multi-cache hunt is more like the scavenger hunt you would remember as a kid. You’d be given a set of co-ordinates to begin and when you have found the item, it will be a clue to the next location. There are often various clues in the puzzle, but the final location will always be the geocache and its logbook. Don’t forget to log how you found the journey, too!

Event Cache

This cache is not a cache that can be found but, instead, something that can be met. A local group of like-minded geocachers will decide and geotag a location and date for an event. Then, it’s your job to find the event and have fun.

Mega-Event Cache

This is a large-scale version of the event cache. Over 500 people can turn up to these events and can be on a national or international level. These events will often have various activities for the family throughout the day and will be very fun. Don’t forget to log your find on the website and review your experience. Note: if more than 5000 people attend, it becomes a giga-cache.

Virtual Cache

Quite like the name suggests, these geocaches are not found in the woodland, under a park bench or inside a letterbox. Instead, the geocacher simply searches for a location and takes a photograph. Then, this is emailed along with the geocache’s code to the owner as proof of the find.

Webcam Cache

The webcam cache requires two or more people to work as a team. While one is out and about on the hunt, the other needs to be accessing the internet to view specific public webcam footage. The aim of this geocache is the be caught on a geotagged camera. 

Lab Cache

The final type of geocache is the experimental kind. Geocaching.com suggests downloading an app called Adventure Lab. Using the app, you find the geocache. When there, you play the games, find clues and solve puzzles. After  gaining the final code, enter it into the Adventure Lab app and you’ll have the find logged. The benefit to the lab cache is that it can be indoors as well as outdoors, making it a unique searching experience.

Staying Safe on your Hunt

We want to make sure every geocacher on their hunting trails is staying safe. Whether it’s keeping up with current health recommendations or ensuring the kids are nearby, even family-friendly activities like geocaching have their own health and safety recommendations.

Here’s some top tips for safe geocaching in a 2020 world:

  • BYOP
  • Wear a mask and gloves
  • Take Anti-Bacterial Hand Sanitizer
  • Use a Custom Stamp for Letterbox Caches
  • Try Looking for Caches that Haven’t Been Found in a While
  • Geocache with Friends and Family
  • Bring Disinfectant Wipes
  • Go Geocaching at Off Peak Times During the Week Where Possible
  • Place a Focus on Virtual Caches or Geocaches without Physical Components
  • Cache at a Pace that Suits You Rather than Being Competitive
  • Don’t let Kids Run Ahead on a Trail
  • Bring Plenty of Water
  • Lather Up with Suntan Lotion 

Finding the Best Geocache

The first step to being on your way to finding the best geocache would be to get some easy finds near home ticked off, first. To do this, you’ll need to have a device capable of GPS signalling such as an iPhone or Garmin eTrex.

Then, at home, make sure you have created a profile (or, paid for a membership). This way you are able to see all the fantastic geocaches that are available in your area and afar. 

When you have chosen a target or the best geocache for you, you’ll need to enter the co-ordinates into your GPS device and start searching.

Sometimes, the geocache can be off the beaten track, so make sure you’re kitted out for all terrain including the different weather chances. 

Then, it is suggested by Geocaching.com and many seasoned geocachers to put your GPS device down when you get to 20 feet away. It can add to the fun of finding the geocache while making the most of your time in the great outdoors. However, if there are any pointers, tricks or guidelines, make sure you remember them for the hunt. For example. If you’re by a tree and the clue reads; “It’s in the why”. Try reading it aloud and deciphering where it might be. Perhaps in the “Y” shape of the tree branches?

When you’ve found the geocache, make sure you’ve BYOP so you can write your name, the date and a story of this find. Then, put it back where you found it, making minimal changes to the surrounding areas. If you’ve swapped a cache trinket, be sure to write a story about it for the next person to place value on it!

Finally, log your find in the app or on the website and move onto the next geocache. 

After completing this process enough times, you should start to feel comfortable about finding geocaching containers on your outdoor adventure with higher difficulty ratings. The same goes for planting your own geocache: find a hiding spot similar to those you’ve found a geocache in (don’t bury one!) and register its location on the website.

Now as this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching, we need to tell you that the best geocache for one person is not the same as the next. For example, you may like the puzzle cache over the normal cache or virtual cache. Meaning the best geocache for you will be a stimulating and enduring mystery. However, someone else may simply enjoy finding cache-filled containers for the swap. 

So, it’s going to be quite difficult for us to tell you which the best geocache is going to be. However, we can take a guess: there is one geocache that is out of this world, literally. This is because it’s in space!  

In 2013, astronaut Rick Mastracchio logged an FTF on the most exclusive trackable in the geocaching community. The geo space bug TB5JJN1 started in Waterbury in 2008 before moving onto Houston, Cologne, Moscow, Baikonur and launching into space to dock the ISS (International Space Station).

With our opinion, this is the best geocache, but we’ll let you decide which geocache you favour the most. 

And, there you have it: the ultimate beginner’s guide to geocaching from learning what geocaching is all about to finding one for yourself! Let us know how useful this guide has been and which find you think the best geocache is.

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