Getting Started with Geocaching
If you're looking for the basics, you're in the wrong place - visit our page, What is Geocaching?
See below for details on geocache types, geocache sizes and tips on finding your first geocache. To get started with Geocaching, you may also wish to download our helpful What is Geocaching? leaflet.
Geocache Listing Sites
Geocaching can be played on a variety of listing sites. The GAGB does not affiliate itself with, or promote, any of these major listing sites over the other. The most popular listing sites in the UK are geocaching.com , opencache.uk and terraching.com.
is the largest geocache listing site with over 2 million active geocaches and 6 million registered members. It is also the oldest,
having launched in 2000. The site arguably boasts the most features.
Many of these features are exclusive to Premium Members. It is this freemium business model that distinguishes Geocaching.com from other geocache listing sites. Whilst basic membership is free, you cannot generate Pocket Queries (custom searches and bulk downloads), award favourite points to the best geocaches you find or view geocaches that the geocache owner has selected as Premium Member Only (PMO). It is your choice whether you want to pay for a membership to access these features, or whether you are satisfied with the service geocaching.com provides upon your registration.
Opencache.uk offers all of its services to all of its users at no extra cost. Every geocache is listed and accessible to all members for free. It aims to have high quality geocache listings, with as many as possible unique to Opencache. The Opencache UK site forms part of a global network of Opencaching sites.
Terraching.com is similar to Opencaching on the sense that it is entirely free. It aims to promote a high quality caching experience, emphasising quality above quantity. Once you register, you must wait to be sponsored by two other geocachers in the Terracaching community before you can access the website and geocaches available to find. These sponsors will then be responsible for reviewing any geocaches you hide prior to their publication, unlike the reviewing process of Geocaching.com which consists of a large team of volunteer reviewers that are appointed by those in charge of the website. Terracaching's website has recently been redesigned, with more UK-based geocaches being published than ever before.
Types of Geocaches
Physical Geocaches - clearly, you expect to find a container when you go Geocaching. There are different types of physical geocaches; all contain a logbook or small log sheet:
- Traditional Geocache - a geocache container with a logbook inside is found at the coordinates posted on the listing site (either Geocaching.com, Opencache.uk or Terracaching.com).
- Multi-Cache - a geocache which involves one or more stages. The first stage is at the posted coordinates, where you have to look for clues that lead you another location. You may find these clues within other containers or you might have to work out a short puzzle in order to calculate the next location of the geocache, until you obtain the final coordinates. Here, you will find a geocache container with a logbook.
- Mystery/Puzzle Cache (called Quiz on Opencache.uk) - a puzzle has to be worked out either at home or in the field in order to determine the final coordinates for the physical geocache. Challenge geocaches are listed as this type - the geocache is at the posted coordinates (unlike other Mystery geocaches) but a challenge (e.g. find a geocache every day for 366 days straight) has to be completed in order to visit the location and claim it as a find.
- Letterbox Hybrid (only on Geocaching.com) - the same as a Traditional Geocache except they contain a stamp for letterboxers to record their visit. A hybrid with a Letterbox; letterboxing is a hobby that originated in Dartmoor.
- Wherigo Cache (only on Geocaching.com) - see Wherigo.com - these allow geocachers to interact with physical and virtual elements such as objects or characters while still finding a physical geocache container. A Wherigo-compatible GPS device or smart phone is essential. Check out this article by *geocass* in Seeker 18 to find out more.
- Moving Cache (only on Opencache.uk) - a Traditional Cache that moves after each visit. Each finder must hide the geocache somewhere new after finding it and publish its new coordinates. There are some grandfathered moving geocaches listed on Geocaching.com, such as the ‘Cuckoo Cache (could be anywhere)’ - GC4C35.
Virtual Geocaches - However, for some geocaching is more about location than the treasure they find. For this reason, all the listing sites have welcomed virtual geocache submissions. Please note, however, that Geocaching.com no longer accept submissions of any Virtual Caches except EarthCaches, unlike Opencache.uk and Terracaching.com. They are all found at the published coordinates and are as follows:
- Virtual Cache - a location, which can be claimed as a find if requirements are fulfilled. On Geocaching.com, the geocache owner must be emailed with the answers to the task set on the geocache page, whilst on Opencache.uk this can be entered as a Log Password to claim the find. This simply proves that you have visited the location.
- EarthCache (only on Geocaching.com) - the same as a Virtual Cache, except the location must be a site of geological and geographic interest, in which the geocacher learns about a feature. Logging requirements include tasks surrounding this geological phenomenon, and answers should be emailed to the EarthCache owner in order to claim the find. Find out more at The Geological Society of America and in our Seeker article 'EarthCaches: the Appliance of Science' by Terry Marsh.
- Webcam Cache - a webcam is found at the published coordinates; its image can be accessed online. You must grab a screenshot on your smartphone, or call a friend to ask them to do so, and post it with your log in order to claim a find.
- Cyber Cache (only on Terracaching.com) - a certain challenge outlined on the geocache page must be fulfilled with a picture posted to claim the find.
Event Caches - Many geocachers are social folk, so it's convenient that attending a caching event counts as a find. They are a great way to meet other geocachers and to find out more about our game. There are different types:
- Event Cache - an event at a specific location with a specific time and date associated with it. Open to all to attend, with the shortest event lasting 30 minutes. These events have between 1-499 attendees. You can list an event on any/all listing sites. Check out our list of upcoming events. Stanthews explains the benefits of events and meeting other geocachers in our Seeker 13 article 'An Eventful Occasion'.
- Mega Event Cache (only on Geocaching.com) - an Event Cache with a minimum of 500 attendees, but no more than 5000 attendees. Check out our Upcoming UK Mega Events page.
Event Cache (only on Geocaching.com) - an Event Cache with at least 5,000 attendees.
- CITO Event Cache (only on Geocaching.com) - a 'Cache In Trash Out' event, in which geocachers gather to help improve the local environment. See our CITO page for lots more information.
- GPS Adventure Maze (only on Geocaching.com) - a GPS Maze is an exhibition which explains the history of satellite navigation, GPS technology and, of course, geocaching. The maze consists of information panels and interactive displays which demonstrate different types of hides, puzzle solving methods such as Morse code or reflected code as well as example of GPS units, geocoins and much, much more! There is even a night section showcasing how much fun night caching can be. It is aimed at all levels of geocacher from novice through to expert and there is something to learn for everyone. Find out more in our Seeker Article. The first GPS Maze in the UK took place in Llangollen, North Wales in August 2016.
As you can imagine, geocaches come in a range of sizes and some are more common than others.
- Micro - the smallest geocache size. Containers are less than 100ml and typically contain just a log sheet. Examples are a 35mm film pot or a nano geocache. A more common geocache size.
- Small - typically a small tupperware box, no larger than 1 litre in size. It will hold a log book and some small items (trackables or swaps). A more common geocache size.
- Regular - a geocache larger than 1 litre in size. Typically larger tupperware boxes, or ammo cans. Recommended for a first geocache find (easier to spot). Best for lots of swaps and trackables. A fairly common geocache size.
- Large - a geocache larger than 20 litres in size. Recommended for a first geocache find (easier to spot). An uncommon geocache size.
- Other - often nano geocaches, although these should be listed as Micro, or sneaky, devious containers e.g. fake snail shell with a geocache inside. A fairly common geocache size. This is also the size shown for an Event Cache.
- Virtual - A Virtual Cache, with no physical container. You will need to take a photo or answer some questions which you email to the cache owner.
Finding Your First Geocache
Step 1: Plan
- You can download the Geocaching® app or visit Geocaching.com, or another listing site.
- Create a free account and log in.
- Search for a place or postcode on Geocaching.com in a location you are interested in visiting and save some geocaches on your GPS or your smartphone.
- Pack any needed supplies such as water, food, maps and extra clothing.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you intend to be back, especially if you are alone. Geocaching is great fun, so invite some friends or family to join you on your adventure.
Step 2: Hunt
- Mark your car or a well-marked trail as a waypoint to ensure your safe return.
- Use the GPS, or phone, map or compass to navigate to the geocache location following paths as much as possible. Enjoy the rural or urban landscape around you and look out for interesting places along your way.
- It is possible to triangulate the position of the geocache. From 30 metres away, follow the arrow on your GPS towards the geocache. Repeat twice walking from different directions. Where these three paths meet, hopefully at one point, should be the geocache location. This technique usually gets you within a step or two of the actual geocache so if it is hidden well you know where to concentrate your search.
- Within 15 metres of the geocache location, rely on your eyes rather than your GPS. Remember that some are often very cleverly camouflaged!
Step 3: Find
- Geocaches vary greatly in size and appearance, as we've suggested above. Some can be very easy to find - others can be very sneaky and require a bit of a hunt! You could see anything from large, clear plastic containers to film canisters, a fake rock with a secret compartment or an extremely small magnetic nano.
- So, how do you find the geocache? Look for obvious places such as piles of sticks or stones, a hollow tree etc. It's normally wise to check the hint out before you begin your search (especially as you're getting started with the game) in order to narrow the possibilities down. Since there are a lot of abbreviated letters in geocaching hints, visit our Geocaching Acronyms page for a list of what they mean.
- If you still cannot find the geocache look at the difficulty and terrain rating as well as the geocache size, these will all help you narrow down a search area. Look at past logs to see if there are any clues or photos.
- Remember to geocache responsibly, CITO where you can and report any fly-tipping to your local council. If you see any issues on the footpaths, you can help solve them. We advise that you download the Ramblers app; more information can be found on the Ramblers website.
Step 4: Log
- Sign and date the logbook inside the geocache.
- Most geocaches contain swaps, ranging from trinkets, to bouncy balls, books and DVDs (in larger geocaches). You don't have to swap anything, but if you take something, you should leave something of equal or greater value, to keep the game fun for the next visitors. For your next hunt, consider packing some swaps into your bag in case you or your children see something great.
- Many geocaches contain trackable items. A Trackable is a sort of physical geocaching game piece - a geotag or a geocoin. You will often find them in geocaches or see them at events. Each trackable is etched with a unique code that can be used to log its movements online on geocaching.com as it travels in the real world. Some of these items have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to geocachers who help to keep it moving and put it in another geocache or event. Do not keep it, remember to log its travels online and drop it into another geocache or event within a couple of weeks. More information on trackables can be found on our FAQ page: What are Travel Bugs®/Geocoins/Trackables?.
- Leave the geocache as you found it - hidden in exactly the same place.
Step 5: Found a Geocache, Now What?
- Once you're home,
log into the listing site that hosts the geocache you found and log your find. You can upload photos from your adventure, if
you'd like to. With the rise of geocaching apps, which enable you to log directly from the field as you find your
geocaches, many online logs have become very short. Such logs contain simple emojis, or single words such as
‘Found’ or ‘TFTC’ (meaning Thanks for the Cache). This is done unintentionally as many new geocachers
don't understand the importance of writing a good log.
Geocache owner (CO's) put in a considerable amount of time, effort and money throughout the lifespan of their geocaches. Every time you find a geocache, the CO receives an email with your comments. It is therefore understandable why seeing ‘TFTC’ on each of their geocaches is not preferred in contrast to a log that goes further and outlines the journey to the geocache and the experience finding it. You can then round your log off with a ‘TFTC’. Sure, it takes longer, but enjoy it - sit down at your computer in the evening with a cup of tea and recall your adventures and experiences. It'll make you smile again, and it'll also make the CO smile. Remember to upload some photos if you can.
- Can't find the geocache you've spend hours searching for? Let the geocache owner know by logging a DNF! There's nothing to be ashamed of for not finding the geocache - the geocache could simply be missing, moved or harder than the geocache owner anticipated. You are in fact doing a favour for the geocache owner, as your DNF notice will encourage the CO to check up on the geocache to see if everything's okay. There is more about DNFing in our Seeker article, 'The Importance of DNF-ing'.
- If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it is said to have been muggled by muggles, a term popularised by the Harry Potter series of books. If a geocacher discovers that a geocache has been damaged or the logbook is wet, it can be logged as 'Needs Maintenance', which sends an email to the geocache owner. This alerts them that it needs to be repaired, replaced, or archived (deactivated). There is an interesting article in Seeker 15 about 'Needs Maintenance?'
Are There any Rules?
- Only leave items that are safe and family-friendly.
- Don't leave any items of food or drink.
- Geocaches should not be buried.
- Respect local laws and obey posted signs.
- Have fun!
In addition, the GAGB promote a voluntary code for geocachers, which you can read here: Geocachers' Code of Conduct.
What Equipment do You Need?
- GPS/Smart phone - An essential piece of equipment!
- Mobile Phone - Always carry a mobile phone with you in case you find yourself in a difficult situation. It is also useful to have a phone so that you can ring or text another geocacher for an extra hint if you're struggling to find the geocache. Mobile phone reception can be very poor in the countryside, so sign up for the Emergency SMS Text Service, so it could now be possible to contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text.
- Pen/Pencil - Not all geocaches have a pen or pencil, so carry one just in case.
- Spare Batteries - You don't want to run out of power so always carry a spare set with you.
- Snacks/Drinks - As with any outdoor activity, staying hydrated is important. Take along an ample supply.
- Extra Clothing - Check the weather forecast before you go and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Always be ready for possible changes in weather.
- Maps - A real map (such an Ordnance Survey map) is arguably essential in case your GPS or smart phone runs out of power.
- Tweezers - Some log sheets are hard to remove, so tweezers can be handy to extract the log sheets or geocaches from tight spaces.
- Compass - Useful to have to help you navigate.
- Whistle - A great safety device - just in case.
- First Aid Kit - Useful especially if geocaching with kids. Remember wet wipes, insect repellent and sunscreen.
- Torch - Good to have in case it gets dark. It is also useful to search in dark hidey holes, such as a large tree hollow.
- Geoswag - Bring lots of swaps - remember to trade with items of equal or greater value.
- Hiking Stick - Great for hill walking but also looking for geocaches in nettles or hedges.
- Geocache Repair Kit - It's nice to be able to do some TLC when needed. Always ask the CO if they would like their log sheets if you replace them.
“The Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. DBA Geocaching. Used with permission.”
“5 Geocaches in 30 Seconds” video is copyright Groundspeak, Inc. DBA Geocaching. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
“Finding a Geocache” video is copyright Groundspeak, Inc. DBA Geocaching. Used with permission. All rights reserved.