We’ve had the privilege of introducing a few hundred middle school students to the game of geocaching. For those of you wondering about this world-wide game of hiding and seeking “treasure”, here are some key facts:

  • The word geocache comes from GEO (for geography) plus CACHE (for valuables concealed in a hiding place
  • The game started May 3, 2000 – 48 hours after Selective Availability* was turned off, pursuant to an order from U.S. President Bill Clinton.
  • There are now millions of active geocaches hidden around the world and more than 5 million user accounts on (the most popular geocaching website)

* a feature of the Global Positioning System which limits the accuracy of GPS coordinates available to civilians

How Does it Work?

In very general terms, a geocacher hides a container, records its position using a GPS receiver or a smart phone and then shares the location and a description of the container online. Most geocaches are published on Before a new geocache is published, a volunteer reviewer ensures the new geocache meets all of the placement guidelines. Sometimes the hider will be asked to provide additional information and/or shift their container to a new hiding spot. Once everything is “good to go”, the newly published listing allows anyone with a GPS receiver or a smart phone loaded with a geocaching app to use the published coordinates to try to find the container.

Are All Geocaches the Same?

No! Geocaches can be as big a Rubbermaid storage tote or as small as the tip of your baby finger. They can be sitting in plain sight under a tree, can be covered by fallen leaves or old logs, or they can be camouflaged to look like a rock, a log, part of a sign or something else. There are special types of geocaches that don’t have a container, including event caches (where a bunch of geocachers get together for some reason) and earthcaches (which are geology lessons).

Every physical geocache – even the ones as small as the small as the tip of your baby finger – contain some sort of logbook. Larger containers often have trading swag, such as small toys, magnets, etc. If a geocache contains trading swag and you decide to trade, you should always trade for something of similar or greater value. It’s considered “bad manners” to leave things like range golf balls, expiring coupons, old nails, and similar items in a cache. Geocaches should never contain food, matches, pocket knives or other inappropriate items.

When You Find a Geocache

  • Record your find in the logbook
  • Re-hide the container exactly as you found it – same place and same camo (or maybe even a little better, if it was out in the open)
  • If you find a trackable, be sure to put it in another cache soon
  • Log your find (and any trackables) on

We use a GPS receiver when we’re out geocaching, so can’t offer much advice on using a smart phone app. But if you’re interested in how GPS receivers work, we did a series of blog posts on that topic back in January 2012 (check the archives).

You may also want to click on “Geocaching” in our category cloud to read all of our posts related to geocaching – events, trackables, personal geocoins, geocache hunts and hikes, some of the stats geocachers like to track and more.

Questions about geocaching? Please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to provide an answer.

Helpful Websites
Geocaching (listing site used by most geocachers)
Geocaching: How to Get Started (from REI)

Latitude 47 – The Official Blog of
Its Not About The Numbers
Andean Trekker
Geocaching Journal

26 thoughts on “Geocaching

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  14. Blair

    Recently returned to Banff so my kids could grow up here too. (About to hop on bikes out to Sundance Canyon – how google brought me to your site.) Will give geocashing a first try and if we like it we’ll place some on our next Cambodia visit, where my kids were born.
    In your opinion, in less developed countries, should geocashes only be placed right near (50-1000m.) of current tourist areas, or are there enough adventurous geocashers around who might go off the tourist/traveller highways to visit new – safe – cool spots within 15-25 km of popular tourist spots. On average, are geocash folks adventurous or more likely those more comfortable with known and controlled situations?

    1. Well, we’ve been to Cambodia, India, Tanzania, and a few other lesser developed countries and I’d say you would get people visiting your geocaches regardless of whether they’re near current tourist areas or more off the beaten path. All kinds of people geocache. Geocaches hidden near tourist hotspots will get a lot more visitors. I think the biggest downside to placing geocaches near popular tourist spots is that they’re more likely to be muggled (i.e. discovered by someone who isn’t a geocacher and who decides to remove the container). There’s a lower likelihood of your container going missing in a more remote spot and many geocachers really appreciate getting off the beaten track to places more known only to the locals. Regardless, I recommend you try to talk a friend or relative into maintaining any geocaches you hide when you’re on your next Cambodia visit, just in case they do go missing or need to have the logbook replaced. Good luck finding your first geocaches here in Canada!

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  22. Sophie

    Hi GeoKs,
    I’m producing a travel guide for National Geographic and would love to quote from your blog entry on the Devonian Gardens (May 3rd). We can’t offer money but we would credit you in the book. Please let me know what you think,
    thank you and best wishes,

  23. Hello from Canmore. Today I went out on a bike ride with a friend who is an avid geocacher and we found a couple caches – so fun. It led me to google which led me to you. So my question is would you be at all interested in leading an introduction to geocaching on June 1st at the oening for Canmore’s first annual Bike Month at the Canmore Nordic Centre? If it peaks your interest, please get in touch

    1. Hi Gini – We replied vie e-mail last week. We’d be happy to work with you on something like this, so just let us know if you’d like to go ahead on June 1st (or some other date).

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