Geocaching: Everything You Need To Know

If you're looking for a unique way to explore the outdoors and experience the thrill of treasure hunting, then geocaching might just be the activity for you. 

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. Geocaching is enjoyed by people of all ages and is a great way to get outdoors, explore new places, and connect with a worldwide community of geocachers. The activity has grown substantially since the first geocache was placed in 2000, with over 3 million active geocaches around the globe today.

History of Geocaching

Geocaching originated in 2000 when the United States government turned off Selective Availability on GPS signals, which improved accuracy for civilian navigation devices substantially. On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer wanted to test out this new GPS accuracy by hiding a bucket in the woods near Portland, Oregon and posting the coordinates online. This original stash was called a "GPS stash" and soon people were hiding more containers and sharing the locations online. Within a week of the first cache being placed, a new geocaching website launched at to organise and standardise the rapidly growing activity. The name "geocaching" was coined by Matt Stum, one of the founders of, who blended the words "geo" and "caching". In the early days caches were mainly found in North America and Europe but popularity quickly spread worldwide. By 2002 there were over 7,000 active caches and soon geocaching stretched across all seven continents, even Antarctica! The hobby continued growing rapidly through the 2000s. In 2010, hit 1 million members and by 2016 there were over 3 million active geocaches worldwide. Certain milestones really boosted interest, like when Geocaching was featured on The Amazing Race television show. Today there are over 7 million geocachers worldwide, actively seeking over 3 million active geocache containers across 191 countries. Geocachers have logged over 380 million finds in total since 2000! While the activity has evolved with technology, the spirit of adventure and community remains at the heart of geocaching today.

Your geocaching treasure hunt starts here

Geocaching for Beginners

New to geocaching? No problem! It's easy to get started. Here is everything you need to know as a beginner geocacher. First, you’ll need to create a free account on or a geocaching app. This allows you to view cache listings around the world and document your finds. You can browse the map to see pins where caches are hidden near your location. Next, you’ll need a GPS device or smartphone with a geocaching app to navigate to cache coordinates. More on essential gear in the next section. Apps like c:geo or Geocaching are popular choices. When you’re ready to find your first cache, search for well-rated caches with recent activity logs to ensure they are there. The listing will provide cache details including coordinates, difficulty and terrain rating. Use your GPS to navigate close to the coordinates, then start hunting! Once you find the geocache container, sign the logbook and note the experience online. Geocache logs record when a cache was found and by whom. They help the cache owner monitor the status.


After a few finds, you can even hide your own geocache! Choose a location 200 feet from trails and private property, pack a container with a logbook and small toys, then publish the cache listing with photos online. As a beginner, read through geocaching guidelines and etiquette to preserve the hobby. Remember to trade items, stay on trails, and pack out any litter you find. Experienced cachers also love assisting newbies. With over 3 million geocaches worldwide, this treasure hunting adventure will take you to amazing places. Enjoy the thrill of the search and connect with fellow geocaching enthusiasts along the way.

Essential Geocaching Gear & Tools

While geocaching only requires a few key pieces of equipment, having the right gear and tools can really enhance the hobby. Here are some essentials every geocacher should have:


GPS Device or Geocaching App

A GPS receiver or smartphone with an app like c:geo is the most important geocaching tool. Apps connect to satellite data to pinpoint your location and provide navigation to cache coordinates. Dedicated devices from brands like Garmin and Magellan are more accurate and have better battery life, but a smartphone with a geocaching app works well for most hides. Popular iOS apps include the official Geocaching® app which syncs directly with, as well as c:geo, Pocket Query Pro, and Geosphere. Top Android choices are c:geo, Geocaching®, and Cache Sense. Key factors when comparing geocaching apps include the interface design, GPS accuracy, offline use capability, size of cache database, pocket query management, logbook functions, cost, and user ratings. For most users, the official Geocaching and c:geo apps are top choices because of their extensive worldwide cache listings, seamless syncing with, and intuitive mobile-friendly interface. While a dedicated GPS device is ideal for hardcore geocachers, smartphone apps provide a convenient all-in-one tool for navigation, connecting with the geocaching community, and logging your finds.


Sturdy Hiking Shoes or Boots

Since geocaches are often hidden off-trail, sturdy footwear is a must for the activity. Hiking shoes or boots with good ankle support, grippy rubber tread, and waterproofing allow you to comfortably traverse rugged natural terrain, muddy trails, slippery rocks, fallen branches, and other obstacles. Look for shoes or lightweight hikers that breathe well but still provide protection. Ankle-height boots add support while venturing over uneven ground and through brush. Sturdy soles with deep lugs grip the earth while the upper material shields against scrapes. Waterproof styles keep feet dry when encountering puddles, streams, or damp weather while caching. Breathable fabrics cut down on sweat during active days. Ankle support stabilizes steps on steep slopes or unstable surfaces hidden deep in the geocaching zone. Tough toes withstand scuffs from rocks and roots. Finally, ensure proper traction - geocaches are often found off the beaten path, so rugged tread helps prevent slips on mud, wet grass, gravel, etc. With the right hiking footwear, you can comfortably traverse all types of terrain and stay protected while searching for caches near and far.


Small Backpack 

A compact backpackallows geocachers to conveniently carry essentials while keeping their hands free for climbing, crawling, or bushwhacking. Small backpacks around 20 liters are ideal for short day trips. Look for comfortable straps, breathable back panels, and compartments to organize gear. Must-have items to carry include: phone, an extra handheld GPS as backup, power bank and cords, reusable water bottle, bug spray, sunscreen, light jacket, first aid kit, work gloves, flashlight or headlamp, pens, small towels or wipes, plastic bags for device protection or swag, light snacks like protein bars, and a camera to document your geocaching quests. For extra convenience, attach carabiners to easily clip on small items you’ll need repeatedly like flashlights. Choose a brightly colored pack to spot easily if you set it down while searching an area. A lightweight, compact backpack is another option that lets you quickly access items while keeping your back free. With a well-stocked backpack, you’ll have all the essentials right at your fingertips for an efficient, comfortable geocaching adventure.


Handheld GPS for Backup

Smartphone batteries can unexpectedly die at inopportune times when you’re far from a charger and service is spotty. That’s why a handheld GPS device makes a useful backup for geocaching when your primary GPS fails. Affordable handheld units from reputable outdoor brands like Garmin, Magellan, and Bushnell provide accurate navigation to cache coordinates even when you’re offline and without cellular service. Key features to look for include long battery life, durable waterproof casing, high-sensitivity antenna, and easy-to-read display. Compact palm-sized devices are ideal for stashing in your pack or pocket just in case. Though smartphone apps are convenient all-in-one geocaching tools, they are prone to technical issues that a dedicated GPS device won’t encounter. With a reliable backup handheld GPS on hand, you can keep venturing towards cache sites confidently even if your phone fails. Choose an intuitive, basic GPS that’s quick to learn on the fly. While full-featured GPS options for geocaching have more bells and whistles, a budget-friendly backup model only needs to provide accurate navigation data to get you to the cache zone if your primary device can’t. Having fail-safe navigation makes geocaching less stressful and more enjoyable.


Geocoin or Tracking Tag

Geocoins are special trackable tags that geocachers can move from cache to cache to see how far they travel. Each coin has a unique tracking code which lets you follow its journey online as it gets discovered and relocated by other geocachers worldwide. Geocoins make fun signature items you can distribute and enjoy watching move across states or continents. Custom-designed coins also let geocachers show off their personality. Trackable tags don’t necessarily have to be coin shaped - they could be keychains, small action figures, or medallions. Some trackables even have specific “missions” like gathering travel bug photos at National Parks or moving coins toward certain destinations. Wherever they roam, the tracking number provides an identifier to log where and when the tag was rediscovered. To get started, you can purchase unique trackable coins from the Geocaching store, eBay, Etsy, or create your own DIY tags. When dropping a coin in a cache, monitor its online progress periodically as other geocachers report discovering it days, weeks or months later. With over a million trackable items circulating worldwide, you may encounter others’ coins during your adventures too. Recording discoveries expands the story of each geocoin. Whether custom-crafted or obtained through a vendor, trackable tags add exciting new dimensions to the geocaching pastime.

Some essentials for your geocaching toolbox

Top Geocaching Apps for Android and iOS

While a dedicated GPS handheld is ideal, smartphone apps can also be great geocaching companions. Here are top-rated apps for both Android and iOS users:



  • c:geo - Open source app with vast database of geocaches. Easy to use interface and excellent offline features.

  • Geocaching® - Official Geocaching app syncs with Live data on millions of caches.

  • Cache Sense - Intuitive app good for beginners. Offline caching, navigation tools, data backup.


  • Geocaching® - Official app by Groundspeak. Sync your account, instant access to cache details.
  • c:geo - Full featured, open source alternative app for iPhone. Shows all cache types.

  • Pocket Query Pro - Smooth app to manage and sort pocket queries efficiently. Intuitive iOS layout.

  • Geosphere - Sleek app for casual caching. Social features to track friends. Easy list management.

Geocaching Safety Tips

Like any outdoor activity, it’s important to cache safely. Follow these tips to minimise risks while geocaching:

  • Cache with a Buddy → Having a friend along provides assistance if you get hurt, lost or encounter wildlife. Avoid solo caching in very remote/dangerous areas.

  • Know Your Limits → Only take on caches matched to your physical abilities. Check terrain rating before attempting. Turn around if a cache seems too risky.

  • Watch Your Surroundings → Be aware of hazards like poison ivy, cliffs, animals, etc. Caches near roads/water warrant extra caution.

  • Pack Essentials → Carry a first aid kit, flashlight, whistle, water, food, weather-appropriate clothes, and a power bank for emergencies.

  • Follow Geocaching Guidelines → Review’s guidelines before hiding or seeking caches. Adhere to local laws and avoid private property.

  • Let Someone Know Your Route → Share your caching plans and approximate schedule with a contact at home before heading out.

  • Cache at Your Skill Level → Build up gradually from easier caches to more challenging hides as your skills improve. No shame in skipping a tough cache!

  • Trust Your Instincts → If a cache seems hazardous to reach or an area doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and move on. The cache will still be there later.

Geocaching is meant to be an enjoyable activity for all. Following safety best practices helps ensure the hobby stays fun for everyone. Stay vigilant and use common sense to cache responsibly.

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