What is this Geocaching Thing Anyway?

So you just got a new smartphone, and you’ve heard about this gee-oh-cashing thing that sounds like fun. You download the app (not the free one which kind of walks you through, but the paid app because you don’t need instructions, you read the app description and that’s enough.), create an account, and head out into the land of adventure!

History Lesson, History Lesson
Geocaching started a long time ago when the U.S. Government decided to allow civilians who had GPS receivers better accuracy.  So Dave in Oregon, decided to hide something and posted on a message board the longitude and latitude.  Someone found it and geocaching was born.

Enough with History!  Now I have noticed that the world has basically two kinds of cachers, those who know what they are doing, and those who don’t.  This article is addressed to those who don’t, and for the amusement of those who do.  It’s just a few hints and suggestions if you are just starting out.

The Basics
Before going out, learn something about how geocaching works- more than the simple stuff I’m going tell you here.  Just because you can find a cache doesn’t make you a geocacher, it makes you a “muggle-lite.” Until you understand and can live by the basic rules you know just enough to be dangerous and annoying.  You are the person the bomb squad gets called about. Visit Geocaching.com, Listen to Podcacher or another podcast, watch cool intro videos on YouTube. You didn’t just go out and start flying that 747, you had to take some classes first! So educate yourself.

Shhh… Be very, very quiet
Geocaching is about stealth, embrace your inner ninja.  Don’t let other people see you or hear you.  I recall an early standoff in a parking lot in which two cachers who didn’t know each other sat in their cars feet away from a cache trying to look inconspicuous.  Finally, after it looked like one had decided to change their oil… Well it wasn’t pretty.  It is better sometimes to walk away and try again another day.

Your First, Second, Third Find…
You found the cache on the third branch of a pine tree about a foot from the trunk… put it back in the same place.  Many new cachers want to rehide a cache because they think it was too easy, or the cache might get wet.  Cache owners know exactly where they hid the cache and don’t want to play hide and seek with their own cache.  Also when it comes to cache containers, make sure they are completely closed before putting them back EXACTLY WHERE YOU FOUND IT.

Trade items
Not all caches have trade items- the larger the cache container, the better chance that it will have SWAG. The golden rule, if you take something from a cache you must put in something of equal or greater value.  Something appropriate for all ages, not explosive and something that won’r attract critters (no food). As a new cacher stay away from trackables until you’ve gotten some experience.  That shiny coin is not something you take home and put in your treasure box, it is supposed to go from cache to cache.  A dog tag means no matter how cute the troll is, it is supposed to travel, not go home with you.

Not All Caches are Created Equal
There are different kinds of caches.  New cachers should start by only going for traditional caches- on the iPhone app these appear green… don’t mess around with any others until you’ve gotten the hang of things (Cecil’s recommendation- 25 finds and one event or 50 finds).  You can set your app to only display traditional caches in the settings (I’m an iPhone user- so don’t ask me about other devices) under Search Filter.  By putting your app on “Traditional Only” you won’t get the person who put out “A Century of 5/5’s” upset because you logged their cache but didn’t meet the logging requirements.

Yes, some caches have logging requirements- READ THE CACHE PAGE to find out.  If you stick to traditional caches you should run into too much trouble, but still LEARN SOMETHING AND READ THE CACHE PAGE. Oh, did I mention you should READ THE CACHE PAGE?

But My GPS is Always Right!
Not there?  If you are new to geocaching, it probably is there and you just can’t find it. Many GPS units (especially your phone) can be as much as 30 feet off- even more if you are under cover.  DON’T email the owner saying it must have been stolen and they better get out and replace it, DON’T put in your log that it must have been taken and you are absolutely sure where it should be, DON’t try to be a good Samaritan and put a new cache out, where you “know” it should be.  DON’T mark the cache as “Needs Maintenance” because you couldn’t find it, and DON’T mark the cache as “Needs Archived” because you couldn’t find it.  As a new cacher your log should be something like “I’m new, I guess it just wasn’t my day- I’ll try again another day” or something like that.

Hiding a Cache-
New Cachers- don’t go trying to hide a cache until you’ve experienced enough hides (Cecil always recommends 100 finds of different kinds).  Hiding a cache is a great way to give something back to the community, but listen to the reviewers, they are being paid millions of dollars to answer your questions (that’s what “volunteer” means). Don’t argue with them, that would be bad, they are really nice people and Karma can be a…

Membership has its Privileges
Becoming a Premium Member requires you to pay an annual fee, to get access to a bunch of things that as a new cacher you don’t need. Cecil recommends that if you are still caching after 6 months and have about 100 finds, you should consider it, but it really isn’t that important until you are sure that you can follow the rules and play nice.

So We’re All Meeting at Cecil’s
Events also come in different kinds, and can be found on Geocaching.com.  These are great ways to meet other cachers.  Don’t have time for something big?  Check out a Flash Mob these are only supposed to last 30 minutes (Cecil likes to call them “micro-events”)  Events need to be submitted two weeks out so a simple list of events for the month can change drastically by the end of the month- check them out yourself on Geocaching.com to make sure you have the most up to information.  The Spring Picnic is usually held the second weekend in May, the location bounces around.  The nearest “Mega-Event” is Midwest GeoBash in Waseon, OH.  A Mega-Event is a really big event, usually with presentations, vendors, and fun for all ages.

So grasshopper, there are some the basics to hopefully help you as you start out this summer.  Just remember to start slow, and get to know how the community of geocachers works. Unfortunately, while there are some great places online to find all sorts of good information, you are going to have to search for yourself (think of it as online geocaching). The important part is to have fun, and be nice.  Check back here or go to Geocaching.com and look for local events where you can meet other more seasoned (i.e. old) cachers who can help you and tell interesting stories (interesting might be a bit of a stretch) about their adventures around the world.  Did I ever tell you about the time I was stuck in a parking lot waiting for this doofus to move so I could get the cache, and he opened the hood of his car and started to check the oil?  I couldn’t believe it!

ook! Questions? Any other suggestions for new phone cachers?  Put them in the comments.

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2 Responses to What is this Geocaching Thing Anyway?

  1. algoan says:

    Love this… I wouldn’t change a thing… except the Spring Picnic is sometimes on the 2nd weekend and sometimes on the 3rd, but always the Saturday that follows Mother’s Day. In 2016, it will be on May 14, location yet to be determined. 😉

  2. Pirate 4 Hire says:

    Well said! But it should be noted that it’s ALWAYS good to read the cache page! Oh wait, you mentioned that! Lol. It is definitely worth repeating!!!

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