What is the Game of Geocaching?: Understanding the GPS Game


Geocaching, pronounced geo-cashing, first came onto the scene in the year 2000 when Selective Availability, used primarily by the military and governments, was turned off on global positioning satellites allowing everyone with a GPS unit to receive accurate location information. This event allowed the emergence of the high tech and popular game known as geocaching.

selective availability gps
Global Positioning Satellites – image by worldofitech.com

How is Geocaching Played?

Geocaching can easily be played with the use of any handheld GPS unit. First a cache, which is simply a watertight container, is created, filled with a log book and items to be traded and then hidden at an outdoor location.

What is the Game of Geocaching?: Understanding the GPS Game
A handheld GPS unit – image by midwayusa.com

The cache owner records the coordinates of the cache and uploads them to a website so that players can use them in an attempt to seek out and find the cache, sign the log book and trade out an item if they wish. Players then log onto the website and claim their find.

Just because a player has a GPS and the coordinates doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they can find the cache however. Cache owners have become very inventive about disguising and camouflaging their caches.

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Caches may be hidden, but never buried – image by dhthebeststop.com

Caches can be smaller than a penny, often referred to as nanos or micros, or they can be as large as a dumpster. Nano and Micro-caches make finding the cache more difficult and does not allow for the ability to trade items. Caches may be hidden, but never buried.

Variations in the Game of Geocaching

Indoor game of geocaching – image by thebreakout.eu

There are several different types of caches available in the game of geocaching. Traditional caches are the simplest to find. The players simply plug in the coordinates and find the cache.

Multi-stage caches are a bit harder with the coordinates given only for the first location. Puzzle and Mystery Caches are another type of cache that require the player to solve a puzzle in order to discover the location, and Event Caches allow a group of cachers to get together in one place and socialize.

Puzzle Cache Geocaching
Puzzle Cache of Geocaching – image by geocaching.com

Among trade items, also referred to as “swag,” are other enhancements such as Travel Bugs and Geo Coins. Each of these personalized trackable items allows a player to move it to a new geocache and then log its progress on the website. Many trackables have their own story and mission to complete, such as making it to all fifty states.

Geocoin – image by pinterest.com

In addition, if a player gets lucky enough to be the first to find a newly placed cache, they often walk away with a FTF, First-to-Find, prize which could be anything from cash to a limited addition FTF geo coin. Sometimes the early bird gets more than just a worm.

Get Started in Geocaching

Event Caches allow a group of cachers to get together in one place and socialize – image by pinterest.com

Players do not have to create caches of their own in order to play. All they need is a handheld GPS, coordinates from the Geocaching website, and a desire to get out there and hunt. But first, be sure to read up on Geocaching Etiquette and pledge to have fun with this family-friendly game.


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