Geocaching Warnings, Tips and Terminology


  • Use of geocaching apps may incur smartphone data charges.
  • Walking and looking at your smartphone is unsafe – especially while hiking.
  • Watch out for Poison Oak or physical obstacles such as over-hanging branches.
  • Geocaching rules do not allow caches on private property without the approval of the property owner. The approval should be stated in the cache description. If you think you need to trespass on private property, then something is wrong. Don’t trespass.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and, if you feel uncomfortable, walk away.


  • Read the cache description which may give you clues about the cache location.
  • The point where your app displays that you are zero feet from the cache is called Ground Zero (GZ). It will vary due to the location of the GPS satellites and objects that interfere with GPS signals such as trees. It will also vary due to different GPS microchips that are used in smartphones. Once your app shows that you are within about 10′ of the cache, it is almost always useless to keep using the smartphone to get closer. Stop looking at the app and start searching the immediate area.
  • The person who placed the cache may not have accurately determined the cache coordinates so the cache may not be near GZ. When you have searched the immediate area with no success, start expanding your search. If the cache is more than about 25′ from GZ, another cacher will probably have noted it in their log.
  • Some caches have a hint. Many cachers read the hint on the way to the cache.
  • Note the cache size. A micro cache is typically the size of a small prescription bottle. However, there are nano caches which are smaller. Since does not have a nano size, nano caches are listed as micros and the description usually informs you that the cache is a nano.
  • Note the difficulty rating which is on a scale from 1 to 5. If the difficulty is more than 2.5, this cache is hard to find and extra search time may be needed.
  • Note the terrain rating which is on a scale from 1 to 5. 1.0 could be accessible from a wheelchair. If the terrain is 5, special equipment is required such climbing or scuba gear or a watercraft.
  • Look for something that doesn’t belong.
  • Think about where you would hide a cache in this spot. This is known as geosense.
  • If all else fails, read the logs. Another cacher may have given a hint in their log.
  • It is against geocaching rules to bury caches except in sand. However, it is legal to dig a hole in the ground, inset the cache and cover it with leaves, bark, etc.
  • Caches go missing due to animals, the weather and non-cachers (who are known as muggles) who may find and destroy or take them. Don’t spend too much time looking for a cache. You can always contact the Cache Owner (CO) or another cacher who logged it and ask them for help.

Cache Types

The different kinds of geocaches on’s Geocache Types web page.

Geocaching Terminology

Geocaching terms and abbreviations on’s Glossary of Terms web page.

Basic (free) vs Premium accounts has 2 kinds of accounts: basic and premium. If you become a serious geocacher, you will probably want to upgrade to the premium account which costs $30/year. Some of the premium account benefits are

  • Download up to 10,000 geocaches per day (the basic account can only download 3 per day). Very useful for when you travel.
  • See Premium geocaches (caches which are not visible to basic accounts)
  • Create and download Pocket Queries.
  • Create and download caches along a route.

Click here for more information about premium membership.