You are currently viewing The Ultimate Treasure Hunt: Geocaching 101

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt: Geocaching 101

If you or your kids like scavenger hunts, puzzles or hide and seek, then geocaching is for you. It’s the ultimate treasure hunt and it can take you all over the world. My family and I started finding geocaches 3 years ago. The first one we found was about a mile away from our house and from that moment on we were hooked! The challenge of finding the cache and the thrill when found is a rush and will have you hooked immediately.

Entering the woods to look for another geocache

Catching the Geocaching Bug

I’m not sure I’d consider my kids “A” type personalities. They like getting their way but what kid doesn’t. However, when it comes to finding geocaches, they don’t like to give up. They’ve crawled on hands and knees in the woods looking for them. They’ve put their hands down holes to get the cache, it’s amazing to me, especially when you consider Ainsley will scream when she sees a snail shell. lol. I think it’s the idea of a great treasure they might find in the end.

We have learned though, we now bring a pair of plastic gloves with us when we’re out on the hunt. Geocaching is some serious business. It’s also so much fun to see what the girls are willing to bring to trade. There have been times when they haven’t traded and other times when they wish they brought more items to trade. The larger the cache, the more interesting the trade items can be. But I’ve enjoyed seeing the small trinkets people leave behind when it’s a small cache.

Of course, the micro caches are often more difficult to find. One that we found was disguised as a screw on a public bench in a park. So clever. The clue was ‘take a seat, enjoy the view’. It’s so funny when we tell the girls the clues and there are lots of people around. Since geocaching is a treasure hunt you want to keep the secret of the hiding place. That means if you’re in a very public place you have to watch out for the muggles. Don’t let them catch on to your actions. We’ve pretended to tie our shoes to look under benches or pick up a piece of trash to look under a newspaper stand, that kind of thing.

Geocaching secrecy

Once you find it you still have to ‘mind the muggles’. Write in the log that you when you found it, maybe make a trade and replace the cache without anyone noticing what you are doing. Not always the easiest thing to do. But it’s been totally worth all the effort for our family. Our kids have really enjoyed the pursuit of the illustrious treasure. They are true treasure hunters.


Geocaching started back on May 3rd, 2000. Actually, it started the day after 24 new satellites around the globe were ‘turned on’ and the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. The internet was abuzz with ideas for what this new technology could be used for. Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to see how accurate the system was and hid a container in the woods, logged the GPS coordinates and posted it on an internet chat group. He called it “Great American GPS Stash Hunt”. And so the adventure began.

The name was changed to geocaching on May 30th. Geo, a word for earth or geography and caching, from cache has 2 meanings. The first to store something temporarily like in treasure hunting, totally appropriate. The second use of cache is in technology storage as in cache memory on your computer which is memory that is quickly retrieved. Both of these definitions worked well for this new game. And so Geocaching it was. However, the original name was more popular until September of 2000 when the website was launched by Jeremy Irish who at the site launch boasted 75 known caches around the world. As of the writing of this blog post, there were 433 known caches within 7 square miles of my house. As you can see this treasure hunt has exploded. Lucky for us.

Get your Geocaching App

To start this treasure hunting adventure just download the geocaching app for IPhone or Android.

  • Create a free account. You can upgrade to a paid account later if you’d like. This will get you additional premium geocaches, caches along your route, offline maps, and some more features.
  • Choose a cache you would like to find. You can search by ‘current location’, state, zip code, country, etc. If I’m looking for one in my area I go to the map feature which will show you cache around you. If I’m doing searches in advance of traveling somewhere, I use the search icon.
  • Once you choose the cache, click on the little green circle. At the bottom of your screen, you will the name of the cache and some general info about the cache. Click the right arrow which will take you to the landing page for that cache.
  • Click navigate and you will see a map with your location and a straight orange line directly to the cache. At the top of the screen click the car icon (if you will need to drive there) and you can choose from maps, google maps, or Waze to get directions to the area. Once out of your car continue to navigate to the cache.

Don’t let the Muggles see you

  • ***THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFO -this is a treasure hunt. A lot of caches are in populated areas. Think Harry Potter style and DON’T LET THE MUGGLES KNOW WHAT YOU ARE UP TO!
  • Bring a small treasure with you to trade. When you are on the landing page for the cache you will see the size of the cache. This will tell you if there will be any treasure to trade. Micro, generally means the size of a film canister or smaller. You’ll only be signing the log for that one. Bring your own pen/pencil. Small is generally about the size of a sandwich box. “Regular” is about a shoebox in size. Large is anything over 20L, such as a bucket or bin. Finally, cache’s marked as “other” might not fit into a specific size category. It could be an unusual shape.
  • Once you’ve found the cache, exchange treasure
  • Log your find in the logbook (bring your own pen/pencil if it’s a small cache)
  • Rehide the cache just as you found it!
  • “Log” your find on Hit the back arrow on the top left of your screen which will bring you back to the landing page. Once there click the “log” button (next to the navigate button). You can add a comment, like “great location”, or “very tricky”, etc. or leave a hint for the next person.

Hints for Geocaching

If while navigating to the cache you are having a difficult time locating it, go back to the landing page and click the “hint” button. This generally helps you to locate the cache. If there is a problem with the cache, perhaps the cache got water in it and the log is ruined or some such problem, click the “message” button and let the owner know.

Another good place to check on the landing page is the Activity tab. This will tell you the last time someone found it, plus useful tips and sometimes even pictures of the cache.

Common Terms you might see while search for caches:

  • BYOP – Bring your own pen/pencil
  • CITO – Cache in, trash out
  • DNF- Did not find
  • FTF – First to find
  • FTFI – First to find items
  • LN – Left nothing
  • LPC – Lamp post cache – a common type of cache hidden under an unsecured lamp post base
  • SL – Signed log
  • STF – Second to find
  • SWAP – Stuff we all get – trade items
  • TB – Travel Bug – check out my other post on trackables below.
  • TFTC – Thanks for the cache
  • TFTH – Thanks for the hide
  • TNLN- took nothing, left nothing
  • TNLNSL – took nothing, left nothing, signed log
  • TOTT – Tools of the trade
  • WAYPOINT – The location of a geocache that is defined by a set of coordinates using longitude, latitude, and sometimes altitude.

If your reading for more check out my blog on Geocaching 102 – trackables

Pin for Later

I hope this has inspired you to become a treasure hunter. Download the app now, Apple or Android, get out there exploring and find your next cache.

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Cindy

    I am starting this with my grandson this year. I can’t wait. Your post is very timely. Thank you for the “bring gloves” suggestion. I can’t wait to get started.

    1. Leeanne

      Have fun. I’m sure you will be addicted in no time.

  2. Casandra

    Our family is addicted to geocaching too. I can’t wait to do it in other cities when we can start traveling again.

    1. Leeanne

      My kids love looking for caches when we travel. It is super fun.

  3. Eva Keller

    What a fun activity. I don’t know a kid that wouldn’t love doing this.

  4. Stacey Billingsley

    I have some friends who geocache, and I know it’s fun. We haven’t really done any ourselves, but this guide makes me want to try. Since we’re probably not taking a road trip this summer, we may have to try some of these nearby!

    1. Leeanne

      That’s the great thing about geocaching, you can find them anywhere in the world.

  5. Erin

    I always thought this would be so fun. Looks like your beautiful family had a wonderful time! And the fact that you can do it ANYWHERE is awesome!

    1. Leeanne

      I totally agree. I love that we can find a cache in NYC and then be in the woods and find one there. It’s great.

  6. Lisa Manderino

    I love all the acronyms! That is a fun activity!

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, some of the acronyms are pretty funny. I still have to think about them sometimes too.

  7. Tricia Snow

    This sounds like so much fun but I still have not done it. I will definitely be doing this with my grandkids when they are older.

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure they will love it, Tricia.

  8. Brianna Creef

    My mom first introduced me to geocaching close to 15 years ago. I have so many great memories “on the hunt” with her!

    1. Leeanne

      That’s great Brianna, I’m glad it’s been a family activity of yours.

  9. Sara Wilson

    We used to go geocaching all the time before we had kids…that was 11 years ago! I think it’s time for us to get back into it again. I had forgotten how much fun it is, and I know our kids would enjoy it.

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure your kids would love it, Sara.

  10. Chantelle

    Geocaching is so fun! Thank you for reminding me about it!

    1. Leeanne

      It’s a great activity to do while social distancing too.

  11. Cindy

    Geocaching is so fun! I started this with my grandson years ago. We’ve enjoyed our adventures and ended up in cemeteries several times. We got spooked in one!

    1. Leeanne

      That’s part of the fun of it, but I agree maybe not cemeteries. lol

  12. kmf

    How fun! I’ve never tried it…and love learning how it got its start and evolved.

    1. Leeanne

      I agree, Karen, it’s pretty interesting.

  13. Hera

    Interesting, never heard of geocaching but good to know for our nieces and nephews who have babies that can grow to do this

    1. Leeanne

      It’s a great activity for kids. Who doesn’t like to look for treasure?

  14. Carpediemeire

    I only discovered geocaching at the start of the year. Love doing it with my daughter. I’ve still yet to figure out all the abbreviations or what to do with the items in the caches, so this will help.

    1. Leeanne

      So glad you are starting to enjoy the activity with your daughter. Wait till you get hooked on trackables, so fun.

  15. Missy

    We love Geocaching. My nieces and I enjoy the hunt. Great tips on the terms.

    1. Leeanne

      I’m glad you have enjoyed the activity with your nieces.

  16. Trisha

    We have a couple friends that do this with their kids and I’ve been thinking about joining them. After reading this, it looks like I will be! Thanks for a great post!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m glad I inspired you to try geocaching.

  17. Michele

    i don’t know why we have not tried one of these before now, but now seems like the perfect time. Looks like so much fun!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure you guys will love it.

Leave a Reply