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Geocaching Tips for Beginners

Geocaching Tips for Beginners
What could be more exciting than a confluence of modern technology and an age-old popular game? Geocaching is just that. Here are some hints for those who have just stepped into the adventurous world of geocaching...
Anuja Marathe Kanhere
Treasure hunting was a favorite pastime that I enjoyed with my friends during summers. One of us would volunteer to hide the treasure (usually a toy) and place clues at unique locations in our backyards. An entire evening would be spent rummaging the backyards for clues leading to the concealed treasure. However, with changing preferences, treasure hunting is not merely a backyard game anymore. Today, a more stylish and technologically advanced version of this game has taken shape in the form of geocaching.
The Concept of Geocaching
  • The term geocaching has been created by joining two words, 'geo' which means earth and 'caching' or cache which refers to hiding something temporarily. The term may therefore mean hiding something in the earth on a temporary basis.
  • The game can be played provided you have two prominent tools, a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver and a smartphone.
  • Ever since the inception of this game in the year 2000, millions of caches or treasures have been placed in more than 200 countries around the world. A cache can be placed in any corner of the seven continents or even on the International Space Station.
  • The first GPS-mapped cache was placed at Beaver Creek in the state of Oregon, United States, by Dave Ulmer on May 3rd 2000. This cache contained some books, software, money, food, a slingshot and videos, and a logbook and pencil.
  • There are several popular websites that list out hidden geocaches. The clues to their location may be given in the form of riddles or by mentioning some crucial facts like the coordinates (latitudes and longitudes) and distinct features of their territory.
  • This game is now popular with millions of geocachers around the world.

Beginners' Guide
  • To start with, geocaching can be a family game as well as a game for singletons. However, it is best to have a companion when your geocaching spree takes you to unknown terrain in distant countries. It is best to avoid any risky activities if you are searching for the geocache all alone.
  • There are several geocaching websites to get affiliated with. Beginners are recommended to opt for a free membership. You may go for a premium membership after you gain sufficient experience in this game.
  • Play it safe when you are a new geocacher. Avoid searching for caches in offbeat locations like forest trails. While going through geocaching websites, you may browse for caches in your vicinity. Enter the geographical coordinates of the geocache location on your GPS navigator.
  • Make sure to plan your geocaching trip only when the climate is suitable. Remember to listen to the weather forecast before you start.
  • Geocaches come in several sizes, right from a tube that is smaller than an eraser to something as large as a 5 gallon plastic bucket. However, most geocaches happen to be small air-tight plastic containers. For beginners, it is recommended that you try and track down larger caches as they are easier to locate. You may switch to micro or 'nano' caches when you become a bit more experienced. Geocaching websites do mention the nature and size of the cache against their respective location details.
  • Remember to carry geocaching gear like a hand-held GPS device, a Swiss knife, a compass, location maps, a flash light, extra batteries, a first aid box, insect repellent, a notepad, pens or pencils, caps, sunglasses, and an extra pair of socks. You might want to carry plenty of water and dry food to keep yourself satiated during your search. Make sure to carry contact numbers of local authorities in case of any emergency.
  • Most geocaches contain some knick-knacks as souvenirs for the geocachers finding them. These knick-knacks may be any kind of low value items like keychains, pens, toys, CDs, etc. There is an unwritten rule that you take away an article of your choice from the cache, however, you need to trade it with something of an equal or higher value. So do not forget to carry some article to place in the cache. Items in caches often get stolen. At other times, people forget to place their trading items. Remember, this is unethical and you have to keep something in the cache for the next geocacher who finds it.
  • Every cache contains a logbook, where geocachers finding them make an entry of their name, date and time of their search. The logbook may have a column for you to make a brief description of your search experience. Nano caches will only contain a log book on account of their tiny size.
  • Sometimes, caches contain special trackable items like geocoins or travel bugs. These items are placed by geocachers in specific caches urging their finders to place them in a specific destination cache. These trackable items are part of a geocaching cycle and are things of interest. If you happen to come across such items, then you can help by taking the items and placing them in their intended locations. When depositing these items in new geocaches, make sure to urge the next person to place them in a new cache location of your choice. And do not forget to make notations about it in the logbook and on the geocaching websites.
  • Another geocaching ethic is to place the cache exactly where you found it. This refers to the geographical coordinates of the geocache location and the position of the cache as you found it. This helps the other geocachers to find them.
  • Make efforts to clean the cache site and protect the natural environment around it. Avoid attracting unnecessary attention of non-geocachers to the cache site. This would defeat the whole purpose of this game.
  • Make sure to write about your geocaching experience on the respective geocaching website. Your experiences might prove to be helpful to new geocachers hunting for the same cache.

Important Geocaching Terminology

Term Full Form Meaning
BYOP Bring Your Own Pen Cache lacks a writing device.
CITO Cache In Trash Out Picking up trash after hunt.
CO Cache Owner Person who placed the cache.
Cache None Container with a logbook.
DNF Did Not Find If cache was not found on the site.
FIGS Found in Good Shape None
FTF First To Find Denotes the first person to locate a cache.
FTL First To Log Denotes the first person to log the finding of a cache.
GPSr GPS Receiver None
Geoswag None Items in larger caches.
Georing None Tone emitted by phone when a cache is mapped.
GRC Guard Rail Cache Describes where a cache might be hidden.
GZ Ground Zero Refers to cache location.
ICT Ivy Covered Tree Describes where a cache might be hidden.
LN Left Nothing When no trade item was added to the cache.
LPC Lamp Post Cache Describes where a cache might be hidden.
MKH Magnetic Key Holder Type of cache container.
Muggle None A non geocacher.
Muggled None Cache vandalized by a non geocacher.
PAF Phone-A-Friend A facility in the game.
P&G Park and Grab Cache located at an easy spot, close to parking space.
PLC Parking Lot Cache Describes where a cache might be hidden.
POR Pile Of Rocks A type of cache site.
POS Pile Of Sticks or Stones Describes where a cache might be hidden.
SL Skirt Lifter A metal or plastic skirt at the base of LPC.
SOOP Something Out of Place When an object seems out of place at the location.
Smiley None Used when a cache hunt is a success.
SL Signed Log Signing of logbook by a visiting geocacher.
SGC Senior Geocacher An expert geocacher.
TFTC Thanks For The Cache Written in the logbook to thank the cache owners.
TFTH Thanks For The Hunt or Hide Written in logbooks to thank the cache owners.
TN Took Nothing Indicates no trade item removed from the cache.
TSIA The Streak Is Alive Cache searched for days together.
TOTT Tool of The Trade Ordinary tools needed to retrieve a cache.
UFO Unnatural Formation of Objects A pile of materials which is a likely cache hiding spot.
UPS Unnatural Pile of Sticks A pile of sticks which is a likely cache hiding spot.
XN eXchanged Nothing When nothing was removed from or added to the cache container.

Although this game can be fun, it has its own sets of risks. Make sure to place your personal safety over and above the excitement of geocaching. Use your common sense and intuition to navigate you through your adventures.