What is Geocaching?

Imagine a pastime which can be enjoyed by the whole family that combines technology with outdoor adventure, that uses problem and puzzle solving along with your map skills and:

  • Gets you out into the fresh air.
  • Gets you walking either a long or a little way.
  • Introduces you to unusual/interesting/beautiful locations.
  • Encourages the kids to ask, “Can we go for a walk today?”
  • Is so much fun, you will want to go out for a walk too.

Geocaching (pronounced geo-kash-ing) is a worldwide high tech outdoor treasure hunting game that encompasses all of the above and much more. There are over 2 million geocaches hidden worldwide and over 5 million people who play the game.

So, How Does it Work?

Geocaches are hidden all over the world by fellow geocachers. A geocacher will go to a location which has usually some special interest or beauty. This is often one of their favourite places to visit. At the location, they will hide a small waterproof box containing a few varied bits and pieces (usually of little value), a logbook and a pen or pencil. Using their GPS receiver, the geocacher records the coordinates of their geocache and returns home to log its existence on a website.


Another geocacher will see the listing about the geocache, enter the coordinates into their GPS receiver and go in search of it.

When they find it, the finder may take something from the geocache and leave something in return, and for posterity, enter a log in the logbook. If you take something, leave something of equal or greater value in return also leave the geocache as you found it (hidden of course).

When the seeker returns home, he/she should log on the website that they have found the geocache and pass any comments they wish. These logs are important to the geocache hider; it is part of their ‘reward’ for hiding the geocache.

However, before placing geocaches yourself, we strongly advise that you build up your enthusiasm for and commitment to the game over a period of time. The greatest proportion of geocaching ‘drop-outs’ occur in the first 12 months after starting. The result can often lead to unwanted and unmaintained geocaches geo-littering the countryside. We would prefer this not to happen, as it spoils the game for everyone to find a neglected geocache.

What do I Need to Play the Game?

A sense of fun and adventure, a GPS receiver or a smart phone and some method of transport.

  • A sense of adventure to go out and find places you might never have otherwise known about and see things which would have passed you by. Imagine sitting on a small hill watching two young foxes ‘playing’ together in the field below you while a Red Kite wheels and performs aerobatics over your head.
  • A GPS receiver (often referred to as simply a GPS) is a device which ‘listens’ to the signals broadcast from satellites orbiting the Earth. From those signals, a GPS or global positioning system is able to calculate its location on the planet to typically within about 5 metres. Once a GPS knows where it is, and where you want to go, it can point you to your destination. GPS receivers are available from around £80 in the UK up to several hundred. A simple base model is sufficient for geocaching, but the more expensive models offer many varied facilities. There are also Geocaching apps available for most smart phones, so you may even have a device you can use to play already! Just search for “Geocaching” in the App store on your device.
  • Access to the Internet. Geocaches (often abbreviated to ‘caches’) are listed on several websites, the most prominent being Geocaching.com. There are however many other Geocache listing websites from which you can download geocaches, including Opencache UK, and Terracaching. On these websites you can find information about, and the coordinates for, the geocaches you will go hunting for. Sign up for free, log in and search for geocaches in your local area, you will be surprised how close your nearest one will be.
  • A form of transport. Most geocaches are hidden in the countryside and away from public transport routes so a method of getting to the locality is helpful. It is also true that many geocachers do use public transport/cycles and hiking. You may however, find some geocaches in your local town or city which are in fact right on your doorstep! Look at the attributes on the geocache page for parking waypoints, public transport, whether bicycles are allowed, if the geocache is recommended for kids, or if there is a hike involved.
  • A few bits and pieces to use as swaps in the geocaches you visit. There is no compulsion to swap anything, but often you will find an item of interest in a geocache, it is only fair play that if you take something, you should leave something in exchange of equal or greater value.

Interested? Not Surprising Really!

GeocacheThe Geocaching Association of Great Britain was set up to forward caching in the UK and to help new geocachers learn about the game. Do you want to find out more? The next step is to download our helpful What is Geocaching leaflet and to visit our Getting Started with Geocaching page for more help. You may also wish to check out the other help resources available on our website - access them from the 'Help' tab on the menu bar above. There are many sources of information about caching on the internet, but when it comes to actually going out and finding the first geocache; nothing can replace the actual experience.

If you are genuinely interested in geocaching and would like some help, the GAGB will try to find a geocacher in your area who is willing to meet you and escort you on your first geocaching trip.

If you want some help, send an email to gagbcontact@gagb.org.uk

History of Geocaching

A ‘geocache’ is derived from ‘geo’ which means earth, and ‘cache’ which means a hidden item or treasure. In the early days, similarities were drawn between geocaching and the 160-year-old game of letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability (SA) from the Global Positioning System on May 2, 2000, by the US Government. This massively improved the accuracy from the area of a football field to 2 or 3 metres and allowed for a container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located geocache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav as N45° 17.460 W122° 24.800. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once by Mike Teague of Vancouver, Washington. According to Dave Ulmer's message, this geocache was a black plastic bucket that was partially buried and contained software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot. A geocache and plaque called the Original Stash Tribute Plaque now sits at the site.

“What is Geocaching?” video is copyright Groundspeak, Inc. DBA Geocaching. Used with permission. All rights reserved.