What is Geocaching – How to Do It Instructions

Camping geocaching hiking trail

Geocaching and How to Have Fun With It

Geocaching is simply hi-tech treasure hunting, where the treasure is the fun of the hunt. But instead of using a treasure map, a GPS, (Global Positioning System), the device is used.

The concept:
Some type of container is hidden – somewhere – and its location, (given in latitude and longitude coordinates), is listed on an online geocaching site, and folks with GPS devices try to find it.

But – when found, it is left in place for others to find. Only the log book, (or scroll), is signed, and the details of the find are recorded on a geocaching website.

The goal, and treasure, of geocaching is the fun of the hunt – not the acquisition of the cache contents.

A brief Geocaching video:

The details of Geocaching:

  1. A geocache is a container that is hidden somewhere.
    • The container can be as small as a bolt or pen-top, or as large as a 5-gal. bucket. The most common are screw-top plastic or Tupperware-type containers.
    • It must contain at least a log book, but may also contain tokens, coins, or any other small trinket-type items. (Geocache Swag)
    • There different difficulty levels of “hidden” – from simply out-of-sight, or lightly camouflaged, to hidden under rocks underwater, or in fake real-life items, like fake; tree limbs, rocks, fence caps, conduit boxes, bolts, and anything else you can imagine. The container only has to be big enough to hold a log scroll.
    • Anyone can create a geocache and list its location. No special permissions or containers needed.
      *See more about geocache containers and how to make one.
  2. The location of the geocache, (longitude and latitude), is posted on a geocaching website – the main one is geocaching.com – where it is available to other geocachers.
  3. Geocache hunters go online and find caches listed in the area they plan to visit, (or want to hunt), and then use GPS devices, or smartphones with GPS apps, to search for it – the treasure hunt.
    • Most important tip for new searchers – be sure to check the cache details. Match the cache terrain and difficulty levels with the amount of effort you are willing to make. Choosing micro-caches hidden in the Andes might not be the best choice for 1st-time searchers
  4. Once found – the finder signs the log book, (or scroll), then carefully replaces the geocache for others to find. If it contains swag, finders are welcome to take a souvenir, but courtesy requires that if you take something – you leave something.
  5. After the searcher finds a cache, they note it in their geocache journal, and return to the website and record their find and any comments they have regarding it.

Camping and Hiking Geocaching:

Although Urban Geocaching has skyrocketed in popularity, it all started in a camping and hiking environment, and the biggest contrast between the two is the actual geocache itself, and the “geo swag” concept. (Urban geocaches generally don’t have “swag”)

camping geocache container

  • Most camping and hiking geocaches are large enough to contain an actual log book, and some trinkets to be shared or exchanged with other seekers. The concept is that you take a momento-type trinket or token, (often referred to as “swag”), out – and put one of your own in. Typical trail caches range from the size of small tin or Tupperware container to that of a shoe box.

But… just because these types of caches are a little larger doesn’t mean they are just sitting in plain view, (or in an obvious container) – waiting to be stumbled upon. Remembering that the real fun, (and challenge), is in the hunt, here are some examples of geocaches hidden in nature:

camping geocache containers

All nature caches are not that devious, or difficult to find. The examples below show some of the less challenging finds.

camping geocache container

*See more about geocache containers and how to make one.

*Geocache listings rate and describe these levels of difficulty, and some listings include clues and hints.

  • Urban geocaches are much smaller, (called micro caches), and are often designed to be false items, ie. fake bolts and such, and usually have a small scroll log.

Examples of urban-type micro-geocaches:

sample small geocache containers

How to Geocache:
All you need to begin geocaching is a GPS device, and access to one of the websites that list geocache locations.

Earthmate GPS device

As mentioned, geocaching.com is the original and most used site. But, with the exploding popularity of geocaching, many states, (and even municipal), sites have popped up, ie. Maryland Geocaching.

Simply access the site, (with a free or premium account), enter your location, or the location you will be hiking, and the site will display a list of known geocaches in or near that area.

Each listing will have details and a description section that will help you decide if it is suitable for you.
*List can be printed or downloaded for your GPS device

How to Geocache in a camping and hiking setting:
Although it is possible to search with a smartphone and a geocache app, it is highly recommended that you have an actual GPS device, (as shown), for camping and hiking trips. They are more rugged, have more capabilities, (like downloading coordinates), and user replaceable batteries – unlike cell phones which must have their battery charge maintained.

Plus of course the obvious “out of cell service range” problem in most hiking locales.

Note: You can find GPS devices for almost any budget, and with a variety of capabilities. Here are a couple of examples of recommended entry-level hand-held GPS models.

Getting started:

  1. Visit geocaching.com and create a free user account
    • The site is very easy to use and includes easy-to-understand FAQs and tutorials
  2. Consider how much effort you want to devote to the hunt and then find a list of geocaches appropriate to your location or destination – and – the desired level of difficulty
    • Each geocache will list details to help you determine if it is what you are looking for
  3. Grab your camping gear and find them!
    • Be sure to take a notepad or journal, and something to write with – to record your geocache find, and any notes and remarks about the quest.

Geocaching Tips:

  1. This can be the primary reason for a camping or hiking outing, you can plan and organize your agenda around a list of geocache locations.
    • Be sure to pick geocaches that are suited to your level of experience – and – the amount of effort you want to devote to finding them.
  2. A small, durable pocket journal is a good way to keep a record of your geocaching activities. Also, sometimes there are numbered items in a geocache that you will want to record for later submission to the website.
    • Be sure to take pictures of, and with your finds – they make great journal entries, and trip memories.
  3. Small trinket items, (swag), related to your home area, make great swap items for any geocaches you find. Take something from someone else’s home area, and leave something from yours. This could be the beginning of a memorable hobby collection.
  4. The very best source for more free detailed geocaching information for beginners is Geocaching 101, by Geocaching.com

Was this helpful?
Help us share Campingwithgus.com by giving us a “Like”

Another great how-to geocache resource
Thanks to Jenny from Hobbyhelp.com for this:
The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching

camping geocachers


Related Geocaching Topics:

*Here are other samples of camping gear, accessories, and tools, that will help make your outdoor camping trip as fun and enjoyable as you want it to be. And you will be surprised when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.


You might also like:

Let your friends know you found this helpful – just click the “+1” button!

Return to Home page