Take Pride in Your Hide

There are no “rules” in Geocaching…only Guidelines, and the following chapters are presented for your information, and to highlight some of those guidelines. I certainly don’t know all there is to know about the pastime, but I’ve been involved for a very long time — “guys talk, ya see things, and I get around.” Newcomers to geocaching may find this information, and the associated tips, reminders, and links helpful…while Old Timers might spot something new, or that jogs their memory. Geocaching has grown by leaps and bounds, and one thing is for sure…it is imperative that we all follow the established guidelines so that the pastime we enjoy continues to be recognized as a legitimate recreational activity. The individual chapters below were each published separately in the General Discuss Forum…they remain open for discussion, and I will review them from time to time and incorporate any pertinent comments/suggestions here in this “stickie” The information presented in italics is my personal opinion…take it for what you think it’s worth. I hope you find this “Guide” useful….I’ve enjoyed putting it together. Be well, cache on…and play the game your own way!

Chapter 1 “Coordinates”

In the geocaching world they are that alpha/numeric string of 2 letters and 15 numbers that pinpoint (within 15 feet or so) your exact position on the face of the Earth. They are written in Lat/Lon Hddd mm.mmm format (Example: N38 35.238 W077 22.051 that’s North 38 Degrees 35 point 238 minutes and West 077 degrees 22 point 051 minutes. Again, in the geocaching world they are generally accepted as being applied to WGS84 (World Geodetic System) map datum. That puts everybody on the same sheet of music so they can find a cache, where they parked their vehicle, or the way back home.

1. Accurate coordinates depend on the number of satellites in view, the current satellite configuration, atmospheric interference, and good reception. Reception is not affected by weather, darkness, or cloud cover. Reception is affected by things that block your GPS receiver from receiving a strong signal from the satellites: tall city buildings, narrow canyons, heavy (green) leaf canopy, your body, etc.. GPS receiver manufacturers use EPE (Estimated Position Error displays) to give you an approximation of the strength/accuracy of the satellite signals being received by your handheld device – 10 feet, 15 feet, 30 feet, etc.. The lower the EPE, the better the supposed accuracy (generally).

2. Always try to mark the coordinates for your chosen location with the lowest EPE possible. It’s no guarantee they are completely accurate, but it betters the odds.

3. Check the satellite page on your GPS receiver to note the configuration of satellites, see the concentric rings on that page? A “scattered” configuration with satellites overhead (centered), at 45 degrees (middle ring), and on the horizon (outer most ring) will usually give the greatest accuracy. If your satellite page indicates the satellites are in a more-or-less straight line…reception will normally be poor, and your EPE will be higher.

4. Averaging your waypoint (cache location) is not always reliable, if you have poor reception/accuracy you’ll just be averaging bad coordinates (garbage in, garbage out). The most reliable way to average coordinates is to visit the location on different days, and at different times. (Those geosynchronous satellites move – circumnavigating the Earth once every 12 hours). Mark the new coordinates each time you visit, and then average all those that you’ve recorded.

5. One way to assess accuracy of your averaged coordinates is to select your marked waypoint, then walk 100/200 feet away from that waypoint (i.e. your cache coordinates), do a GoTo, and (moving steadily) follow your compass arrow back to the marked waypoint location…all the while watching the distance to destination as it counts down on your approach that marked location. Repeat from all 4 Cardinal Directions. If your distance to destination consistently counts down to within 5 to 15 feet during each of those 4 approaches to your marked waypoint…you can be reasonably sure that you have the best coordinates possible.

Chapter 2: “Permission”

The following is quoted from the Geocaching website: “Did you seek permission from the land owner or manager? If you place a cache on private land, you must ask permission before hiding your cache. If you place it on public lands, contact the land manager to find out about any rules or restrictions.”

Locally, many of our parks, preserves, and recreational areas have established formal written guidelines which must be followed when placing a geocache. Failure to follow these guidelines places you as the cache owner, and those who hunt your cache, as well as geocaching in general in jeopardy. The current known local guidelines (which pertain to both large and small area parks, woodland areas, natural areas, and may also include specific playground areas (check if there is any doubt)) are:

FCPA (Fairfax County Park Authority) Guidelines Click Here

PWC ( Prince William County) Regulations Click Here

NoVA Parks (Formerly known as NVRPA, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) Click Here

RA (Reston Association) Common Areas. Quoted from the Common Area Resolution of the RA Covenants.

“13. Geocaching (use of Geographic Positions Systems (“GPS”) to locate a cache of materials) is permitted by members only under the following rules:

a. Members interested in performing geocaching must notify the Association of all cache sites.

b. Cache sites located on common areas must be completely hidden from view.

c. Cache sites are not permitted near wildflowers, a wildlife nest, or den.

d. Cache sites located in the common area known as the Walker Nature Education Center, must be no more than 10 feet from pathway or trail edge.

e. The Association shall not be held liable for any injuries, or personal property damage incurred by those participating in geocaching on the common area.”

BRMC (Bull Run Mountain Conservancy) The BRMC Geocaching Guidelines are published in the NoVAGO Forums Click Here

Virginia State Parks – Guidelines Click Here – Application – Click Here )

Personal opinion: It is always a good idea to obtain private property permission in writing, or to at least record the name, position of authority, and telephone number of the individual who granted said permission.

You’ll face an entirely different set of circumstances when placing an “urban” style cache (pocket park, parking lot, lamp post skirt, guardrail, electric power distribution box or transformer, sign, bench, rain gutter, gate post, storm drain, etc., etc., etc.. (You get my point) As stated in the Geocaching website quote above “If you place it on public lands, contact the land manager to find out about any rules or restrictions“. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to at least attempt to determine who has oversight responsibility for the location, and to find out if there are any rules or restrictions on placing your cache there. There are very few (i. e. none) areas of unclaimed real estate – someone, somewhere owns it! Very often…caches placed in urban settings tend to draw lots of “unwanted” attention…sometimes from the constabulary, but that’s a topic for another “chapter”.

Bottom line – if there are published guidelines, follow them to the letter – no exceptions!!! If there are no guidelines, you should at least make an honest attempt to find out who owns, or is responsible for the property, explain what geocaching is all about, and ask permission to place your cache. Finally…although I do NOT condone it – you may think it easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission…just understand that you, and those who seek your cache will have to accept the consequences if things to bad. Being charged with “criminal trespass” is NO joke…to say nothing of paying for a police, fire, suspicious package, or terrorist activity incident response!!

Chapter 3: “Containers”

Just a simple question; what makes a good geocache container? The answer – just about anything. That answer sounds equally simple, right?…well it is, IF you take some basics into consideration. Some of those basics include: What is the container made of?; What was the container originally used for?; How does the container open/close/seal?; How much does the container cost?; What does the container look like?; Will the container withstand repeated (sometimes rough) handling?; and where or how will the container be hidden?

Containers come in all sizes, and are therefore more-or-less tied to the 4 cache sizes (micro, small, regular, and large).

Some examples of “good” micro containers are: Pico Buttons; Bison Tubes; Match Stick Holders; Preforms; Diabetes Test Strip “cans”; and Pill Caddies. All those containers come with a rubber O-Ring, or snap seal that greatly improves water resistance. The O-Ring can degrade and break over time, but O-Ring replacements are available in almost every size in your local home improvement store plumbing section. Note that I left out 35mm film cans, Altoids tins, and magnetic Hide-a-Key containers. By themselves they are not water resistant, but by placing the log in a small ZipLock bag, and hiding the container where it has protection from precipitation…they are suitable.

Small containers include: 3” round Lock & Lock; 2” X 4” Lock & Lock; pill bottles (careful that the neck of the bottle isn’t so small that log removal is next to impossible); Beach Safe containers; 3” X 5” Pelican™ cases; 3” X 5” Otter Box™ some small food containers IF thoroughly washed to remove ALL scent of food (GatorAde powder, plastic peanut butter, plastic mayonnaise, plastic coffee jars, etc..) Re-sealable deli meat containers, Gladware and dollar store food storage containers are usually poor choices – they get brittle over time and a prone to cracking.

Regular containers include: The “King”, an ammo can (remember to paint over or remove all military markings); 6” X 6” or 6” X 8” Lock & Lock; larger plastic (thoroughly washed) peanut butter, and mayonnaise jars; 6” X 10” Pelican™ and Otter Box™ cases; Vittles Vault™ jars; Rubbermaid™ and Tupperware™ cereal and bread containers (although after a year or two in the elements both Rubbermaid™ and Tupperware™ will take on moisture/water).

Large containers include: 5 gallon plastic paint buckets, mortar cans(remember to paint over or remove all military markings), 8” X 30” map tubes, large equipment Pelican™ cases and Otter boxes™.

Please note – plastic is mentioned often, and glass and tin are not mentioned at all – one breaks, the other rusts closed!! Both are poor choices.

You can spend a lot, or a little…you can place a maintenance free cache, or one that will constantly receive “wet log”, “water inside”, “wet contents”, or “mildew” on-line logs, and a fair number of Needs Maintenance logs. Over the course of many years, and many caches I’ve seen some doozies: A ZipLock bag (that’s it…no container, just a ZipLock bag); cardboard Pringles tubes; paint cans; cookie tins; containers “protected” by being placed in plastic garbage/grocery bags (think “greenhouse effect“, the bag provides the perfect hot and humid breeding ground for slugs, bugs, mold, fungus, and slime…yuk)!

While on the subject of containers…remember that it is a VERY good idea to mark your container as a “Geocache”. Stickers are available commercially, you add the GC ID, cache name, and contact information. If you prefer not go the sticker route…place that information on your container with a permanent marker. Identifying the container as a geocache game piece can go a long way in allaying the fears of the uninitiated if they should stumble upon the container. Then too…there are other cache listing services out there besides Groundspeak…identifying the container will let the seeker/finder know that they have indeed found the one they were searching for.

Chapter 4: “Location”

1. Spend some time thinking about where/why you want to place your geocache. Generally, there are 3 basic locations:

Urban: (parking lots, business parks, shopping centers, residential areas, etc.)

This location is more ‘In your face”, usually a busy location where guile and stealth must be used to retrieve and replace the container. Distance from parking to cache is normally short.

Suburban: (housing development green spaces, pathways, sports areas, small parks, etc).

Typically more secluded where natural cover is used to hide the container, and usually suited for containers larger than a micro. Distance from parking can vary from short to a half mile or more.

Rural/Woodland: (larger parks, natural areas, preserves, sanctuaries, etc).

True rural areas are more “wild”, and offer are veritable cornucopia of hiding locations: log piles; thick brush; hollow stumps; trail bridges; hedgerows; streams; fence lines; etc). Distances from parking to the cache location are usually longer, with many involving a 2 to 5 mile hike over varied terrain.

The cache type, and size of the container are usually tied directly to the location. Consider the cache type (there are only 6): Traditional; Multi; Mystery/Puzzle; Wherigo, EarthCache; and Letterbox Hybrid. Next consider the container size (there are only 4): Micro; Small; Regular; and Large. Try to match the cache type and container size to the location…it should be obvious that some are better suited for placement in a parking lot or near buildings (Micro or Small), while others are better suited for woodland, park, or more remote locations (Small, Regular, or Large). There is no hard an fast rule though, and common sense should prevail.

Will your chosen location support longevity, and how will it impact cache maintenance? A micro in a parking lot, in front of windows and parked vehicles is likely to be “discovered” through observation…while an ammo can deep in the woods could go un-noticed for years. Urban Micros are usually maintenance intensive, they frequently disappear (muggled), they have small logs that fill up fast and require frequent replacement…while a Small or Regular container hidden in the woods usually enjoys a long life, and they have room for a good sized logbook which may last for a year or more.

(While I’m at it…some locations are expressly forbidden for obvious reasons (Quoted from the Groundspeak Guidelines):

“Caches on land managed by an agency that prohibits geocaches, such as the U.S. National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuges).

Caches that are buried. If a shovel, trowel or other “pointy” object is used to dig, whether in order to hide or to find the cache, then it is not appropriate.

Caches that deface public or private property, whether a natural or man-made object, in order to provide a hiding place, a clue or a logging method.

Caches placed in areas which are highly sensitive to the extra traffic that would be caused by vehicles and humans (examples may include archaeological or historic sites or cemeteries).

Caches hidden in close proximity to active railroad tracks. In the United States we generally use a distance of 150 ft (46 m) but your local area’s trespassing laws may be different. All local laws apply.

Caches near or on military installations.

Caches near, on or under public structures deemed potential or possible targets for terrorist attacks. These may include but are not limited to highway bridges, dams, government buildings, elementary and secondary schools, and airports”.

A word about “stealth” and how it relates to cache location…asking for the “utmost stealth” on your cache page usually does little good…it’s like whispering in a wind storm — almost impossible for the message to be received!! Many cachers don’t really read the cache page (they just load coordinates and go), others don’t care and/or will hunt regardless of the “muggle factor“, and then too…one persons definition of “stealth” is another’s IPV (In Plain View) approach. The key to cache/container longevity is to place it where observation by the “uninitiated” is the most limited. That’s relatively easy in the woods…in a parking lot, in front of windows, a city street, etc., — not so much.

There are as many location choices as there are cachers, and we all have our favorites. Some enjoy hunting Micros that are primarily “Cache & Dashes”, while others enjoy a nice long hike in the woods…picking up stages of a Multi, and finding a “box” at the end. Hide what you enjoy finding is my advice….and try to keep the following in mind:

“Think about why you are bringing a geocacher to your chosen location…if it’s just to get another smilie…pick another location”.

Chapter 5: “Cache Pages”

1. So you’re ready to place a cache – that could be a “good news/bad news” sort of action. The good news is that over the years the good folks at Geocaching HQ have revised the process so that it’s almost foolproof. Step-by-step pages lead you through the process, and all you have to do is click on the appropriate menu items and fill in the information asked for. What could be easier?? Well, that’s where the bad news could come in – information accuracy is key!! Remember the old adage “Garbage in, garbage out”? If your coordinates are wrong, your description is inadequate, difficulty and/or terrain ratings are wrong, and you give a poor hint – it could negatively reflect on you as the cache owner, and would surely lessen the enjoyment of those seeking your geocache. So…before you jump right into the geocache submission page…please consider the following:

A. You will have approximately 45 minutes to complete your submission or you will time-out. Solution…open a word processing application or notepad and do your typing (summary, description, coordinates, reviewer note, etc.), formatting, and editing there. Then transferring the information to the actual online submission form can come later via copy and paste.

B. When considering the cache size I suggest you do not select the “Not Listed” or “Other” sizes unless you have a VERY good reason for it. If your only reason for selection one of those options is to “make the cache harder to find“…then list an honest size and raise the Difficulty rating!!. Then too, realize that many cachers filter out the “Not Listed” and/or “Other” sizes…they just don’t wish to hunt what they don’t know the size of…don’t sell your cache short. You place it to have it found…and an accurate depiction of the size will at least help raise the odds of it being hunted. Use “Not Listed” or “Other” for Events…or if you opt to use them for another type of geocache…at least describe why in the cache page description.

C. Go back and read Chapter 1 now. Type your marked coordinates in your word document…double check them to make sure they are exactly what you marked as the waypoint for the cache location. Good….now triple check them again!! Keep in mind…once you release your cache for review, and it’s published…there are folks who will rush right out to hunt it. There’s not much that’s more embarrassing to a cache owner…than having lousy coordinates (big mistakes) pointed out to them by the first hunters. When entering your coordinates…make sure “fat fingering” doesn’t enter into the process.

D. Here’s where experience finding caches pays big dividends. By comparing the ratings of the caches you’ve found, you are much more likely to assign accurate ratings to your own cache. The following rating system links may also help in the process: ClayJar or Techblazer . While I’m at it…the Difficulty and Terrain ratings should be “static”. If, after the first few finders log your cache, you receive suggestions to adjust your ratings…fine, make adjustments if you agree. However; over the life of the cache the published Difficulty and Terrain ratings should remain as published…changing them will affect some on-line data bases that are integral to past finder’s Profile statistics, “Well rounded cacher”, GSAK stats, LogicWeave, etc..

E. Hey, you’re almost ready to open the cache submission page…just a few more steps: Run a spell check and grammar check on your word document, then proofread it! (I’m forever typing “you” instead of “your”, or “then” instead of “than”…take pride in your cache page and try to eliminate those little errors before the page is published.

F. Once you actually submit your cache it will be assigned a GC ID, but will not be placed in the review queue…this gives you the opportunity to view your cache page in its final form, and also to edit your cache page if necessary, and to add Attributes to the page. Please don’t skimp on the Attributes, they display valuable information about your cache, and the location…to name just a few: Parking; Hours; Hazards; Kid Friendly; Rest Rooms; Dogs; Bikes; etc..


2. Ready to prepare your cache submission?? Sign in to the Geocaching website, click the “Play” drop down menu, click on “Hide and Seek a Cache”, and then click the bar labeled “Create a Geocache”. Fill in (or cut and paste) the necessary information, give your new cache page a good review, hit the “Submit for Review” button and it will enter the review queue. If there are no issues with your cache or location it will normally be published within 72 hours. Then sit back, watch the flurry of activity as folks hunt for it, and enjoy the on-line logs they will write. Oh, and thanks for placing a new cache!

Chapter 6 “Odds & the End”

1. On hunting caches:

A. Clean up your mess – No need to trample flowers, destroy stone fences, break branches, or generally tear up an area during the search. Search thoroughly, but gently – and whether you find the container or not, return the area to it’s original state.

B. Return things to where you found them – So you, or a member of your group found the cache container, great – when the rite of signing the log is finished…you, or whoever actually found it…put it back: Not where you think it belongs; Not where you think the coordinates actually point you to; Not where you think you would have hidden it; Not where you think the CO meant for it to be…but where it was actually found!

C. Play fair – You found the cache, but there was no pen/pencil to sign the log. Huh? You don’t have a pen/pencil with you? You knew you were hunting a micro…since when do micro’s have room for a pen/pencil? According to the Guidelines you cannot claim a find if you don’t actually sign the log — take a hike — go get a pen/pencil, and sign the log! Maybe the walk will remind you to carry a pen/pencil next time.

D. Hold hands and stick together – Think about building your very own “cache first-aid kit”…stock it with: A couple of spare logs, a pencil stub, maybe a short length of rolled up Duct Tape for a cracked lid, a few trade items to replenish an empty container. Feel free to make repairs, or donations as needed…make note of your actions in your on-line log, and trust that the cache owner will take it from there.

E. Don’t Ask – You are not clairvoyant…you didn’t find it so you don’t know if it’s there or not. You simply didn’t find it – not every cacher is meant to find every cache!! Log a DNF…the CO will read it…and if he/she is a “good” CO, once a few DNF’s are logged…they’ll go check the cache! Don’t ask “Is it missing”, or “Is it still there” in your DNF (you did write a DNF, didn‘t you?). You don’t know it’s missing, even a previous finder can’t always be sure it’s missing – only the CO can tell for sure!!

F. Don’t Tell – Avoid listing the actual Tracking Numbers for Travel Bugs and Geocoins in your on-line logs…likewise, if you post photos of the travelers…make sure the Tracking Number is not showing. Unscrupulous cachers will “virtually” log those Travel Bugs and Geocoins!! So what?? Well, if the virtual logging happens frequently, Groundspeak will “Lock” the Travel Bug or Geocoin!

G. Think before you die – Whether you cache solo, or with others (but especially solo)…it’s a good idea to let someone know the location you plan to visit, and how long you expect to be gone. Some of the larger parks in the area: Fountainhead; Bull Run Trail, Pohick, etc., have some rugged, remote areas…becoming incapacitated, or ill could quickly turn a nice hike in the woods into a life threatening situation. Think about some basic necessities too: water, snacks, cellular phone, and maybe a first aid kit.

2. On owning/hiding caches:

A. Experience counts – Maybe more than you realize. Having others hunt a cache you’ve placed is very rewarding, and it can be just as much fun as hunting caches. Although there is no “rule” or even a Guideline on this…I suggest that you find 25, 30 or more caches before you decide to place one of your own. Why? Experience counts…you’ll recognize the difference between a “good” hide and a “poor” hide…a “good” cache container and a “bad” cache container…and both the Difficulty and Terrain ratings will make more sense to you.

B. Ownership – You put it out there, it’s your responsibility to maintain it!! You read the chapter on containers right? Hopefully you chose a sturdy, weatherproof container. If you start to receive on-line logs that mention a broken lid, a full log, a wet log, or any other indication that you should get off your duff and make a visit to your cache…”Just do it”!!! Maintain your cache for the long run…consider it a badge of pride to have an active cache that’s 5, 6, 7 or more years old. There’s a lot to be said about “old age”.

C. Timeliness – The “Disable Cache” log allows the cache owner to notify all seekers that the cache has problems: it may be down for a broken container, wet log, full log, full of trash, etc.. It may be that the CO intends to visit the cache to ensure it is still there; or maybe it needs restocking. Thing is…don’t wait 1, 2, or 3 months to take the necessary action. Sure, life can get in the way…but there are way too many caches that stay disabled for extended periods of time….which often results in the Volunteer Reviewers posting cache page notes to query the status of the cache (that‘s not their job). If it’s too far away to maintain in a timely manner…adopt it out, or archive it.

D. I Spy – Did you read the chapter on “Location”? I hope so, but if you persist in hiding your cache in a pocket park that’s 25 feet from the bay window/back deck of a house, or under a lamp post skirt just outside the WalMart front door, or anywhere passersby, people in parked cars, or those behind windows affording a clear view of the cache location might see you…then I suggest you look up the definition of “Trouble” (yes, with a capital “T”) in the dictionary…because you’re bound to have some. Pick a remote lamp post skirt, use available features to screen the location (shrubs, trees, a fence), or find a more isolated or rural location for your cache.

E. Contraband – This fits in both “hunting” and “owning” categories…think about what it is you place in a cache as SWAG or a trade item. Geocaching Guidelines specifically mention not placing explosives, fireworks, ammo, lighters, knives (including pocket knives and multi-tools), drugs, or alcohol in caches. Additionally, food items (candy, sport bars, gum, etc.) are also a bad idea…animals have far keener noses than humans, and they’ll smell those items…and do whatever it takes to get into the container!! Liquid (bubbles, perfume, liquid filled trick pens) can leak in the heat of Summer, and freeze in the cold of Winter…making a total mess of both the container, and contents.


When is the last time you read the Geocaching Guidelines? They were revised on 22 April 2014…might be worth a look-see, and you can find them here .

Here’s another valuable resource “The Groundspeak Knowledge Book”…lots of topics, lots of anwsers…Click here to see.

rob3k reminds us that Geocoins and Travel Bugs are not trade items – you may take or leave them as you wish…just remember: If you take one, log it out of the cache…then drop it off in another cache, and log it as being placed in that cache (in a timely manner please)!!

Thanks to zgrav for submitting: “Here is a useful link to the GeoLexicon” Click Here

~Bill (TooWheelin)


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