Geocaching 101: 7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

Geocaching 101. The article I needed to read before I started foraging in the woods for dirt-covered objects hidden among bugs.

Let me get right to it.

1. Use the Parking Waypoints.

In the geocaching app, at the bottom of the page, you will see a link for “Waypoints.” If you click on this, you will see a link for “Parking Area.” Clicking on this will present you with the coordinates of the nearest parking area!


For the first two months of geocaching, I used the coordinates of the cache itself as driving directions. This often led to near-accidents and a lot of screaming at the app in the car, as I muttered and sputtered about how I couldn’t just pull over on the highway. I can’t believe how much easier geocaching is with this parking area discovery.

Not the right way to drive to the cache.

2. A bison is a small tube, not a large animal.

This lesson came the hard way. I was searching for what I assumed to be a camouflaged toy buffalo in a tree for about a month. When you see the word “bison” — it means small geocache container, not animal.

Geocaching 101 Tube

Here’s a few more translations that I had to decipher:

TFTC. Thanks for the cache.

SL. Signed log.

GZ. Ground Zero (meaning the location of the cache).

FTF. First to find.

3. Read the Cache Description and Activity.

Not just the hint.

The description often has vital information about the cache in the last sentence or two.

The activity can be very helpful — especially when folks post photos. I’ve counted rocks and leaves from other geocachers’ photos in order to sort out the correct location.

4. Buy some action pants.

I picked up mine from Amazon (sigh) for $32.

What constitutes the “action pant”?

Long. Velcro pockets for tools. (See #6.) Waterproof. Breathable. Airy. Light color to spot ticks.

These were a game-changer for me. Not only do I look soo rugged, I no longer get mosquito bites and thorn scratches on my legs. I keep my ultra-fine pen in my velcro pocket. I effortlessly check for ticks each time I exit a GZ (See #2).

5. Look for a beaten path.

Where does it appear that people have walked before you?

The first two months I was “whacking bush” left and right. Covered in thorns. Fighting with reeds and sticks and climbing up small mountains. And then I realized — just this morning — when I returned to FDR State Park to avenge my failures: look for a beaten path.

Yes, the caches are off the trails for the most part, but not significantly off the trails, in my experience. If I’m whacking bush or climbing something unreasonable, I’m probably barking up the wrong tree.

Geocaching 101 Fork in Tree
Geocaching 101

I made three quick finds this morning when I stopped and patiently looked for the area that had been traversed. Logically, the hider, and those who came before me, had to walk that path.

Furthermore, try to get inside the head of the hider. If you’ve found one in a series, then the rest will likely be hidden accordingly. Do they like holes or forks in trees? Or do they prefer the ground covered with “nature materials”?

6. Invest in an ultra-fine tip pen.

And an ultra precise pair of tweezers. Make sure these are on your person at all times. The few times I’ve found a cache without a pen, it’s been really unsatisfying. Yes, you can take a photo, but it’s not the same if you can’t sign the log.

As for the tweezers, it’s equally as unsatisfying if you can’t pry the log from the container.

You’d need a tweezer for this one.

Why ultra-fine? Because that way you can write your name legibly in the log.

By the time I find the cache, I’m always in a frenzy. I’m trying to act natural in the face of Muggles (See #7); I’m avoiding the massive bugs that tend to emerge near/from the containers; I’m trying to open the container itself (this is often challenging).

Having a fine-tip pen makes the signing go more smoothly.

7. Act natural.

The geocaching community refers to non-geocachers as “Muggles.”

I have been caught by three such individuals.

The first Muggle said, “It used to be hanging on the fence,” and then apologized to me for ruining the game for me! I was so embarrassed. I told her it was fine. Worst part — it was no longer on the fence.

The second Muggle observed me in an off-trail section of Rockefeller State Preserve. He presumed I was in distress and called out to ask if I needed help. I thanked him and acted natural. Did one of my trail waves.

The most recent Muggle was a young child who asked me if I needed help. Yes, I need help finding the camouflaged buffalo in the tree. No, I didn’t say that. I just politely thanked him and walked away acting natural.

My new design!

Thanks for reading! What’s your best lesson learned in geocaching? Do tell.

Say some things.

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  1. I’m laughing so hard at the bison/buffalo mix up. I would have never known either! I had too look into this more and I guess bison is a brand name of the tubes. Every time you post about geocaching it reminds me I really need to check it out for myself. I swear one day I will! But for now I’ll just keep collecting good pointers from you.

    1. Ha one whole month looking for a buffalo. And I still never found that one, sigh.

      I really love my new hobby. You should definitely try. They’re everywhere!

      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    1. Geocaching would be great with kids! Just watch for poison plants and thorns. And thank you so much! That was in my nail stickers phase. I’m in the nail wraps phase now. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Wow – this was Geocaching 101 for me. I know nothing about it, other than it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt for adults? Is that a fair comparison? It sounds like you’re really into it, which is cool!

    1. Yes! But I think it’s great for kids too. For me, it’s the only thing these days that blanks my mind. I don’t do any worrying during the geocaching other than geocache worrying (falling, snakes, bugs, being bitten, being hit by flying discs, getting lost, car dying in rural area, no gps, running out of water). I’d much rather worry about those things than the other things.

Say some things.