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How Geocaching Works

Hiding a Geocache
A geocache in plastic container, hidden in tree trunk
A geocache in plastic container, hidden in tree trunk
Image courtesy Ronald Horii

So let's assume you're an old hand at treasure hunting and have racked up an impressive list of finds. Now you want to hide your own cache for the enjoyment of others. What sort of things do you need to consider?

First you should decide what sort of cache you're going to hide. Geocachers recommend that your first cache be a simple one and that you hide it near where you live. You'll be expected to maintain the cache, so you don't want to put it in a spot you'll have trouble getting to now and again.

When determining the location for your first cache, it is very important to research the area thoroughly. In general, caches should not be hidden on private land unless you have the express permission of the landowner. If you do get permission, you should make sure everyone knows that the cache is on private property. To hide a cache on public lands, you should first contact whatever agency manages those lands to learn about their policy on geocaching. Some organizations have very strict rules for geocachers, while others forbid the practice entirely. It's very important for the pastime as a whole that geocachers are seen as cooperative and respectful.

In either case, you should pick a spot that will appeal to geocachers and give them a new experience. Many geocachers look for impressive, beautiful environments that you might not otherwise visit. To them, the journey is at least as important as the destination, and so finding a unique and interesting cache site is considered an art form.

Once you have secured permission and agree to obey any rules or restrictions, you should look for a specific location within the area you've chosen to hide your cache. Geocaches close to avenues of heavy traffic are more likely to be plundered or tossed away than those that are hidden in more remote areas. A cache should be well hidden, but not impossible to find. The more difficult it is to find, the more likely you'll need to include hints when you list the cache on a Web site.

You should never alter the environment when you hide a cache, nor should you place the cache in such a spot that seekers will have to affect the environment when they look for it. Never bury a geocache or place it in thick brush that others will have to clear. In urban environments, you should carefully consider placement of the cache. You don't want to put your cache in a place that could cause a panic. Geocachers must also consider safety in urban environments and should avoid areas like construction sites or other risky locations.

In the next section, we'll look at how to prepare a geocache container and what you should do once you've hidden it.