This piece is not intended to cover the rules of Geocaching. There are plenty of do’s and don’ts around the web and if you haven’t read them lately I suggest you start with: http://www.geocaching.com/guide/default.aspx
This article is intended to cover of some of the more esoteric aspects of caching etiquette which the newcomer to the game may not have considered.
Geocaching is not a crime. I state this obvious fact as many geocachers appear to hide their GPS and/or use it furtively while on the trail regardless of how far they are from the hide. While stealth is usually required at the hide to ensure you don’t give away the caches location to muggles. It’s perfectly acceptable to be seen using your GPS and engage with muggles and fellow geocachers while out on the trail. We’ve recently taken to wearing a badge with our caching name on, which while meaningless to muggles, quickly and easily identifies us as geocachers.
Sooner or later you’re going to meet other cachers out hunting for the same hide as yourself. The polite thing to do is introduce yourself. Establish if you’re both going for the same hide and if so join forces. Geocaching can be even more fun if you do it as a team sport and/or a social event. If there are other caches in the area you can head in different directions afterwards, if not, enjoy the company of your fellow cachers. In our experience they’re a pretty friendly bunch.
If you are caught “cache in hand” by another cacher you should ask if them if they wish to sign the log or offer to re-hide once they are out of sight, so they can return later and find it for themselves. In most cases the log will be signed by all. Be sure to give you new friends a mention in your log.
If Travel Bugs or Coins are exchanged at these meetings, make sure you arrange for the handover to be done through logging the trackable in and out of the cache. This ensures that the trackable gets credited with its miles and the owner knows it whereabouts.
While on the topic of trackables. Do make sure you log your trackable in and out of their boxes. If you pick up a trackable which hasn’t been logged into a box by a previous cacher, don’t immediately grab it from them. Wait a few of days to give them the chance to log it in. They may be away from home and unable to log it immediately. For this reason, don’t pick up too many trackables at once, they can become difficult to manage.
If a trackable has a particular goal you can help with in the not too distant future, it’s quite acceptable to hold onto the trackable for an extended period. If you intend doing this, say so in the trackables log or contact the owner directly. I had a cacher contact me to say he was going to the US on holiday in a few weeks and could he hold on to my trackable until he did so. Of course, I was delighted to say yes and very grateful for the note.
Some trackables a quite large and if you pick one up it could be some time before you find a box big enough to place it again. It’s important therefore, that when you are holding trackables you indicate these as “visited” in your cache logs. This adds miles and interest for the trackables owner as well as assuring them the trackable is still in circulation.
If you find a cache that is worse for wear. Do your best to leave it in better condition than you find it. Remove any items that may be spoiling the contents such as foodstuffs or soggy items. Try to keep the contents dry and if already wet, try to dry off the contents as much as you can. We carry spare logs and plastic bags which can be used to isolate damp objects or provide protection around a damaged container. Be sure to inform the cache owner by posting a “needs maintenance” log where necessary.
It’s not uncommon to find a cache exposed or otherwise not hidden very well. This is often down to animal interference or movement due to weather effects. In these cases do your best to hide the cache as best you can without relocating it. If you must relocate, post the new co-ordinates with your log so the owner can find it and attend to it if needed. Likewise, if you find a cache that appears to be well off it’s published co-ordinates. Let the owner and any other seekers know by posting the coordinates at which you found it on your log.
Trading is not compulsory and I tend to think of it as something to enhance the game for the kids. Don’t feel you have to leave something or even break the guidelines in order to do so. If you do trade, do so responsibly. Keep it kid friendly.
Sign the log. An integral part of the game is the signing of the log. There’s much debate on the subject of leaving a calling card but whether you love them or hate them, they are not a replacement for signing a log. I know many people like to leave and receive calling cards in caches. Personally I consider them litter and remove them from my caches and bin them, they take up valuable space and invariably blow away when you open the box. A cache owner is well within his/her rights to delete your online log if it transpires you didn’t sign the one in the cache.
Sign the log appropriately. In smaller hides it is only appropriate to date and sign a log, indeed, nano caches may only have space for an initial. Standard boxes with notebooks allow you to be more expressive but this does not give you licence to waste space in the logbook. The cache owner doesn’t want to be constantly renewing logbooks needlessly. Don’t use up a whole page by drawing a huge smiley face when you could have just signed the next line of the previous page. Show some common sense and consideration for the cache owner.
If out caching with friends who each have their own caching id’s it is quite acceptable to give yourselves a team name for that day and sign the logs using just that team name rather than several individual logs. When the team members subsequently log the finds online they can add “found with team xyz” to the log entry.
Cache owners go to varying amounts of effort of place a cache from simple urban drive-bys to long hikes up tall mountains. It’s reasonable therefore for them to expect you to put a suitable amount of effort into your online logs. While a quick “found it” may be acceptable for a busy urban drive-by. If you’ve spent a day hiking up a mountain you should be able to be a bit more expressive about your experiences. This not only rewards the cache owner for his trouble and encourages them to place more hides, but gives future cachers an idea of what to expect should they undertake to seek the cache. Be careful not to give too much away though, don’t spoil the hunt for others.
An exception is the series, where you’ve spent time doing a large series of caches in quick succession it is often difficult to think of something to write for each log and the temptation to cut a paste a short phrase into each entry is very tempting and to a degree acceptable. You should however highlight any exceptions and include at least one comprehensive entry, usually on the log of the final cache where you can summarise the overall experience of the series.
I hope you find this piece helpful and good hunting…