Geocaching is an outdoor activity that most often involves the use of a Global Positioning System” (“GPS”) receiver or traditional navigational techniques to find a “geocache” (or “cache”) placed anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small, waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure”, usually trinkets of little value. Participants are called geocachers. Geocaching is similar to a much older activity called “Letterboxing”. The major difference is its use of the “Global Positioning System” and the Internet.
Geocaching was made possible by the “turning off” of the selective availability of the Global Positioning System on May 1, 2000. The first documented placement of a cache with GPS assistance took place on May 3, 2000 and the location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once. Today, well over 200,000 geocaches are placed in 220 countries around the world, and are registered on various Web sites devoted to geocaching.
For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container, containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and treasures, then note the cache’s latitude and longitude coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted online. Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from the Internet and using handheld GPS receivers, seek out the cache. The finding geocachers record their exploits in the logbook and online. Geocachers are free to take objects from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value, so there’s a treasure for the next person to find.
Typical cache treasures aren’t high in intrinsic value. Aside from the logbook, common cache contents are two dollar bills or other unusual coins or currency; small toys; ornamental buttons; and CDs or books. Also common are “hitchhikers” (a.k.a. travelers or Travel Bugs), which are objects moved from cache to cache, and whose travels may be logged online. Occasionally, higher value items are included in geocaches, normally reserved for the “first finder”, or those locations which are harder to reach.
Geocaches can range in size from “microcaches”, too small to hold anything more than a tiny paper log, to those placed in five-gallon buckets or even larger containers. If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it is said to have been “plundered” or “muggled”. The latter term plays off the fact that those not familiar with geocaching are called “geo-muggles” or just muggles, a term borrowed from the Harry Potter series of books. If a cacher discovers that a cache has been muggled, an e-mail
There are many types of caches. Some are easy enough to be called “drive-bys”, “park ‘n’ grabs”, or “cache and dash”. Others are very difficult.