Geocaching is a fun outdoor recreational activity played by people of all ages and abilities.
Geocaching is best described as a treasure hunt using a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or smart phone and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world.A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook (with a pen or pencil). The geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name (A fun nickname). After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little financial value, although sometimes they are sentimental (see below for more details)
For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and trade items then record the cache's coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a listing site (see list of some sites below). Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from that listing site and seek out the cache using their GPS handheld receivers. The finding geocachers record their exploits in the logbook and online, but then must return the cache to the same coordinates so that other geocachers may find it. Geocachers are free to take objects (except the logbook, pencil, or stamp) from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value.
Typical cache "treasures" are not high in monetary value but may hold personal value to the finder. Aside from the logbook, common cache contents are small toys, ornamental buttons, CDs, or books. Also common are objects that are moved from cache to cache called "trackables", such as Travel Bugs or Geocoins, whose travels may be logged and followed online. More details are below. Higher-value items are occasionally included in geocaches as a reward for the First to Find (called "FTF"), or in locations which are harder to reach. Dangerous or illegal items, weapons, food and drugs are not allowed and are specifically against the rules of most geocache listing sites.
If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it is said to have been "muggled". The former term plays off the fact that those not familiar with geocaching are called muggles. The term was not borrowed from the Harry Potter series of books as is commonly thought but comes from the original Old English word meaning an outsider or uninitiated person.
Popular Geocaching Websites
geocaching.com (by far the most popular site with the most geocaches)
opencaching.org.uk (more geocaches than terracaching.com. Over 1000 geocaches of different types including types that cannot appear on geocaching.com. These caches are mostly in the south of England)
terracaching.com (few geocaches in the UK.)
www.gagb.org.uk The Geocaching Association of Great Britain have a huge resource of geocaching information and also hold a database of landowner permissions for placing geocaches.
Geocache Land recommend UK Cache Mag as a great way to learn about geocaching and geocaches.
The core of geocaching is pretty simple: to inspire geocachers to have an adventure at every location. But the game of geocaching can be much more complex. There are acronyms (TFTC, FTF, etc.), different cache types, SWAG, and trackables.
Both SWAG and trackables are items that you have probably seen in a geocache before, but even though they can look similar, they are actually much different! Below we’ll explore some of these differences.
First up: SWAG / SWAPS. Small toys, keychains, and other treasures found in the cache – that’s geocaching SWAG – or Stuff We All Get. SWAG is often something homemade, or represents a geocacher, their interests, or where they’re from! Geocachers trade swag by replacing items in the geocache with something of equal or greater value. Take a look at some SWAG examples below!
Trackables on the other hand, are traveling game pieces that geocachers send out into the world via a geocache or at an event, often with a goal or mission. Some of these goals could be specific, like visiting every country in Europe, or they may just want to go on an adventure to as many caches as they can.
Either way, trackables let you experience an epic journey, one story and one geocache at a time. Each log from your trackable is a page in a digital diary. You can see exotic locations, read entries of your trackable’s travels, and connect with the geocachers who carry your trackable from geocache to geocache. View some trackable examples below!
The main difference between SWAG and trackables are that you can keep SWAG, but unless a trackable says it can be collected, then the best action you can take is to move it to another cache, closer to its goal!
So far so good? Now some time for etiquette. Don’t worry, it’s only a few reminders!
How can I tell the difference between trackables and SWAG?
The easiest way to differentiate the two is to look for a tracking code on the item. Tracking codes can be found on the item directly, such as written or engraved, or attached to it via a tag. Below are three different forms of trackables.
Trackable code items:
Can I keep SWAG?
Yes! Just be sure to leave something for the next person by trading up or trading evenly.
Can I trade SWAG for a trackable?
SWAG is meant to be a trade item in geocaches. If you take a piece of SWAG, then you should leave something of equal or greater value behind. Trackables want to move from cache to cache, collecting stories along the way. No need to trade items for a trackable. Just ensure you can help move a trackable toward its goal if you take one from a geocache.
Can I keep a trackable?
Unless a trackable specifically says it can be collected, you should not keep it. Instead, try to move it closer to its goal! If you’re not heading in the same direction, try discovering the trackable instead so that it’s owner knows it’s still in the cache.