Active SportsOutdoors

Geocaching Terms For Beginners

Geocache container in forest

Summer is the perfect time to try a new hobby. Geocaching is where hiking, adventure, puzzle-solving, and computers intersect.

There are about 4 million people who participate in geocaching worldwide and nearly one million in the United States. The beauty of geocaching is that almost anyone can participate and it is easy to enjoy almost anywhere. 

Geocaching began in Oregon on May 3, 2000, soon after GPS technology became available for commercial use. Now there are more than 3 million active geocaches hidden around 191 countries and on all seven continents (including Antarctica)!

Why Is Geocaching A Great Activity?

two young tourist determine the route map and navigator
Image by KaninRoman from Getty

Geocaching is one of the most versatile outdoor activities! Whether you are on a multi-day backpacking trip or strolling around the city park, chances are good that there is a geocache nearby.

Some caches are even gatherings of other geocachers where the invitation includes the clues you need to find the event.

Another benefit of geocaching is that you can include friends and family of all ages. It is an excellent family activity everyone can do together and it will help you explore the world around you in new ways.

Geocaching is also educational. Many cache descriptions include bits of history or science connected to the area. 

Geocaching Terms You Should Know

Photo by Linda Söndergaard on Unsplash

There are hundreds of Geocaching terms and acronyms. It can be overwhelming and confusing for anyone just getting started.

We created a glossary of the basic geocaching terms and acronyms every geocacher should know. 

Geocache: A geocache is a hidden container that people look for when participating in geocaching. “Cache” is shorthand for the word geocache. Caches come in all shapes and sizes but, at a minimum, they include a logbook for geocachers to sign when they find the cache. 

Pocket Query: If you are a premium member of the Geocaching community, you may sign up to receive daily or weekly emails with custom geocaches. The feature also allows you to download the information for up to 500 caches at a time! That’s enough geocaching to keep you very busy. 

BYOP: You probably heard about BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer), or BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair), but in geocaching a common acronym is BYOP. It stands for “Bring Your Own Pen or Pencil.” Cache owners use this acronym to tell other geocachers that they will need to bring a writing utensil to sign the cache logbook. 

GC Code: This is a unique, identifying code given to each geocache that is registered. The GC code starts with “GC” then has alphanumeric characters. The very first cache’s GC Code is “GCF” and the second cache is GC2 and so on. 

Waypoint: A waypoint uses a set of coordinates (usually longitude, latitude, and sometimes altitude) to refer to a specific physical location. Every geocache is a waypoint and some geocache instructions include other waypoints to help you find the cache. 

Ground Zero: Ground Zero is the point where your GPS unit tells you that you arrived at the cache location. At Ground Zero (or GZ), you are “zero feet (or meters) away from the cache.” 

Traditional Cache: Traditional caches are the original geocaches. They include a container and a log book or logsheet. Bigger containers have room for trackable items or trading items. The tiny geocache containers are called “nano” or “micro” caches. They are only large enough to hold a logsheet. 

Virtual Cache: A virtual cache does not have a specific container to find. Instead, it is designed to help you discover a location. The requirements to log that you “found” a virtual cache vary. Some require you to answer a question about the location. Others ask you to take a photo or complete a task. Whatever the requirements, you must visit the location to be able to complete the task. Virtual caches are fun to complete when you would like to explore a new area. 

Trackable: A trackable is a token or game piece that people move from one cache to another. There are many types of trackables, including geocoins, tags, t-shirts, and other items. Use the tracking code on the trackable to find its goal or objective, then log the trackable’s new location after you placed it. 

Multi-Cache: A multi-cache is a geocache that has two or more locations. There are many variations of multi-caches. Most multi-caches start with a clue in the first cache that will help you find the second and so on until you reach the final location where there is a geocache container. 

Puzzle Cache: This type of geocache involves solving complicated puzzles to receive the coordinates for the geocache. 

Event Cache: Instead of a location or container, an event cache is a gathering of geocachers to discuss geocaching. The Event Cache page will include the time of the event and the coordinates for the location. After the gathering, the cache is archived to end it. 

Earth Cache: This geocache is designed to help people learn about a unique geoscience feature of that area. Earth Cache pages include educational information and the coordinates for the cache. Earth Caches help people learn about environmental stewardship and how the earth is shaped by geological processes. Earth Caches can take you to some stunning locations around the world!

Signature item: Some geocachers have a unique item that they like to leave behind in caches to signify that they found the cache. Some people create personal geocoins, pins, tokens, handcrafted items, or unique calling cards. Signature items must be small and lightweight to fit in the smaller cache containers. 

Spoiler: A spoiler is like a hint or information that can reveal details and potentially ruin the experience of finding a cache. In geocaching, a spoiler might reveal details of the location or spoil a surprise inside the cache. 

TFTC: This acronym stands for “Thanks for the cache.” Geocachers often write it in the cache logbooks or online when they log their cache finds. 

TFTH: Another common acronym in the geocaching world that stands for “Thanks For The Hide.”

TNLN: Geocachers who choose not to trade materials or tokens from a cache often write “TLNL” or “TNSL” in the logbook. It stands for “Took Nothing Left Nothing” or “Took Nothing, Signed Logbook.” 

CITO: This acronym stands for “Cache In Trash Out” and it encourages people to pick up trash along their way to and from the geocache location. The geocaching community started this ongoing environmental initiative to help clean up parks and other areas where caches are hidden around the world. 


Now that you know some of the insider language for geocaching, you’re ready to get started! Do you have a geocaching term or acronym to add to the list? If you are an experienced cacher, what is your favorite tip or trick to offer rookie geocachers? Leave a comment below!

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