Why to Log a DNF

Log Your DNFs
Log Your DNFs

3 Little Geocaching Letters that say “I Care”

You’ve looked. You really have. The geocache is not a container magnetized under the park bench. It’s not that funny looking rock, and of course it’s not under the lamp post cover. You’ve checked the previous logs and the hint. The geocache could be there, but you can’t seem to find it. You give up (for now). Geocaching doesn’t stop there though. Here’s what you do. You log a DNF on the geocache page. It’s “Did not find” and it means, “I care.”

When you log a DNF, you’re telling geocachers that the geocache may be more difficult to find than anticipated or may even be missing. You’re also letting the geocache owner know that they may need to double check that their geocache container can still be located at the posted coordinates.

If you’re a geocacher who logged any of the more than nine million DNF’s posted to Geocaching so far, thanks from the geocaching community. It’s a small way to help ensure the quality of geocaching. Plus, you can always go back and search again. Who knows, maybe this time you’ll catch a break and log a “Found it!”

Add a comment below and share your DNF strategy with other geocachers. When do you log a DNF?

  • Dale n Barb

    Excellent blog today. As a cache owner of well over 100 caches we maintain our caches and appreciate a dnf log so we know there might be something wrong with our hide. Without a dnf log, people may be searching for something not originally intended, or possibly a missing container. Thanks for posting this.

  • Christopher (mojave_rattler)

    I agree in saying this is an excellent log. I have over 150 cache placements the spread well over 200 miles between the Nevada/California border into Arizona and Utah. Its impractical for me to check on every single cache every week or even once a month. Now if there are several DNF logs then I can point out the specific geocaches that might need maintenance or just need to be confirmed that they are still there. I don’t understand when people chose to not to log a DNF. Is it that it has to do with pride. Are people just to proud to log a DNF.

  • pisab

    will only log DNF after a serious try – feel often uncomfortable towards cacheowner to log a dnf – caches with two recent dnf i will filter out when planning trip

  • ole timer

    As a experienced geocacher (2800+) I normally do not leave a DNF unless I am positive it is not there! I will how ever contact the CO and inform him it might be MIA (missing in action)! A lot of people won’t go even look if there is a DNF or two listed, and it might just be really hard to find! As a cache owner, I normally won’t go check on a cache until it had gotten two or more DNF’s, but instead I check to see how many finds they have and then make that decision, otherwise I would be doing nothing other but rechecking my caches!

  • simrebel

    I will log a DNF after a extensive search and come up empty for a couple reasons, 1. lets cache owners know there might be a problem with the cache, and 2. sometimes a friend might see it and give me a hint. 3. lets other cahcer know that it might not be a quick find

  • I log a DNF anytime I don’t find a cache, if I can even get close to GZ. I state in my log the circumstances: wasn’t able to look stealthily, looked forever and couldn’t find a thing, tried a quick look in the dark using my phone as a flashlight but gave up fast, etc. This benefits COs, reviewers, and other cachers. Not logging a DNF doesn’t help anyone!

  • Morgzmate

    When we first started caching we wouldn’t log a DNF but would watch the cache and if possible go back and try again. Having now set caches ourselves we appreciate seeing the DNF’s on our cache logs it shows us how well the cache is working, while we want people to find our caches we don’t want them to be too easy. I usually go and check if we get 2 DNF’s in a row.
    Likewise we now log a DNF for any caches we can’t find.

  • hello, we are allways mention a DNF on the internet. We are having truble sometimes understand the information on the cache page,s here everything is written in Catalan, yes, not Spanish, but in Catalan. We allways hope to get some help or a tip from the CO after our DNF. Most of the cachers here know us allready, and because we live in Catalonie (Spain) doesn’t mean we understand Catalan.

    We even get an (not a nice) e-mail from a “colleague” cacher te text: HEY CACHES EN CATALAN.

    That was it. We are hiding also (26 so far), and give always information in Dutch, Spanish and English as good as possible, so foreign cachers can also do ours.

    We live near Cambrils and Salou in the Costa Dorada, we work with tourist, so we know there are a lot of cachers among the tourist, let them find also caches outside there own country.

    We have some nice Multis, not difficult also for foreigners and nice tradiotionals with space for TB’s

    good luckall and hopefully we can change some DNF’s in Founds

  • I also received several logs saying that one of my caches wasn’t found by one cacher after three attempts now – it would have been more polite if he told me that after his first DNF which he refused to log (and which everybody else could see, sure…)

  • YES! I am still considered a newbie to geocaching at just over 100 caches. I thought I was much worse than most people at this hobby before I realized many people don’t log their DNFs. Nearly every time I posted one though there’d be five more after mine saying the cache was missing. I always wonder how many people tried to find it, couldn’t, then were too embarrassed to say so! I think it really helps if everyone logs their DNFs. Thanks for a good post!

  • (harleyria – Geo ID) I leave a DNF if I have no intention of returning to that cache any time in the near future – by that I mean within a few days… I live the gypsy lifestyle so can never be sure if I will be back ever. Sometimes I have returned the next day, and then leave a DNF, or a Found it, whichever the case may be. Sometimes if I really believe it may be missing, I write a note, or message the CO or both.

  • Andrew

    I have experienced way too much frustration in posting DNFs. For example, there is a cache near my work that I have searched and searched and searched for to no avail. I went nearly every day for a month with no luck. I posted the DNF and I even left a note. That was 8 months ago and the cache owner hasn’t responded and others have logged DNFs since then as well.

  • Mmontes

    If I would’ve logged a find had I found, then I must log a DNF when I don’t. And I’ve logged a lot of DNFs.

  • maybe a “needs maintenance” would be appropriate to wake up a CO who does not seem to be interested in his cache any longer…

  • this seems to me the most clear and reasonable comment so far – kind regards…

  • lumpyjmb

    l log a DNF after a second attempt and fail or if l know l can’t come back because I depend on other cachers DNF logs. If we are drivingthrough an area and are time poor checking logs helps us eliminate wasting precious time on a cache that may be missing, Logging DNFs are important for heaps of reasons and are a fun part of the game,

  • DNF’s are great, but…

    DNF – Too many muggles (BAD)
    DNF – Big Wasp Nest (BAD)
    DNF – Got there after Dark (BAD)
    DNF – Searched for 20 minutes (Good)
    DNF – All 5 of us searched for 20 minutes (Even Better)

    I have found that Geocaching is an INDIVIDUAL sport. Each INDIVIDAL has his/her own set of rules they follow.

  • Guest

    I agree with this completely. I do it for the owner as well as those who follow. It just seem like the right and courteous thing to do. Great article.

  • I agree with this completely. I do it for the owner as well as those who follow. It just seems like the right and courteous thing to do. Great article.

  • Dan (ZipZapZing)

    Ill add a DNF after my third try (Or sooner depending on the difficulty,If its a 1 and I know darn well its not there) I want to be sure I tried good and hard to find it before giving up and logging a DNF

  • Doparo

    Although it is against our nature to admit defeat. In this game it is not defeat , but actually may be bringing you one step closer to the find. So many times I have logged a DNF and soon after I would hear from the CO or even met them out near GZ willing to lend an extra hand in finding the hide. It shows how much they care about the integrity of the game and their cache.

  • itchytires

    I always log DNF – sometimes I missed the ovious and sometimes I didn’t have time and sometimes I can’t find the cache:((( — but I HATE when all the logs are all found and I am the only DNF boy am I stupid? Then I found out some cachers don’t log DNF — soooooo I’m not the only one – k – happy again:)))

  • Out4Sand

    I always log a DNF if I made a decent attempt to find the cache.

  • Marion

    I don’t care if I look stupid or not. I log every DNF as sure as I do every Found! I fully agree: DFN stands for: I care!

  • crs98

    I always log my DNF’s and not just for the important reasons given above. Another really important reason to log DNFs is because it’s part of the experience that I had at that spot. It’s the main reason we write anything online at all, whether we find it or not. I like to write about my experiences at the site and not all of them are filled with smiley’s. Describing the experience, even if it ends in failure is important.

    I’m more than happy to indicate if I think the cache might be missing (…I found bits of broken container scattered about…); if the cache was just hard to find (…tons of hiding places, but I ran out of time before searching them all….); or if the failure was just mine (…this kind of hide always baffles me, but I’ll be back…). In cases where I can’t find it and I can call a friend who has found it and the container still doesn’t reveal itself, I’ll happily note that as well. It gives the CO more confidence that it really might be missing (or at least misplaced by somebody who moved it).

    One of the misconceptions that a lot of people have about DNFs is that they are admissions of personal failure — nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s all about relating the experiences of the spot and I’m happy to log my DNF’s. I’m looking forward to my 400th DNF in the near future and plan on throwing an event to celebrate this milestone.

  • bluefawn

    If you have logged a “needs maintenance” and the CO hasn’t responded, post a “needs archived”. That will either wake up the CO or the cache will be archived, leaving it free for another cacher to use the space. I always log a DNF, especially when I have looked for a very long time. Sometimes I email the CO to let them know where I looked, and see if they will give me a hint.

  • Zargfinders

    Yeah, I hate it when people say “took three attempts” or something on one of my caches and hasn’t logged a DNF.

  • Adm13

    Having (and logging) a DNF is not having a disease …

  • LeoLox

    I wonder, why my Challenge-Cache with different logtypes, which you have done once was not allowed to contain ONE did not find-log (with remark to the guidelines), when logging a DNF is so important. I totally agree, that logging a DNF is very important especially for the cache-owner.

  • The logs are very important and it isn’t just DNFs. It’s so useful to be able to communicate about the cache – it’s wet, too visibile, container is damaged etc.. I also like to give a good description of finding the log or not to help other cachers coming after me…

  • GrandpaGene

    I almost always log a DNF and include what # find it would have been. I do this to let the CO know my experience level when posting the DNF.

  • evanmars

    I generally take into account the rated difficulty and location of a cache, and if I plan on being back soon.
    If it is a 1 or a 2 difficulty, and I can’t find it, I’ll post a DNF after the first visit. If it is rated higher and I’ll come back within a week or so, I’ll wait until next time. If it is in an area with a high muggle density, I’ll post a DNF after the first visit.

  • ccsierra

    I don’t always log DNFs (contrary to what everyone else seems to be saying) if it has been recently found. I’ll want to go back again in a short while just to make sure. Too often some one else comes along after my search and logs a find. Yes, there’s a bit of “I don’t want to post a failure” in this attitude. If it matters, I have over 2,000 finds.

  • vdubchick

    I always log DNF. As a newby, only a yr I find reading the previous logs helpful in my finds, so when people don’t log their DNF they are not doing anyone any favours. I will go back a couple of times re-read the logs and if it still hasn’t been found I will leave a note for the CO to check out. I also have several caches and take the DNF seriously, as I know there is something wrong with the cache. My caches are easy for our young cachers and there’s nothing worse for a little one to not find the cache they have searched for.

  • From my own experiences in planning a geocache outings and from discussions with others, often times if the last log was a DNF the cache will be scrutinized before being selected or rejected for the geocache outing.

    I don’t want my inability to search to discourage others from searching. If there are circumstances that prevent me from doing a thorough search at GZ (muggles, wasp/snake/dog, nightfall, etc) then I write a note instead of logging a DNF and explain what happened. Once someone logs a find or DNF after my unfortunate circumstances, then I’ll change the note to a DNF.

  • 3Teas

    Note: If you are searching as a group; I recommend only logging 1 DNF rather than all of you.
    eg. if you are in a group with 4; 1 DNF GC may still be there; howerver 4 DNFs may stop others from even attempting.

  • I dispise people who “Found it”, then include in the post DNF because…______________ I typically delete those logs from my caches.

  • Brian Sniatowski

    As I see it, there are two possibilities when I hunt for a cache. I find it, or I don’t. There is a log type for each and I choose the appropriate one for each cache hunt.

  • Joshism

    I would say “Got there after dark” is either a Note or a DNF depending on more details…
    Searched unsuccessfully with a flashlight = DNF
    Planned to search after dark, but the park closed at sunset which isn’t mentioned on the cache page = Note
    Got there after dark, didn’t plan on searching after dark, didn’t have a flashlight, didn’t bother looking in the dark = no log

    DNF “wasp nest” or DNF “too many muggles” is fine so long as this is clearly explained in the log. It alerts other cachers they need to be aware of these issues. The context of the DNF being included in the log is the most important part.

  • Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to log a DNF, especially if it is where i think it is – which is beyond my physical abilities eg in a tree, higher than i can reach. I attempted one of these the other day witj a friend of mine, both of us with physical limitiations.

    We didn’t know if we should ‘write a note# to the effect above, log a ‘DNF’ in case it was not where we thought it was, or just leave it.

    What’s your advice please?

  • You raise a very good point there 🙂 When we are GC, and come to log a cache, i agree, it is about logging our experience there, be it a found or DNF or write a note if we were with someone else who could reaach the cache, like a tree climb, and we went along for support, but could not reach the cache in situ, in order to log a find.
    When i log a cache, i usually mention who i am out with, something about the weather, and other places we may have visited that day eg We enjoyed our day which has taken us to a beautiful village, that without GC, we would never have found …
    It is sad to see when people put TFTC easy find. Especially as even for a simple hide, a lot of time and effort has gone into placing a cache.

  • When should a DNF log also mean i should log a needs maintanence (NM)?

    eg We went to find a cache a couple of days ago. I tried to find the cache myself as my husband had already found it previously. When i could not find it, i asked him for help – am i getting warmer or colder kind of game.
    He searched the area extensively, to no avail. Also there has been extensive work carried out on the site since my husband was here last.
    I logged a DNF describing my experience and also logged a NM due to the fact that it was clear there had been extensive work carried out all around and at the GZ.
    I did also wrote in my log that we would be back at the area this saturday as it is near my parents in laws home and offered to replace the cache for them if they wanted us to.
    Did i do the correct thing?
    Does it reflect bad on me or the Cache owner by logging a NM?
    I would hate to get it wrong and cause a problem for the CO by logging a NM if it didn’t need it.

  • JakeDK

    Just started geocaching and I plan on logging all DNFs(logged my first DNF today). It shows that the cache is popular and is a personal reminder to myself that one day I have to find it!

  • I always try to leave a DNF if I have done an excellent job searching and the light was good if it was a daytime cache. If I am not certain I missed it I would say so in my log. As a Cache Owner I had a cacher post a DNF one day and send me a note asking if something was the container. It was not. I would love a hundred of those rather than a 100 false found logs for a cache that was there. (I can see it out my office window.) They were back the next day and got it with no problem.

  • Connie

    When I first started geocaching in June of this year I didn’t always log a dnf because I was so new to the sport. I’ve since gone back and found some of them and that feels so good! When it says it’s only a 1 star or 1 1/2 star difficulty and I can’t find it I feel it is me. But there has been some of those that I do log a dnf now that I have been at it awhile. I only have a 130 under my belt and I still get very frustrated when it should be easy and I can’t find it.

  • When I started I didn’t log DNF’s for the first couple, as I saw it as a failure.
    Then I realised that part of the fun of Geocaching (for me) is creating memories, and a tangible way to look back and remember what I’ve done and where I’ve been.
    Logging a DNF is just as important as It’ll add to the experience as a whole when going back and actually finding it.
    I also now appreciate what the article here says a lot more.