Updated Geocache Hiding Guidelines

Today, Geocaching HQ is releasing updated guidelines for hiding caches. The main goal of the update is to make the Geocache Hiding Guidelines easier to read and understand. Here is what we have done to achieve that goal:

  • Improved guideline layout
  • Made text more clear
  • Reduced number of words by 15%
  • Moved supporting material to Help Center
  • Added some changes or clarifications to specific guidelines (see below)

In addition to the text updates, the page got a face lift, including better navigation! Read the new guidelines.

Community volunteer translators are currently translating the new guideline text into 24 languages. As these translations become available, the guidelines will be updated in those languages.

Changes and clarifications

Some guidance has changed since the last update a few years ago. Those changes include:

Caches must be accessible

Make sure to hide your cache for the long term, where it is available most of the week, and so it can be found without contacting anyone. Check out the new section in the guideline text about accessibility.

Caches cannot be buried – except with permission

To avoid problems with land managers and property owners, geocaches were previously not allowed to be buried under any circumstances. In general, this is still the case, unless you get explicit permission from the property owner. See the Regional Geocaching Policies Wiki for details in your region.

Definition of container and logbook

The lack of proper definitions and examples for container and logbook has led to confusion in the past. We have included more specific guidance for logbooks and containers in the new guideline text. The container must hold the logbook. The logbook must be physical, replaceable, easy to sign, and enclosed within a container.

Don’t hide caches far from home

Vacation/holiday caches are usually not published because they are difficult to maintain. It’s best to place physical caches in your area so you can respond quickly to maintenance needs. In rare circumstances, a vacation cache with an acceptable maintenance plan might be published.

Communicate with your reviewer

We have added new tips on how to communicate with your reviewer. Prior to publication, cache hiders should always provide information about the geocache location, container, and how it is hidden.

No precedents

Although “no precedents” was part of the previous guidelines, the reviewers were unable to link to it. You can find the new link here.

No agendas

We have updated text to clarify that what we mean by agendas, including highlighting causes such as charitable ones.

No commercial content

We have added text to make it clear that Geocaching HQ may make exceptions to the commercial guidelines for GeoTours and trackable promotions.

Family friendly

We have added text to clarify that cache pages must be family friendly.

Cache owner responsibilities

If you are a cache owner and unsure about your responsibilities, head over to this new section that details maintenance expectations.

With more than 3 million geocaches worldwide, cache owners must be extra careful to keep their geocaches in good shape. This prevents “geo-litter” and keeps the game fun for all involved. If a cache owner shows that they can’t keep up with the maintenance of their existing caches, they might lose their hiding privileges.

In addition to keeping the cache page and cache container in good shape, cache owners are also responsible for keeping the cache page guideline compliant after publication.

Letterbox Hybrid Caches

Rules about the distance between the final coordinates and the posted coordinates are defined by the underlying cache type: Traditional, Mystery, or Multi-Cache. See Letterbox Hybrid.

Wherigo Caches

Wherigo posted coordinates must be the same as the “Start at” coordinates on Wherigo.com. Exceptions:

  • “Play anywhere” cartridges
  • “Reverse” cartridges
  • Cartridges that start at a later waypoint
  • Cartridges used for geo-art

For these exceptions, the posted coordinates must be within 2 miles of the final.

Event Caches

Events cannot be held in or near transportation centers, such as airports, cruise ship ports, and train stations.

CITO Event Caches

We have updated the text regarding CITO caches to clarify that we encourage partnering with other organizations and that a separate sign-up is all that is needed such events.

Hopelessly addicted cacher and Geocaching HQ's PR Manager.
  • Matthew Fecica

    I have a question, in the new guidelines it says

    “With permission, geocachers may place caches in space, either on other planets or in spacecraft.”

    So if I want to hide a cache on Mars, who am I supposed to get permission from :P? If no one owns the land up there, am I supposed to get permission from some martian :P?

  • NLBokkie

    The proximity rules for events are still unclear. No time or distance between caches is mentioned. And what if unrelated (small) events from different owners are planned near each other? Please make that clear, as we’re having constant discussions about that with the reviewers. Thank you!

  • NLBokkie

    Also, please make explicitly clear that small events at restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlours, diners, dönershops etc are just fine and not considered ‘commercial’. As this is another constant issue we run into with reviewers.

  • Martin Etsebeth

    The 161 m rule sometime makes it impossible to place nice caches, distance be reduced???

  • Peter Nunn

    As no one owns the land you can fly over to Mars and stake out your claim. 😂

  • Torbjörn Axelsson

    Not really necessary.

    The danger of pollution in other areas is just too large.

    If you feel you absolutely have to, see if you can make a mystery cache with a virtual field step or a multi with a virtual first step. If the area is so full of caches that there are no suitable hiding places within 3.2 km just drop it. Try to find somewhere that is not already on the geocaching map.

  • Torbjörn Axelsson

    It would be nice to be able to mention the name of the venue, this is sometimes allowed and sometimes not. Otherwise a restaurant event is rarely a problem for us here in Sweden.

  • NLBokkie

    It is here in the Netherlands. I suppose that shows how the same guidelines are sometimes interpreted completely different by different reviewers.

  • Torbjörn Axelsson

    In Sweden the local guidelines are clear (but subject to change). Make this request of your own local reviewers as well. The distance rule was set to 30 km, which works ok here in Östergötland but probably is way too much in Stockholm.

  • Joe Buck

    This would appear to ban a common type of hind, where a write-in-the-rain log is on the back of a flat magnetic sheet. The log is not inside the container. Is that intentional?

  • Torbjörn Axelsson

    Isn’t that special permission from groundspeak?

    Also, the tourist cache rule may prohibit a Mars cache.

    It is just a pun rule anyway, but way past its best before date.

  • Joe Buck


  • Torbjörn Axelsson

    I suspect this is one of the rules that you can make an exception from if you can show it works.

  • NLBokkie

    Good idea, Torbjörn. But I’ve already done that. Here the local proximity rules are not published, which results in endless discussions about what distance or time window is considered acceptable or not. Like in Sweden, 10 km may be ok for relatively uninhabited areas, but is often far too much in the densely populated ‘Randstad’ area.

  • Irene Gray

    Really!!!! WOW

  • Robert

    I know, right!!

  • Michael

    You can name the venue, as long as you don’t engage in advertising.

  • Marg Campbell

    Thanks to Groundspeak for publishing this list of Guidelines and sending it out to cachers. A much needed improvement.

  • Micha L. Rieser

    The rules for events are too restrictiv and too narrow minded. An event cannot be attached to an existing event. So why? Fears that geocachers talk about something else than just finding containers? Does this violate the purity of that hobby? And also the rules are still unclear. An event cannot be held at an airport or trainstation. First: Why? Where’s the problem? Ehat if a train station is big enough? In a lot of countries train stations are accessible for everybody. Second: Which radius? Why not simply just make rules for accessability? An event should simply be able for everyone to attend without costs. And only that is important. Where it will be and if we enjoy something else too should not be the concerns of Groundspeak.

  • Utterly irrelevant to me. I’m not hiding any more. I shall be slowly archiving my 190 caches (including 21 wherigos which took 1500+ hours to create). Have you seen the profiles of the supposed top one per cent of cache hiders? With an average caches owned total of less than twenty each I’m sorry I ever bothered hiding any in the first place.
    Sulking? Possibly. Insulted? Definitely.

  • Christian Beckmann

    Most parts of the guidelines are pretty much fine and do work as they are supposed to, but I also have some comments on parts I wonder why they are like they are…

    1. Logbook enclosed in container: There are quite some where there is NO container, but a logbook, like on magnet signs or such. This works perfectly fine and at least as good as film canisters…

    2. Events at airports or train stations: Why shouldn’t these work any more? Here in Munich we do have several restaurants inside the airport and they are more than happy to host about any reasonable number of geocachers for a (short) meet&greet event and quite some people are doing so. So why to prohibit this?

    3. Removing archived caches: Hmmm, what about caches that also are published on other geocaching websites? They might have other rules and a cache might still work for THEM.

    4. I know, I already asked the support and got a final answer, but I still don’t get it… Why shall a mystery FINAL shall be within 2 miles from the icon? A multi final doesn’t need to be that close! And a myst sometimes is just a multi with a riddle upfront to get to the first stage! Same with the (new) exceptions for a Wherigo by the way. I can understand that the FIRST stage shall be within this range, but the final!?

  • R Sch

    There has been no change to the rule. Flat magnet and poster caches – where people must sign the back of the magnet/poster – were not allowed. Now it’s a little more clear that they are not allowed.

  • R Sch

    I suspect that the hiders with 20 active caches monitored and checked their 20 caches regularly for a number of years. The owners likely responded to issues quickly. Sorry to hear that you were overlooked if you had a record of monitoring, maintaining, responding to issues, posting notes, disables and OMs when you checked your caches. A hider with a long-standing good cache maintenance record not getting a Virtual Reward would be something to sulk about.

  • Ady

    Plenty of cache owners that have been caching for years have been overlooked thanks to the amazing algorithm that GCHQ used but refuse to divulge as it is obviously flawed.
    I know of a cacher that had not been active for nearly two years, had archived his caches and has still been granted a Virtual Reward!

  • And by implication I didn’t?

  • Wallups P Junklehead

    oh boy, taking my ball and going home… mommy!

  • Yes !!! definately.