The difference between SWAG and trackables

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.

Today, we’re focusing on SWAG and trackables, but be sure to check out the glossary and Help Center for more information if you’re just getting started with geocaching. 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. 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 state in the US, 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.

Inspired to trade SWAG or send a trackable out on a journey of its own? View our trackable inspiration album and check out the latest in Shop Geocaching.

But it begs the question, what’s the best SWAG or trackables you’ve ever encountered?

  • Rodfly

    I was raised that SWAG was an acronym for Scientific Wild A$$ Guess then came Geocaching acronym Stuff We All Get. But truly the SWAG we find in hiden caches are Someones Waste And Garbage that they would not even carry in their own pocket. Maybe another acronym is needed.

  • James

    Your definition of SWAG: Someones Waste And Garbage made me laugh! Unfortunately that’s too true or common in large geocache containers and wish it wasn’t the case! I think sometimes even cachers get lazy and see something cool inside a cache then retrieve it out without replacing the item. I usually replace it out with a few coins. I think there’s only so much real swag you can swap out when you’re out in the field geocaching. Unless you borrow Santa Clause’s bag and carry it everywhere you go full of toys
    I can’t see people always swapping out swag the correct way. It wouldn’t hurt for the CO to add swag to their containers whenever they maintain them.

  • You are both right. I have found so many useless, annoying, disgusting, and sometimes dangerous or harmful objects in caches – just amazing! I usually carry a little plastic bag to weed those out. A sharp spike has nothing to do in a cache, nor medicine pills, sweets,… . Very often those things prevent the lid to close correctly, starting the deterioration of the whole box.
    But remember, as SWAGs are not that important for us grown-ups, however they are most often the essentials for kids – the treasure they are hunting for. I therefore always make sure to put something nice or cute into boxes larger than size “micro”. I even buy some SWAGs once in a while in my local home crafting shop, like little bugs, hearts, glass pearls etc.

  • AusFox;

    I have found live ammo, a bag of marijuana. Cigarettes, broken car parts which were disposed of responsible. None water proof or protected caches cause swag to become water logged, rusty or just plain useless. There’s a lot of good intentions but they mostly become victim to damp caches.
    Protecting the swag in appropriate bags will help prolong the life of swag.

  • tybihan

    I agree that often, the swag are just a leaf or a stone that had obviously been pick up on the spot, just they could take something out of the box. it’s a bit of a shame. We always carry what I call my ‘Goebox & pen’ & in my box we keep wee toys mostly from kinder eggs treasure or small plastic soldiers & we have a stash of pirate coins. It is indeed a rule to never take anything if you can’t give back, it is also true that it’s what drives the kids: finding the treasure and hopefully have a wee something to bring back home.
    Further about trackables or geocoins, we found what I believed to be geocoins, but the codes do not work and I am not sure what to do with them. Any advice?

  • edesiree

    Its too bad when people leave bottle caps etc. in a cache- I have been with kids when they find a cache and actually have something to add and can take something our- It is great fun. I always try to imagine a child finding a cache when I add something to it.

  • Charyle Calvert

    I travel and I often search out specific caches that show a TB inside, because I WILL move it along. Far too often I have worked hard to find a cache, only to discover no TB inside. This is EXTREMELY frustrating. I have mentioned this to other gc’rs who respond that they are unable to log the TB from whatever app or device they are using. To which I say, then DON’T TAKE THE TB!!! Unless, you are comitted enough to access a way to log it (computer at a public library).
    I am currently wanting to release a TB, but it is sooo cool, my fear is someone will steal it, and it will not travel as I wish. It is a very sad commentary for our community, that some (just like in life), DON’T play by the established rules!

  • Klemmy10

    I discovered my first trackable in my 16th

  • Klemmy10

    Sorry. I found my first trackable in my 16th find. It travelled 4,600 KM while it was with me. I currently own 1 trackable and have had 2 in my inventory. 😉

  • Dandy Dan

    I’m pretty new to this. I’m finding it to be a great hobby. However, could everyone please close the containers properly to help prevent moisture from contaminating the contents? It would be deeply appreciated. Preserve the fun for everyone that comes after you….

  • portermathew

    I have started to leave cancelled stamps. I’m not sure if everyone would agree that stamps are a desirable find, but they represent a part of a country’s society and culture, and if the finder is from abroad, a stamp might not be a souvenir that they themselves would get while in country. In fact, they might not even ever see a stamp while visiting. I also leave coins, too, for a similar reason, but I try to leave coins from other countries I’ve visited rather than the country I’m in.

  • Coreen Laflamme D’Angelo

    I have had a bag of little Canadian lapel pins for years,started geocaching couple of months ago so decided seeing it is our 150th anniversary these little pins great to leave in Geocaches,gave some to sis and her daughter to leave also

  • Clare Jane Crompton

    I went to Cancun Mexico in January and took a travel bug with me to clock up miles and possibly let travel (I’m from the UK) I too was worried if I left it would go missing, so the whole holiday I debated if I should leave it or not and decided on my last day to leave it and guess what? Yep it is apparently still in the cache until I marked it as missing, I messaged the following 10 people to find the cache after me as I was informed it wasn’t in there and all of them said they didn’t take it but there were also no travel bugs in there (mine was not the only one as listed in there) I wish I hadn’t left it now, it was a cute little dog tag for my two Yorkie’s who come caching with us
    I also find it frustrating to find no travel bug when one or two are listed in, I have taken quite a few in the 12 months I’ve been caching and always log them in and out.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/48b33e5f43400339ffacd2c31e4f0c305fd820fa7ed11f67b88ff94ef2e6e045.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3a6107b18b4c9765b117cdc1c33bf8385c707c23ece2d2a1e4b03356f8a94dbd.jpg

  • Charyle Calvert

    I am saddened to hear this has happened. I am now thinking I won’t register or put this particular item in the community. It is a very sad commentary on the game. And, unfortunately, I don’t see a solution to this problem. It just means I will probably never release a TB of my own. But, I will continue to search for them and move them about the country when I can. After all, I like to watch were they travel to. I have a couple of them I picked up at a social in MO, and they are now in Germany and Denmark, attending some Mega events. Now, that makes me smile! I also, have one that is rather large (for a TB) and has a great back story. It’s called Dancing Hamster..I have kept him for awhile and will keep him a little longer, but I frequently dip him in caches and posts pics, so his owner sees all the fabulous places I am taking him…he has become a sort of “flat Stanley for me.