Geocaching Etiquette 201: Finding and Logging

Most geocachers would say that our game is pretty simple. Find the cache, sign the log, log the cache online. But when a game is played by millions of people in more than 190 countries, there will inevitably be some debate about game play. Geocaching HQ and community volunteer reviewers are often asked to provide guidance or help mediate disputes.

We have developed a pair of blog posts to more widely share the guidance we provide on some of the most common issues.

We’ll start with the heart of geocaching: finding and logging caches.

Caches can be logged online as “Found” after the geocacher has visited the coordinates and signed the logbook.

This comes straight from the Geocaching guidelines. To be clear, this means you should not log a cache as “Found” if:

  • You did not visit the coordinates. (Example: a group of cachers splits up to find caches on their own, signs a team name to the logs, and then each person logs them all as “Found,” even if they did not personally visit all of the caches.)
  • You see a cache, but did not obtain it and sign the logbook.
  • You find what may be an attachment for the cache, but the container and logbook are gone. In this case, post a “Needs Maintenance” log, not a “Found It.”
  • You couldn’t find anything, so you install a new container and logbook without the owner’s permission, and then log your find. In this case, log a DNF, or if you’re certain the cache is missing, log a “Needs Maintenance.”

This guidance also applies to non-physical caches. You should not log an EarthCache, Virtual cache, Event Cache, or Adventure Lab cache if you did not visit the coordinates.

We should mention challenge caches, since they’re somewhat different. Cachers can sign a challenge cache’s physical log any time, but the cache may be logged as found online only after the log is signed and the challenge tasks have been met and documented.

Appropriate logging when you can’t find a cache

In our recent Cache Quality Survey, we asked about steps geocache finders could take to improve geocache quality. The most popular answer was “Log ‘Did Not Find’, ‘Needs Maintenance’, and ‘Needs Archived’ whenever necessary.”

  • Don’t feel bad about using these logs. They serve a valuable purpose. As the survey showed, your fellow geocachers want you to use them!
  • Be sure you’re using the correct log type. For example, when you can’t find a cache, DNF is usually most appropriate. Just because you can’t find the cache doesn’t necessarily mean the cache “Needs Maintenance.” The Geocaching Help Center has a lot more guidance on this.
  • Don’t post a ‘Needs Archived’ log if you did not visit the coordinates.

Preserve the cache experience for others to enjoy

Cache owners work hard to create fun, high quality caches. Respect their efforts and the spirit of the game.

  • Don’t share answers to puzzles, Adventure Labs, Virtual Caches, or EarthCaches in spoiler groups. By doing so without the owner’s permission, you are ruining their efforts. You also risk losing your access to
  • Do not spoil a cache hide by posting spoiler photos or videos without the owner’s permission.

Be a great representative of the geocaching community

The continued vitality of our game depends on good relationships with land managers, governmental agencies, and property owners.

  • Don’t damage the environment when seeking a cache. (Example: bushwhacking to a cache when going off trail is not permitted.)
  • Don’t trespass to find a cache. If you find that a cache is on private property without permission, then post a “Needs Archived” log.
  • Don’t violate local laws to find a cache. (Example: searching for a cache when the park is closed.)


While they are a fun part of finding a cache, trackables can also be one of the more confusing aspects of geocaching. Here are a few tips to keep in mind about trackables.

  • Before retrieving a trackable from a cache, be sure to confirm that you can help with its mission/destination. This information is available on the trackable page.
  • Try not to hold a trackable longer than necessary. In most cases, trackables want to travel.
  • Do your best to place trackables in caches that are least prone to muggles. This is often more art than science.
  • If you find a trackable that has just recently been dropped into the cache, you might find that it has not been logged into the cache just yet. Give the last person a day or two to properly log it into the cache before “grabbing” it from them. Or message that person to remind them to log the trackable.
  • Don’t share trackable codes without the trackable owner’s permission.

Other things to remember when finding and logging caches

  • When caching with a group, the original finder should replace the cache, since they know exactly where the cache was located.
  • If you damage or lose a cache, contact the cache owner and let them know. Accidents happen!
  • When logging a cache online, use the date you attempted the cache. This helps to provide a more accurate view of the cache’s current condition.
  • When attempting a Webcam cache, only logs with a screenshot from the webcam feed are acceptable. The log type is “Webcam Photo Taken,” not “Selfie Photo Taken!”
  • A cache page is not a discussion forum. If you need to have a conversation about the cache, then email, Message Center, or the Geocaching Forums are among several options.

In the next post, we’ll share the guidance we provide when asked about cache owner etiquette.

Hopelessly addicted cacher and Geocaching HQ's public relations manager.