Geocaching can be an exasperating activity. You arrive at GZ (ground zero) with your GPS reading less than 3 metres only to sometimes spend hours of frustration trying to locate what is supposed to be there. How do you find the geocache?There are many reasons why you can't find the geocache such as:
- It may not actually be there;
- The co-ordinates are inaccurate
- It may be located where it is difficult for the GPS to get a good reading;
- It's really well hidden;
- It's a camouflaged container;
- You're just looking in the wrong place;
- You may not have widened your search radius far enough.
So what are the secrets of experienced geocachers? How do some people consistently find geocaches when others often struggle and log a lot of DNF's.
So here are the top 10 tips on how to find caches when you have arrived at GZ. We'll ignore the fact that you may have done a multi or solved a puzzle cache to get here. We'll talk about solving these in another place.
- Get as close to a zero reading as possible on your GPS at GZ. This will be your starting place. I usually put something down (e.g. the GPS) at that spot. When you are searching around GZ this acts as a reference to show how far away you are from the initial GZ.
- Recognize that your GPS is accurate to a radius of 3 metres (~10ft)... AT BEST! When you get under trees or among tall buildings the accuracy may be much less than that. Let's say it goes out to 10m (~33 ft). Your search area has increased almost 30 times! So you'll need to expand your search radius considerably and look in more places. Hopefully the cache owner gives a good hint if it's difficult to get good lock on the GPS.
- Think about where you may have hidden the cache and look there.
- Often there are indications of where a cache may be hidden. A power trail may have developed where other cachers have followed their GPS to the cache. A pile of rocks covering the cache is often a giveaway. If it's hidden in a wall there is sometimes marks or breakages where other people have been accessing hidden items.
- Who has hidden the cache? If they are an experienced cacher there is a good chance that the co-ordinates are accurate. This will give you more confidence of where to look. However they may be more evil (!) and be made a sneakier hide. If the cache was hidden by a newbie be suspicious of the accuracy of the co-ordinates. Expand your search radius if you can't find it initially.
- Check the hint if there is one. Check the logs of previous finders to see if they have given any hints. Read the description for clues.
- Check that you've entered the correct co-ordinates for the cache in your GPS. This may sound obvious but so many DNFs are related to finger trouble - especially if you are calculating numbers as part of a multi. Always check and recheck the numbers you have calculated and the ones you have entered in the GPS.
- Go with other people. Having extra eyes looking with not only save time but you'll motivate each other.
- Think in 3D. Is it above, or below or underneath?
- Check for camouflaged containers e.g. sprinklers in garden beds, hollow bolts, electrical boxes, painted containers that look like their surroundings etc. We may do a page sometime, on the various containers that you could encounter. Geocachers can be a very creative lot!
If all else fails contact the cache owner or someone who found it recently. It may have disappeared.
You'll find that as you gain more experience in how to find geocaches, it will become easier.
Please feel free to share any other hints that you may have.