What is Geocaching? Definition, Origin, and Adventure

Geocaching is my passion, my all-time favorite pastime. However, if anyone asks what my favorite hobby is, I get embarrassed and rarely answer with “geocaching.” Many people don’t know what it’s all about, and if they have heard about it, they don’t really understand it, so I just say “reading” instead and continue on with the conversation.

BUT…I wish more people did know about geocaching and did their own research, like read this blog, to become pros about the concept of the game. The world would be a better place, because more people would be happy and outside!

As I began coming up with my list of post ideas, I decided I’d scatter in a few “Beginner Basics,” outlining rules and guides to newbies. I also aim to give a well-rounded description of what the internet has to offer, so this can be your one-stop info-zone. If you have a vlog, blog, or other personal social networking page please share it in the comments! I will try to weave your perspective, along with mine and what I discover online, into my posts.

So…now for you to transition from muggle to geocacher…

The definition of geocaching on geocaching.com: “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

The definition of geocaching on Google: “the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website.”

To piece together the word: geo (“of or relating to the earth”) + cache (noun: “a collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden place” or verb: “store away in hiding”). A person can either find these hidden treasures or hide them…or both!

Geocaching began when satellites, positioned around the world, became accessible to all GPS receivers, instead of only a select few. BAM! Now anyone could locate a precise location by pressing a couple buttons and keeping track of the exact latitude and longitude. Coming from a small town in western North Dakota, I could not navigate cities without this invention. Thank you Google Maps!

Ready to have some fun, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test out this new technology. On May 3rd, 2000, he hid a container (a bucket) with trinkets (videos, books, a slingshot, and other prizes) in the woods and then posted on a GPS users’ group about his idea for a “Great American GPS Stash Hunt,” giving the coordinates and rules for the finders to trade something of equal or greater value if the container was found.  People very quickly started swapping coordinates online of their hidden stashes. Mike Teague helped organize all of these posts online, a mailing list was created, and the name and rules were discussed.

Jeremy Irish stumbled upon Mike’s site and they partnered up to develop geocaching.com. This new site was launched on September 2nd, 2000. Only 75 caches existed.

After an article was published in Slashdot magazine, Jeremy realized he needed help to run the website, recruiting Elias Alvord and Bryan Roth to start Groundspeak Inc. They sold t-shirts and Premium Memberships to pay for a hosted environment and eventually were able to support themselves as full-time employees. The company is stationed in Seattle, Washington, USA with these founders, a small team of Lackeys, and numerous volunteers.

When I found out that geocaching started in 2000, some of the first geocaches in North Dakota were placed in 2001, I was very jealous that I hadn’t heard about this hobby until 2012. I had been missing out on so many adventures! Now, as of September 18th, 2016 on my geocaching app, 2,932,576 geocaches are active. Geocaching.com says over 3,000,000 people are registered and active geocachers/geocaching teams.

Basically, geocaches, containers hidden around the world ranging from the size of a watch battery to a fake bolt to a tackle box to a large bucket in a myriad of shapes and creative camouflage techniques, are posted at coordinates accessible through geocaching.com and either imported into a GPS or searched in an app to allow millions to explore the outdoors. They all must have a log sheet, where you write your geocaching name, but if the room is available, can have all sorts of treasure (swag). Geocaching is waiting for you, to choose a name, sign up through geocaching.com, find a geocache, sign your name, and swap some swag.

To wrap this post up, geocaching for me is a:

  • tour of a new town or your hometown through another’s point-of-view
  • reason to get outside, to hike or explore
  • go on a scavenger hunt
  • family-friendly activity
  • FREE adventure
  • opportunity to meet new people
  • chance to think creativity
  • potential way to set goals and complete challenges
  • historical and/or geographic lesson
  • excuse to start a new collection


The first geocache: GCGV0P. Click here to visit the page.


Here are a few websites also explaining geocaching I found useful and well-designed.

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