Find Your Geocache

Geocaching Terms Explained

Anytime I pick up a new hobby, I have to spend some time learning a new language. There are all those terms that are unique to the hobby. Or, in some cases, are used differently inside the hobby than in the rest of the world.

Geocaching is no different!

Geocaching has its own terms and abbreviations that are unique to the game. My post Log Abbreviations: Decoded! is one of the most popular posts on FindYourGeocache.com. But, I realized that it goes over all the terms geocachers use in the log books and online, but it doesn’t cover all the OTHER terms that are part of the game.

So, here are some of the most common geocaching terms and what they mean.

Common Geocaching Terms



Archive – Archiving a cache removes the listing from public view on Geocaching.com. This action is usually taken when a cache owner does not intend to replace a cache after it has been removed. As an alternative to archiving, the cache owner can temporarily disable their cache if they plan to provide maintenance on the cache or replace the container within one month.

Attribute – These are icons on a cache detail intended to provide helpful information to geocachers who wish to find specific types of caches. These icons represent unique cache characteristics, including size, whether the cache is kid friendly, if it is available 24 hours a day, if you need special equipment and more. Attributes are also a tool to help you filter the types of caches you would like to search for when building a Pocket Query (see Pocket Query).

Example of attributes displayed on a geocache.

Benchmark – Using your GPS unit and/or written directions provided by NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS), you can seek out NGS survey markers and other items that have been marked in the USA.

Bookmark List – A Premium Member feature that can be used to group cache listings in whatever way you like. You may want a bookmark list of caches you intend to find this weekend, or perhaps an “all-time favorite” list you can share with friends.

Cache – A shortened version of the word geocache. (See Geocache).

Cacher – One who participates in geocaching. Also known as geocacher.

Caches along a Road – A road that has caches at every available pull-off, or nearly every pull-off. These are popular for people who like Park and Grab caches.

Caches along a Route – A Premium Member feature that allows you to identify caches along a specific route for quick and easy geocaching. You can choose from routes already created by other geocachers or use Google Earth to build your own unique trip.

Caches along a Trail – This means that there are multiple caches placed along a hiking trail. Similar to Caches along a Road, Caches along a Trail is an “easy” way to find a lot of caches in a short amount of time.

Datum – A datum is something used as a basis for calculating and measuring. In the case of GPS, datums are different calculations for determining longitude and latitude for a given location. Currently, Geocaching uses the WGS84 datum.

Dipping – The act of logging a Travel Bug or Geocoin into a cache, and immediately logging it back into ones possession. Someone cachers “dip” a Travel Bug or Geocoin in order to register miles traveled before placing the trackable for someone else to find. Some people use a “personal traveler” to track their miles between caches, and will “dip” the traveler into each cache they find.

Drunken Bee Dance
– The movements of a geocacher, trying to pinpoint Ground Zero, chasing the directional arrow first one direction and then another, has been termed the Drunken Bee Dance.

EarthCache – This is one of several unique cache types. An EarthCache is a cache that promotes geoscience education. Visitors to EarthCaches can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage the resources and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth.

Event Cache – This is one of several unique cache types. Events are gatherings set up by local geocachers and geocaching organizations to meet players and to discuss geocaching.

GC Code – A unique identifier associated with every geocache listing. The GC Code starts with the letters “GC” and is followed by other alphanumeric characters.

Geocache – A hidden container that includes a logbook for geocachers to sign. A geocache may also include trade items.

Geocoin – Geocoins work similarly to Groundspeak Travel Bugs® (see Travel Bugs) in that they are trackable and can travel the world, picking up stories from geocache to geocache. Geocoins are often created as signature items by geocachers and can also be used as collectibles.

Geomuggle – see Muggle.

Groundspeak – The parent corporation for geocaching.com. Groundspeak also manages waymarking.com and wherigo.com

Groudspeak Lackey – A “Groundspeak Lackey” is a term used to refer to the employees and founders of Groundspeak who do the most basic tasks to support the overall needs of the community. This willingness to serve each other and provide recreation for a worldwide community is a core value of our company.

Hitchhiker – A hitchhiker is an item that is placed in a cache, and has instructions to travel to other caches. Sometimes they have logbooks attached so you can log their travels. All trackable items can also be called a hitchhiker.

Latitude – Latitude and longitude create a waypoint. Latitude is the angular distance north or south from the earth’s equator measured through 90 degrees.

Letterbox – A letterbox or letterboxing is similar to Geocaching, but you use a series of clues to find a container. Once you find the container (or letterbox), you use the carved stamp from the box, stamp your personal logbook and return that stamp to the letterbox. You then use your carved stamp and stamp the letterbox’s logbook.

Longitude – Latitude and longitude create a waypoint. Longitude is the angular distance measured on a great circle of reference from the intersection of the adopted zero meridian with this reference circle to the similar intersection of the meridian passing through the object.

Mega-Event Cache – This is one of several cache types. A Mega-Event cache is similar to an Event Cache but it is much larger. Among other considerations, a Mega-event cache must be attended by 500+ people. Typically, Mega Events are annual events and attract geocachers from all over the world.

Muggle – A non-geocacher. Based on “Muggle” from the Harry Potter series, which is a non-magical person.

Muggled – The discovery of a cache by a non-geocacher. Also can be termed “geomuggled”. When someone refers to a cache as having been muggled, it almost always means the cache was stolen or vandalized.

Multi-Cache – This is one of several cache types. A multi-cache, or multiple cache, involves two or more locations, the final location being a physical container. There are many variations, but most multi-caches have a hint to find the second cache, and the second cache has hints to the third, and so on.

Mystery or Puzzle Caches – This is one of several cache types. The “catch-all” of cache types, this form of cache can involve complicated puzzles you will first need to solve to determine the coordinates. Examples include complicated ciphers, simple substitutions, arithmetical quizzes and clues cleverly hidden within the graphics.

NAD27 – Stands for North American Datum 1927. The precursor to WGS84. Many maps still use the NAD27 datum , so always check before using a GPS unit with a map.

Nano – An unofficial cache size. A nano cache is usually considerably smaller than the typical micro. One popular container is approximately the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil.

Personal Traveler – A trackable item that is activated but is not released. The owner of the item dips it in caches but it never leaves the owner’s possession.

Pocket Query – (PQ) A Premium Member feature, a Pocket Query is custom geocache search that you can have emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis. Pocket Queries give you the ability to filter your searches so you only receive information on the caches you want to search for.

Reviewer – World-wide network of volunteers who publish the geocache after the listing is submitted to geocaching.com.

ROT13 – Hints for geocaches are encrypted using a simple format where each of the letters are rotated 13 characters up or down in the alphabet.

Signal the Frog. Copyright of groundspeak.com

Signal – Signal is the official mascot of geocaching.com. Designed by artist Koko, Signal is a frog with an GPS antenna on its head.

Signature Item – An item unique to a specific geocacher that is left behind in caches to signify that they visited that cache. These often include personal geocoins, tokens, pins, craft items or calling cards. These are acceptable trade items and may be removed from a cache.

Spoiler – A spoiler is information gives details that can lead the next cacher to the cache. It is like an accidental hint. An example would be a post for a geocache like: “We parked right next to the log where the cache was hidden.”

Swag – Are the items that are left in a geocache for trade. This is sometimes expressed as the acronym ‘Stuff We All Get” however the word “swag” is not really an acronym.

Trackable Item – Any item that can be tracked on geocaching.com.

Trade Item – Items in a geocache that are available to be taken. It is a best practice that you leave an item of equal or greater value for each item you take.

Traditional Cache
– The original cache type consisting of at least a container and a logbook. The coordinates listed on the traditional cache page are the exact location for the cache.

Travel Bug Hotel – A geocache with the intended purpose of acting as an exchange point for Travel Bugs. These are almost always regular or larger sized containers.

Travel Bug® – A Groundspeak Travel Bug is a trackable tag that you attach to an item. This allows you to track your item on Geocaching.com. The item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world and you can follow its progress online.

Waypoint – A waypoint is a reference point for a physical location on Earth. Waypoints are defined by a set of coordinates that typically include longitude, latitude and sometimes altitude. Every geocache listed on our website is a waypoint. Geocaching.com generates a unique “GC Code” associated with every geocache listing.

Now, here’s a question (or two!) for all you senior cachers out there:

In doing my research, there are a TON of terms I’ve never seen before. Is that just me or are they not really used anymore?

What were the most important terms that you needed to learn when you were new to geocaching?

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