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Cache Listing Requirements/Guidelines

Guidelines last updated 11/05/03

These are listing guidelines only.  Before a cache is approved a volunteer will review the page for inaccuracies, bad coordinates, and appropriateness before posting the cache to the site.  The physical cache site is not verified. As the cache owner, you are responsible for the placement and care of your cache.

Prior to placing and submitting a cache you are expected to review the following guidelines. In order to post a new cache and submit it for review you must indicate that you have read the guidelines as required. Geocaching is a constantly changing and evolving sport, and as a result these guidelines are subject to change as the sport progresses. Please refer back to these guidelines prior to cache placement to ensure that no changes have been implemented that would adversely affect your planned cache placement.

First and foremost please be advised there is no precedent for placing caches.  This means that the past approval of a similar cache in and of itself is not a valid justification for the approval of a new cache.  If a cache has been posted and violates any guidelines listed below, you are encouraged to report it. However, if the cache was placed prior to the date when a guideline was issued or updated the cache is likely to be “grandfathered” and allowed to stand as is.

If your cache has been archived…

First please read the archival log for an explanation. It is a common practice for the approvers to temporarily disable or even archive a submission while they obtain additional details required for its approval. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t be listed. In order to ensure a prompt response when responding to an archival note please click on the Approver’s profile from the cache page and e-mail the approver through Geocaching.com.  Replies directly to cache notifications can be delayed considerably.

If you believe that your cache may be questionable, you are encouraged to add a note to the cache page. For example, you could add an explanation in the “notes to reviewer” section such as: "The train tracks running through this park are inactive and have been converted to a rails-to-trails path." The reviewer will read the note and take the information into consideration when approving the cache. Rest assured that notes to reviewers will be removed before the caches are posted. Most caches that are temporarily put on hold or archived are done so due to a lack of information. Having all the relevant information up front during the review process will help ensure a speedy approval.

If your cache has been archived and you wish to appeal the decision, first contact the approver and explain why you feel your cache meets the guidelines.  Exceptions may sometimes be made, depending on the nature of a cache.  If you have a novel type of cache that “pushes the envelope” to some degree, then it is best to contact your local approver and/or Geocaching.com before placing and reporting it on the Geocaching.com web site. The guidelines should address most situations, but Groundspeak administrators and approvers are always interested in new ideas.  If, after exchanging emails with the approver, you still feel your cache has been misjudged, feel free to post a message in the General Forums to see what the geocaching community thinks.  If the majority believes that it should be posted, then Groundspeak administrators and approvers may review the listing and your cache may be unarchived. 

Table of Contents

Off-limit (physical) caches
Cache Types

Guidelines that apply to all cache types

Additional guidelines that apply to special cache types Off-limit (Physical) Caches

By submitting a cache listing, you assure us that you have adequate permission to hide your cache in the selected location. However, if we see a cache description that mentions ignoring "No Trespassing" signs (or any other obvious issues), your listing may be immediately archived.

Caches will be quickly archived if we see the following (which is not inclusive):

  • Caches on land maintained by the U.S. National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuges)
  • Caches that are buried. If a shovel, trowel or other “pointy” object is used to dig, whether in order to hide or to find the cache, then it is not appropriate.
  • Caches placed on archaeological or historical sites. In most cases these areas are highly sensitive to the extra traffic that would be caused by vehicles and humans.
  • Caches hidden in close proximity to active railroad tracks. In general we use a distance of 150 ft but your local area’s trespassing laws may be different. All local laws apply.
  • Caches near or on military installations.
  • Caches near or under public structures deemed potential or possible targets for terrorist attacks. These include but are not limited to highway bridges, dams, government buildings and airports.

There may be some exceptions. If your cache fits within one of the above areas, please explain in notes to the reviewer section of the cache page. For example, if you are given permission to place a cache on private property, indicate it in the notes for the benefit of both the approver and people seeking out the cache.

In addition, there may be local regulations already in place for certain types of parks in your region (state parks, county preserves, etc.). There are many local caching organizations that would be able to help you out with those regulations.  If your area does not have a local caching organization please contact your local approver for information on regulations. If you have complied with special regulations by obtaining a permit, please state this on your cache page or in a ‘note to the reviewer’.

If the Geocaching.com web site is contacted and informed that your cache has been placed inappropriately, your cache will be archived or disabled and you will be contacted with any information provided by the individual or organization who contacted us.

Cache Types

Cache sizes for all caches that have a physical container.
  • Micro (35 mm film canister or smaller, typically containing only a logbook)
  • Regular (Tupperware-style container or ammo can)
  • Large (5 gallon bucket or larger)

Traditional Caches

This is the original cache type consisting of (at a bare minimum) a container and a logbook.  The cache may be filled with objects for trade. Normally you'll find a Tupperware-style container, ammo box, or bucket filled with goodies, or smaller container ("microcache") too small to contain items except for a logbook. The coordinates listed on the traditional cache page are the exact location of the cache. A container with just an object or codeword for verification may NOT be approved if the cache does not also include a logbook.

Multi-Caches

There are many variations to multi-stage caches.  The most common is that in which the first cache or waypoint contains or provides coordinates to the next location.  Another popular variant is a series of multiple waypoints, each of which provide partial coordinates for the final cache’s position. Please provide the coordinates of all waypoints in the “note to reviewer” section of the cache report form when submitting a multi-cache. The reviewer will delete the text prior to approval.

Offset Caches

Offset caches are a variation on multi-caches.  They are listed as a multi-cache when selecting a cache type.  They are not found by simply going to some coordinates and finding a cache there. With the offset cache the published coordinates could be of an existing historical monument, plaque, or even a benchmark that you would like to have your cache hunter visit. At this spot, the hunter looks for numbers or information already appearing on the marker or on some part of the marker or site (geocachers NEVER deface public or private property).  The geocacher is then able to manipulate these numbers using instructions posted on the cache page to continue the hunt.

Mystery or Puzzle Caches

The “catch-all” of cache types, this form of cache often involves complicated puzzles that you will first need to solve in order to determine the coordinates. The only commonality of this cache type is that the coordinates listed are not of the actual cache location but a general reference point, such as a nearby parking location. Unless a good reason otherwise can be provided, the posted coordinates should be no more than 1-2 miles away from the true cache location.  This allows the cache to show up on the proper vicinity searches and to keep the mileage of Travel Bugs that find their way into the cache reasonably correct.

If you choose to submit a cache of this type please give as much detailed information as possible to the approver when you submit the cache.  The approver may still need more information before approving the listing. Please cooperate with these requests.

Letterbox Hybrid

Letterboxing is another form of treasure hunting that uses clues to direct hunters to a hidden container.  Each letterbox contains a stamp which is the signature for that box.  Most letterboxers have their own personal stamps and personal logbooks.  They stamp the letterbox logbook with their personal stamp, and use the stamp contained in the letterbox to “sign” their personal logbook.

Letterbox hybrids are a mixture of letterbox and geocache.  They should contain a signature stamp that stays with the box, and they must conform to the guidelines for traditional caches and therefore must contain a logbook.  They must be referenced by latitude and longitude, not just clues.  Whether or not the letterbox hybrid contains trade items is up to the owner. In most cases personal stamp and personal logbook are not necessary to be a seeker of a letterbox hybrid. 

Virtual Caches

A virtual cache is an existing, permanent landmark of a very unique and compelling nature. The seeker must answer a question from the landmark and verify to the cache owner that he was really there. Note, however, that new virtual cache proposals are only approved if they meet the all of conditions listed in the guidelines below. The reward for these caches is the location itself and sharing information about your visit. Although many locations are interesting, a virtual cache should be out of the ordinary enough to warrant listing as a unique cache page.

Note:  Physical caches are the basis of the activity. Virtual caches were created due to the inaccessibility of caching in areas that discourage it.   Please keep that in mind when submitting your cache report. 

Reverse Virtual (Locationless Caches)

Locationless caches are a variation of virtual caches, but with no specific location to visit.  Instead, the cache hunter is instructed to search for an object that meets certain criteria and report its coordinates.  Many times the seeker is also asked to provide an original photograph of the location to provide proof of visitation.

In the future these will have their own section, but currently there is a moratorium on new locationless caches.                                                                                             

WebCam Caches

These are caches that use existing web cameras placed by individuals or agencies that monitor various areas like parks or road conditions. The idea is to get yourself in front of the camera to log your visit. The camera must provide a photo detailed enough to identify the cacher.  The cameras must update at reliable intervals so geocachers can log their visit.

Note:  When submitting a webcam cache you must submit a photo of yourself taken by the webcam used for the listing as an example to show that the images will be identifiable.   If you request that the geocacher hold their GPS up overhead when the photo is taken, then please have your GPS held over your head in the example photo. 

Event Caches

Event caches are gatherings for geocachers by geocachers to discuss geocaching.  After the event has passed, the event cache is archived.  While a music concert, a garage sale, a ham radio field day or an orienteering event might be of interest to a large percentage of geocachers, such events are not suitable for submission as event caches because the primary focus of these events is not geocaching and the primary attendees are not geocachers.  In addition, an event cache should not be set up for the sole purpose of drawing together cachers for an organized hunt of another cache or caches.  Such group hunts are best organized using the forums or an email distribution list.

For geocaching events that involve several components, such as a day-long group cache hunt that also involves a seminar and dinner, only a single event cache covering all components should be submitted.

CITO Event Caches

The idea of Cache In Trash Out (CITO) came about in the fall of 2000 as a way for geocachers to contribute to the beautification of our local parks and lands.  You may find more information about the CITO program at www.geocaching.com/cito.

The CITO event cache category was added to differentiate cleanup events from other types of event caches.  Use this category when you are asking geocachers to show up on a particular day to pick up litter at a park, remove piles of junk near a popular waterfront, etc.  Do NOT use this category for a physical cache that is placed in an area that is need of cleanup – just mention the CITO opportunity on your cache page.

If you have an event you feel fits within the spirit of this unique category, yet are still unsure, please seek permission before submitting.  

Guidelines that Apply to all Cache Types

You as the owner of the cache must visit the site and obtain the coordinates with a GPS. If time allows take several reading at different times over a few days and average the results. This will help you achieve greater accuracy on your coordinates.

For all caches that include multiple waypoints please post a note to approver with the coordinates of all waypoints in the “notes to reviewer” field on the cache submission form. This text will be removed prior to posting.

Note: Exceptions to the following guidelines may occasionally be made depending on the novel nature and merits of a cache. If you have a cache idea you believe is novel, contact Geocaching.com before placing and reporting it on the Geocaching.com web site.

Cache Maintenance

The cache owner will assume all responsibility of their cache listings. 

For all cache types please be sensible when choosing your location for cache placement. Please be aware of what may be a perceived to a non geocacher as dangerous or questionable behavior.  For example, suspicious looking characters wandering about near an elementary school.  The land may be public property, but keep in mind what is on the other side of that property line.  Also, clearly label your physical containers on the outside with appropriate information to reduce the risk of your cache being perceived as a danger to those that are unaware of our sport. 

At times a cache may meet the listing requirements for the site but the approvers, as experienced cachers, may see additional concerns that you as a cache placer may not have noticed.   As a courtesy, the approver may bring additional concerns about cache placement to your attention and offer suggestions before posting.  But as the cache owner you are responsible for placement and care of your cache. 

Before submitting your report you must visit the location to obtain accurate coordinates with a GPS. 

The responsibility of your listing includes quality control of posts to the cache page. Delete any logs that appear to be bogus, counterfeit, off topic, or not within the stated requirements.

As the cache owner, you are also responsible for checking on your cache periodically, and especially when someone reports a problem with the cache (missing, damaged, wet, etc.).  You may temporarily disable your cache to let others know not to hunt for it until you have a chance to fix the problem.  This feature is to allow you a reasonable time – normally a few weeks – in which to arrange a visit to your cache. In the event that a cache is not being properly maintained, or has been temporarily disabled for an extended period of time, we may archive or transfer the listing. 

Cache Permanence

When you report a cache on the Geocaching.com web site, geocachers should (and will) expect the cache to be there for a realistic and extended period of time. Therefore, caches that have the goal to move (“traveling caches”), or temporary caches (caches hidden for less than 3 months or for events) may not be approved. If you wish to hide caches for an event, bring printouts to the event and hand them out there.

We realize that it is possible that a planned long-term cache occasionally becomes finite because of concerns with the environment, missing or plundered caches, or the owner’s decision to remove the cache for other valid reasons.  Please do your best to research fully, hide wisely, and maintain properly for a long cache life.

Cache Saturation

The approvers use a rule of thumb that caches placed within .10 miles (528 feet or 161 meters) of another cache may not be listed on the site. This is an arbitrary distance and is just a guideline, but the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of caches hidden in a particular area and to reduce confusion that might otherwise result when one cache is found while looking for another. 

On the same note, don't go cache crazy and hide a cache every 600 feet just because you can. If you want to create a series of caches, the site approvers may strongly encourage you to create a multi-cache.

Placing Caches on Vacation / Beyond Your Maintainable Distance

Placing caches on vacation or outside of your normal caching area is unacceptable and these caches may not be approved. As the cache owner you are obligated to be in a position to manage your caches, and caches placed on vacation require someone else to maintain them for you. It is not uncommon for areas to be cleared, trails to be blocked or closed, objects used for virtual or multi-caches to be moved or removed, etc.  You must be able to react to negative cache logs and investigate the location quickly.  Please be responsible. This guideline applies to all types of caches including virtual caches.

The territory in which a geocacher is able to maintain caches responsibly will vary from one person to the next.  An active geocacher who regularly visits areas hundreds of miles apart can demonstrate their ability to maintain a cache 100 miles from home.  A geocacher whose previous finds and hides are all within 25 miles of their home would likely not see their cache listed if placed 250 miles away from their home. 

If you have special circumstances, please describe these on your cache page or in a note to the approver.  For example, if you have made arrangements with a local geocacher to watch over your distant cache for you, that geocacher’s name should be mentioned on your cache page.

Cache Contents

Use your common sense in most cases. Explosives, fireworks, ammo, knives (including pocket knives and multi-tools), drugs, alcohol or other illicit material shouldn't be placed in a cache. As always respect the local laws. Geocaching is a family activity and cache contents should be suitable for all ages.

Food items are ALWAYS a BAD IDEA.  Animals have better noses than humans, and in some cases caches have been chewed through and destroyed because food items (or items that smell like food) are in the cache.  Even the presence of mint flavored dental floss has led to destruction of one cache.

If the original cache contents list any of the above items or other questionable items, or if a cache is reported to have the questionable items, the cache may be disabled, and the owner of the cache will be contacted and asked to remove the questionable items before the cache is enabled.

Commercial Caches / Caches that Solicit

Commercial caches attempt to use the Geocaching.com web site cache reporting tool directly or indirectly (intentionally or non-intentionally) to solicit customers through a Geocaching.com listing.  These are NOT permitted. Examples include for-profit locations that require an entrance fee, or locations that sell products or services.

Solicitations are also off-limits. For example, caches perceived to be posted for religious, political, or social agendas may not be listed. Geocaching is supposed to be a light, fun activity, not a platform for an agenda.

Some exceptions can be made. In these rare situations, permission can be given by the Geocaching.com web site. However, permission should be asked first before posting. If you are in doubt, ask first.

Additional Guidelines that apply to special cache types

Note:  All information listed above will apply to these cache types.  These are additional guidelines that are cache type specific. 

Virtual and Reverse Virtual (or Locationless) Caches

These are special categories of caches that ask the seeker to find a pre-existing item to log. While previous guidelines for these categories were somewhat loose to encourage innovation, it is now appropriate to add clarification.

Some earlier postings do not meet these clarified guidelines, although they are allowed to stay as grandfathered caches. They will not be considered as justification or as precedents for future submissions.

The overall intent for virtual and reverse virtual caches is to focus on the unique as opposed to the commonplace or mundane. 

If after reading the guidelines below you believe you have a compelling reason why your potential posting should be listed, please state your rationale clearly in a note to the approvers.

Note:  Physical caches are the basis of the activity. Virtual caches were created due to the inaccessibility of caching in areas that discourage it.   Please keep in mind physical caches are the prime goal when submitting your cache report. 

Virtual Caches

A virtual cache is a cache that exists in a form of a permanent object at a location that was already there. Typically, the cache “hider” creates a virtual cache at a location where physical caches are not permitted. The reward for these caches is the location itself and sharing information about your visit.

Prior to considering a virtual cache, you must have given consideration to the question “why couldn’t a microcache or multi-cache be placed there?”  Physical caches have priority, so please consider adding a micro or making the location a step in an offset or multi-stage cache with the physical cache placed in an area that is appropriate.

Virtual Cache Posting Guidelines

1. A virtual cache must be a physical object that can be referenced through latitude and longitude coordinates. That object should be semi-permanent to permanent. Objects in motion (such as people, vehicles) generally do not qualify as a virtual cache, unless that item can be adequately tracked and updated on the Geocaching.com web site. (For example, a link to a tracker for a vehicle might be acceptable, but contact your local approver first before posting it as a virtual cache to work out the details.) If I post the cache today, someone else should be able to find it tomorrow and the next day.

A trail is a trail, a beach is a beach, a view is a view; but a trail/beach/view is NOT a virtual cache. A cache has to be a specific distinct GPS target - not something large like a mountain top or a park, however special those locations are.

2. A virtual cache must be novel, of interest to other players, and have a special historic, community or geocaching quality that sets it apart from everyday subjects. Since the reward for a virtual cache is the location, the location should “WOW” the prospective finder.  Signs, memorials, tombstones or historical markers are among the items that are generally too common to qualify as virtual caches.  Unusual landmarks or items that would be in a coffee table book are good examples. If you don't know if it is appropriate, contact your local approver first, or post a question to the forums about your idea.

3. There should be one or more questions about an item at a location, something seen at that location, etc., that only the visitor to that physical location will be able to answer. The questions should be difficult enough that it cannot be answered through library or web research. The use of a "certificate of achievement" or similar item is not a substitute for the find verification requirement.

4. An original photo posted to the cache log can be an acceptable way to verify a find, or an email to the owner with valid answers for the question or questions. In NO cases should answers be posted in the logs, even if encrypted.


Virtual Cache Maintenance Guidelines

Although the virtual cache is not something you physically maintain, you must maintain your virtual cache's web page and respond to inquiries and periodically check the location. You should also return to the Geocaching.com web site at least once a month to show you are still active. Virtual caches posted and "abandoned" may be archived by the site.  The poster will assume the responsibility of quality control of logged “finds” for the virtual cache, and will agree to delete any “find” logs that appear to be bogus, counterfeit, off topic, or not within the stated requirements.


Virtual Cache Logging Guidelines

Logging a virtual cache find requires compliance with the requirements stated by the poster, including answering the required questions by e-mail to the poster, providing original photos if so requested, etc. Answers to questions, hints or clues should not be placed in the logs, even if encrypted.


Locationless Caches

There is currently a moratorium on locationless caches. No caches will be posted until functionality is available to better serve this unique category.

Locationless Cache Logging Guidelines:

Without exception, logging a locationless cache find requires (real) coordinates. Logs without coordinates will be deleted.

Persons logging a “find” are expected to comply with the requirements stated by the poster, including remaining on topic, providing original photos if so requested, and providing a level of descriptive detail consistent with the example.