On the Way In
- Let someone know where you’re going and when you’re coming back.
- Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. You might want to reconsider that cache hunt if severe weather is predicted.
- Do your homework before you seek: Use maps to find a route that will minimize your impacts. Know what roads and trails exist that will bring you closest and safest to the cache you’re seeking. Staying on trails will minimize your impact on the area, prolonging the life of the cache.
- When you leave your car, mark its location as a waypoint! Sounds silly, but once you get deep into the cache hunt, it’s easy to get disoriented.
- When hiking on a trail, stay on the trail even if it is muddy or wet to avoid widening the trail or creating side trails.
- When going off-trail, consciously think about leaving absolutely no indications of your passage. Choose your steps on solid ground, avoiding mosses, wet areas, loose soil or steep banks. Step beside, not on, ferns and other plants. Try to leave no trace of your visit. After you've finished searching for a cache, the area should look as though you were never there or better than when you arrived (e.g. pick up litter).
- Practice “lift, look, replace” technique, if you lift a rock to look under it then replace it exactly as you found it.
- In addition to your GPS receiver always carry extra batteries, a map, compass, and know how to use them. It’s kind of embarrassing to get lost with a GPS.
- Travel with a partner – especially when traveling cross-country or in remote areas.
- Carry water and emergency supplies – even on short trips.
At the Cache
- If the impacts of previous cachers essentially led you to the cache, notify the owner that perhaps it is time to move or archive the cache. The challenge of seeking a geocache is to use your GPS unit and your detective skills, not following a beaten path.
- Make sure it is the geocache before handling the thing. Keep in mind that the remains of meth labs have been found in the forests – remains that are extremely dangerous. All geocaches placed on state lands should have a green and black "Official Geocache" sticker or some other official labeling on the container.
- If the cache is near a public area (where there are “muggles” – non-geocachers – about), be inconspicuous in retrieving, signing in, and replacing a cache to avoid vandalism.
- Do not put illegal items into a cache. Use your common sense in most cases. Explosives, fireworks, ammo, lighters, 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.
- Never place food items in a cache. 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 a cache.
- If you exchange trade items, trade kindly: Consider what future finders would like to find and leave something equal to or better than what you take.
- Promptly alert the owner of any issues with their cache. Make minor repairs if you can, it will save the owner a trip.
- Make sure the container is properly closed to prevent the contents from getting wet or destroyed.
- Put the cache back where you found it and hide it well. Don’t move a cache - if you suspect the cache is not in the intended spot, hide it the best you can and alert the owner as soon as possible.
- Immediate safety concerns – i.e. hornet’s nest under cache – should be noted on the website and the owner notified ASAP.
After the Hunt
- If you forgot to mark a waypoint for where you parked your car, don’t forget about the track back function on your GPS (most units), which can guide you to retrace your steps back to where you started.
- Practice the same careful steps on the way out – don’t leave a discernable trail back though the ferns.
- Following a trip (and before a new trip), wash your gear (boots, pants cuffs, etc.) to reduce the spread of noxious weeds and other invasive plants.
- If you “gotta go”, observe proper sanitary waste disposal by burying waste 3-4 inches deep and at least 200 feet from trails, campsites, and water resources or pack your waste out.
- Abide by all existing regulations including motor vehicle restrictions.
- Respect and be courteous to other users who also want to enjoy the great outdoors.