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Geocaching 101: Geocaching Glossary of Terms

When we started to get into our hobby of Geocaching, we began seeing Geocaching terms and Geocaching acronyms that we weren’t familiar with.  It took us some time to realize what they meant.  So to help you explore the fun world of Geocaching, we pulled together what we believe to be some of the most basic geocaching glossary terms that you will need to know as a Geocaching beginner.  Consider this your very basic geocaching vocabulary lesson, which will help you make sense of some of the things you read as you continue to better your caching skills.

Geocaching Glossary of Terms 


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 a geocache, the cache owner can temporarily disable their cache if they plan to provide maintenance on the cache or replace the container within one month.

Bookmark List

A Geocaching 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.

BYOP (Bring Your Own Pen/Pencil)

BYOP is an acronym often used by geocache owners to communicate with other geocachers that you will need to bring your own pen or writing utensil in order to sign the geocache logbook.  Some geocaches are too small to hold a pen in the cache, so when you see this then you might know that this is a small geocache


Cache is a shortened version of the word geocache.  Geocaches use this a lot when talking to other geocachers.  Kind of like our own Geocaching slang or Geocaching lingo.  

Caches along a Route

A Geocaching 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.

Charter Member

During the very early years of Geocaching.com when Premium Memberships were first offered, they were called Charter Memberships to thank those who supported the web site. Be sure to thank the Charter Members you meet on the trail since the site would not be here today without them.

CITO (Cache In Trash Out)

Cache In Trash Out is an ongoing environmental initiative supported by the worldwide geocaching community. Since 2002, geocachers have been dedicated to cleaning up parks and other cache-friendly places around the world. Learn more at www.geocaching.com/cito.

DNF (Did Not Find)

An acronym used by geocachers to state that they did not find a cache. This is also a type of online log on Geocaching.com and is useful for alerting cache owners of potential issues. Cache owners who repeatedly receive “Did Not Find” logs should check to see that their cache has not been removed.

Check out our DNF Video in New Zealand below


D/T (Difficulty/Terrain)

Geocaches are rated in two categories, each designated on a 5-point scale. Difficulty relates to the mental challenge of finding a cache and terrain that describes the physical environment. A 1/1 difficulty/terrain rating would the easiest cache to find, while a 5/5 difficulty/terrain rating would be the most difficult.

We found a 5/5 Geocache in Hawaii 


An EarthCache is a special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geoscience feature of our Earth. EarthCache pages include a set of educational notes along with cache coordinates. Visitors to EarthCaches can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage its resources, and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth. 

Check out some of Our Favorite EarthCaches from Around the World

Event Cache

An Event Cache is a gathering of local geocachers or geocaching organizations to discuss geocaching. The Event Cache page specifies a time for the event and provides coordinates to its location. After the event, the cache is archived. 

Check out what a Geocaching Event looks like below. 

What does FTF (First to Find) mean? 

FTF meaning is First to Find. An acronym is written by geocachers in physical cache logbooks or online when logging cache finds to denote being the first to find a new geocache.  There can only be one First to Find (FTF) on all geocaches and if you are going after one there can be a lot of people going after it at the same time. 

Read Finally!!! Geocaching FTF Adventure in Macau, China

GC Code

A unique identifier associated with every geocache listing is the GC Code. The GC Code starts with the letters “GC” and is followed by other alphanumeric characters.  This is how geocaches are filed you can say. 


A geocache is a container hidden that includes, at a minimum, a logbook for geocachers to sign. 


Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache.  

Read more about ‘What is Geocaching?’ 


A Geocoin works similarly to a Groundspeak Travel Bug® (see Travel Bug) 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.  You can also call these a geocaching trackable

GPS (Global Positioning System)

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a system of satellites that work with a GPS receiver to determine your location on the planet.  This is what makes Geocaching possible. 

What does GZ (Ground Zero) mean? 

The point when your GPS device shows that you have reached the cache location or within 15 feet of the cache. At Ground Zero, you are zero feet (or zero meters) away from the geocache.  So when you see GZ in the geocache description then you know you are within 15 feet or so of the geocache. 


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. A Travel Bug is an example of a hitchhiker.

What is a Geocaching Trackable?

Mega-Event Cache

A Mega-Event cache is an Event Cache that is attended by 500+ people. Mega-Events offer geocachers a day of planned activities. There are often several days of additional activities surrounding a Mega-Event. These large events attract geocachers from all over the world and are often held annually.

Read & Watch our experience at the Geocaching HQ Block Party Mega Event

What is a Geocache Muggle? 

A non-geocacher. Based on “Muggle” from the Harry Potter series, which is a non-magical person. Usually, this term is used after non-geocacher looks puzzled after befriending a geocacher searching for a cache, or when a non-geocacher accidentally finds a cache. Geomuggles are mostly harmless.

Multi-Cache (Offset Cache)

A Multi-Cache (“multiple”) involves two or more locations. The final location is a physical container. There are many variations, but most Multi-Caches have a hint to find the second cache, and the second cache has a hint to the third, and so on. An offset cache (where you go to a location and get hints to the actual cache) is considered a Multi-Cache.

Mystery or Puzzle Caches

The “catch-all” of cache types, this form of geocache may involve complicated puzzles that you will first need to solve to determine the coordinates. Mystery/Puzzle Caches often become the staging ground for new and unique geocaches that do not fit in another category.

Pocket Query (PQ)

A Premium Member feature, a Pocket Query is a 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 in either a GPX of LOC format. This feature lets you download up to 500 caches at one time.


Volunteers from all over the world who publish the cache listings on geocaching.com.


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

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)

Signature Item

An item was 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.


A spoiler is an information that can give details away and ruin the experience of something. For example, telling someone the end of a movie before they see it. In geocaching, a spoiler gives away details of a cache location and can ruin the experience of the find.

Geocaching SWAG

An acronym often referred to as standing for ‘Stuff We All Get.” It includes the trade items left in caches by geocachers.

What is in a Geocache?

TFTC (Thanks for the Cache)

An acronym is written by geocachers in physical cache logbooks or online when logging cache finds.  You will see this when people sign the logbook in Geocaching.  

TFTH (Thanks for the Hide)

TFTH is an acronym for “Thanks For The Hide”.   You will see this when people sign the logbook to the geocache. 

TNLN (Took Nothing/Left Nothing)

Took Nothing. Left Nothing. Usually written in cache logbooks by geocachers who do not trade for material contents in a cache.


Took Nothing. Left Nothing. Signed Logbook / Took Nothing. Signed Logbook.

TOTT (Tools of the Trade)

Tools of the Trade is an acronym used for any of the tools that might be used to search for/retrieve/find/log a geocache.

Traditional Cache

This is the original geocache type consisting of, at minimum, a container and a log book or logsheet. Larger containers generally include items for trade. “Nano” or “micro” caches are tiny containers that only hold a logsheet. The coordinates listed on the traditional cache page provide the geocache’s exact location.

Trackable or Travel Bug® 

A Groundspeak Travel Bug is a Geocaching 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. 

Virtual (Cache)

A Virtual Cache is about discovering a location rather than a container. The requirements for logging a Virtual Cache vary—you may be required to answer a question about the location, take a picture, complete a task, etc. In any case, you must visit the coordinates before you can post your log.

Although many locations are interesting, a Virtual Cache should be out of the ordinary enough to warrant logging a visit.


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.

Webcam Cache

These are caches that use existing web cameras placed by individuals or agencies that monitor various areas like parks or business complexes. The idea is to get yourself in front of the camera to log your visit. The challenging part is that you need to call a friend to look up the web site that displays the camera shot. You will need to have them to save the picture in order to log the cache. If you’re a tech-head you could save the image yourself by using a wireless modem and a laptop.

Wherigo™ Cache

Wherigo is a toolset for creating and playing GPS-enabled adventures in the real world. By integrating a Wherigo experience, called a cartridge, with finding a cache, the geocaching hunt can be an even richer experience. Among other uses, Wherigo allows geocachers to interact with physical and virtual elements such as objects or characters while still finding a physical geocache container. A Wherigo-enabled GPS device is required to play a cartridge. Learn more at Wherigo.com.

** All glossary terms and descriptions were obtained at Geocaching.com

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