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Understanding Difficulty and Terrain for Geocaching

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/20/2011

There is no approved standard that helps determine difficulty and terrain for geocaching. Geocachers use their own calculations to mark the difficulty level of geocaches. This article discusses the factors to be taken into account before deciding the difficulty level of a geocache.

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    Geocaching – Hi Tech Treasure Hunting

    Have you ever been on treasure hunt, or would you like to go for one? For real treasures, you would need hard-to-find maps and even if you could get one, it may be ciphered or hard to understand. Fortunately, there is another type of treasure hunt with plain instructions as to where treasures are placed. This type of treasure hunting is geocaching.

    While the early treasure hunters used traditional aids for navigation and ciphered maps, geocaching makes it easy to determine the location by offering you clues as how to reach the treasure, which is called a geocache. A geocache is a container with some goodies for the treasure hunter (geocacher).

    In order to go geocaching, you will need a handheld GPS so that you can determine the location of the treasure (geocache). The same GPS handheld for geocaching helps you with navigation to reach the place where the treasure is hidden by other geocachers.

    This hi tech, highly addictive game can be as adventurous as you wish. Geocaching is a game that anyone can play using some essentials, the most important one being a handheld GPS device. There are several millions of geocaches across the planet. Log on to a geocaching website, select a geocache based on how adventurous you want the game to be, note the instructions, pack up, and start on the treasure hunt.

    --> Find out more about geocaching in our Bright Hub article, What is Geocaching?

    I would like to state again that geocaching can be adventurous as you want it to be. This is because geocaches can be just about anywhere on the planet. The level of difficulty increases with the distance and terrain that you'll encounter during the hunt. Thus, the game combines several other adventure sports and hobbies such as backpacking and hiking. The difficulty level of the geocache is given in terms of integers: from 1 to 5.

    NOTE: There is no fixed and approved standard that helps in determining difficulty and terrain for geocaching. Geocachers use their own calculations to mark the difficulty level of geocaches on the websites. You may find several forums on geocaching that try to formulate their own standard for determining difficulty and terrain for geocaching.

    The next section attempts to help you in determining difficulty and terrain for geocaching so that you can give exact marking while uploading your geocache to any geocaching website including

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    Factors Determining Difficulty and Terrain for Geocaching

    Before we go on to discuss determining the difficulty level for geocaching, let us check out the terrains that are to be avoided. Each geocacher will want to hide his/her geocache where it will not be easily located. This may lure them into using some terrain or tricks that may prove dangerous or problematic for the geocachers hunting the cache.

    As the rule of thumb, no terrain should be used that may put geocachers in any kind of danger. These terrains include forests with dangerous wild animals, steep slippery hills, or political borders. Geocachers are also discouraged from placing geocaches beneath the surface of earth. This creates two problems. If the container or geocache is buried too deep, the GPS for geocaching may not be of any help. Even if the GPS device for geocaching helps the treasure hunter reach there, she/he may need special equipment to excavate it. This is the reason why underground geocaches are not allowed on most of the popular geocaching websites.

    Now that we have an idea of determining terrains for geocaching, let us check out how to reach the difficulty level of a geocache. The following abstract points should be considered to rate the difficulty level of any geocache:

    1. Duration of the Hunt: The number of days and nights it will take from your place to reach the geocache. This is a variable factor as some people may be staying just next to the geocache while others may be on the other side of the globe! Hence, the level should be rated with reference to a certain place instead of considering it as an absolute factor.

    2. The Trail to the Geocache: This includes the terrain through which you will travel to reach the geocache. Examples are mountainous trails, streams or rivers, wide concrete roads or off-highways, and forests. This factor can be one or more of the above. Also, if it is a mountain, you have to check out how rough it is. In case of forests, you need to check out the thickness of the trail.

    3. Equipment Required to Reach the Geocache: While a GPS device is mandatory, the difficulty level also depends on the additional equipment required. For example, you may need a boat that carries you to an island situated in a lake. If it is mountains, you will need hiking equipment such as rock climbers, ropes, etc.

    4. Visibility of the Geocache: The ease of noticing the geocache once you reach the area is also a factor in determining the difficulty level. Some geocaches can easily be noticed (e.g. placed along highway). Some may require extensive search (e.g. hidden on one of the branches of many trees).

    Though the above factors can be measured only as an abstract, they can still help geocachers in determining difficulty and terrain for geocaching.

Basics of Geocaching

This article series aims to present you with the basics of Geocaching. These basics of Geocaching include a small introduction as to what is the GPS game and its variations, geocaching backgounds, geocaching factsheet and more.
  1. A Look at Geocaching Background
  2. Top Websites: Best GPS Treasure Hunt Geocaches
  3. Factsheet on Geocaching - Fun, Adventure, and Environmental Education
  4. Understanding Difficulty and Terrain for Geocaching