How to find good geocaches

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How to find GOOD geocaches

Geocachers have a common problem: you don't like all the caches you find. Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad ones. Sometimes you wonder "why did I come here?" and sometimes you wonder "how would I have ever found this cool spot if there wasn't a cache here?". What you may like will likely differ that what other people like.

Changing how you think about Geocaching in general will help you.

And, of course, GeoQO has tools to help you do that. Even in it's infancy it has a slew of tools that are designed to help you be a happier cacher through powerful searching and analysis. This article is generic in general, but has many references to GeoQO features when they might help. If you don't use GeoQO, you can ignore those suggestion points. If you want to try GeoQO, feel free as well. (It's free).

The First Step: Admit you have a problem

There are geocachers that have actually quit participating because they're fed up with "lame micro caches". The first step in preventing your unhappiness is realizing you are or are heading that way. If you realize this, then read on to find out how you can start having fun again or maximizing your fun. It doesn't require that you use GeoQO and this is just a general philosophical rant. But, GeoQO does have tools that may help you.

The Second Step: Find out who you are

You need to decide what type of geocacher you are. Generally, there are 3 types of geocachers (in Yamar's humble opinion):

  1. Location Location Location: Someone who likes being outdoors, hiking, being in nature.
    • Hiking 2+ miles to get to a cache is a very good thing, not a bad thing.
    • Adventure is my middle name
  2. High rollers: Someone who cares about the numbers.
    • They like to find as many caches in a day as possible.
    • High difficulty ratings, long hikes, etc. are not condusive to this activity.
  3. Left-brained: Enjoys the creative caches.
    • Micros are typically fine, as long as they're amazing camoed

Who are you? Are you all 3? Just 1? A mix? Something else? Deciding what you like most is a very important step in making sure you have the most fun in the future.

It's possible, you rotate. I live for big hikes, but I like days of high number counts sometimes, and I marvel at amazing camos. But what I target next is not always what I did the day before. When I'm tired and brain dead after a long day of meetings, looking for an amazing camo and not finding it leaves me tired and depressed. But if I'm energetic and rarin' to go, doing a string of lamp-post caches leaves me bored.

If I can figure out what mood I'm in before heading out and tailor where I'm going based on that mood, I'll have a much much better day while caching. The trick is, how do you do this when going into an unknown area with unknown cache owners?

The Third Step: Take action

Ok, you've made it through admission and through self-discovery. Now comes the hard part: commit to what you have learned. This is the hardest for some people, now that they have have learned they dislike lamp-post caches (maybe just sometimes) and the numbers counters are freaks of nature. Or the numbers counters think that anyone who walks 3 miles through nature just to get a single cache is the person who should be called the freak. But neither will put caches on their "ignore" list or filter out the caches they upload to their GPS. (Ok, the high-number counters often do).

So, lets assume you want to have the best day of caching you've had in ages. What do you do, where do you start, and how can you achieve happiness with the least misery?

General Guidelines

  1. Be willing to ignore caches you don't like. (At least for that day.)
    • You're more likely to be happy if you hit an area twice, in two different moods than if you try to do everything in one day.
    • this may require that you use something like the ignore lists
    • You may be helped by the GeoQO Rating and Tagging system.
  2. If you hate micros with a passion, stop looking at them. Maybe you already have. But if you haven't tried to figure out where to go next based on your desires for what makes up a good cache, now's the time to start.
  3. Ask for advice. Whether on a local mailing list, regional forums, or at an event... Ask people for their ideas about their favorite caches. But also ask: why did they like it? It may be they like cache types you don't.

Location Location Location

To find the best locations with the most interesting areas to look at, it's best to start by narrowing your search down.

  1. Look for what others have thought were amazing caches.
    • Any
  2. Consider filtering by terrain, at least to see where higher-terrain caches lie if you like pretty areas.
    • (load them all for the area, but filter just to do mapping when looking)
  3. Perform intelligent searches.
    • If you like hiking, see where all the terrain > 2.5 caches lie
    • A quick search of caches in my "near me" 500-count pocket query shows me that there are 24 caches that someone has used the word "awesome" in the log. Only 4 of those have the word "view" in a log as well. (to do this run something like: geoqo -s 'set:import:near me&&log:text=awesome&&log:text=view' -l).
    • Once you've found a target area to go do, feel free to load all the other caches in the area too... But aim for the end goal and pick up the rest "because they're on the way". I bet you'll have a good day.
  4. Consider using GeoQO's cache-density plots and generating a density map based on the criteria you want. If you like high terrain hikes and want to do a bunch, generate a cache density plot of only caches with a high terrain rating.
  5. Consider using GeoQO's rating and tagging system to help you look for caches that other people have found and have tagged with keywords you like, or with high ratings.

High Rollers

If you like counting numbers, go to areas conducive to your goal. Certainly, if you already have a high cache count then you're likely already doing this. But you could do better by a bit more analitical searching. If you combine what you already know how to do with some careful searches, you can pick the "next best area" with a much higher precision (which, if you're really into counting numbers, will give you an advantage).

  1. Find out where the high density areas are for places you want to go
    • Looking at the 'original maps (not the google maps one) will certainly give you a feel for where the caches are placed. But as you zoom out too high, it gets too cluttered to really get a feel.
    • Consider using GeoQO's cache-density plots. These plots will give you a much better feel for where caches are.
      • Optionally, use the search mechanism to limit the caches included to just ones under a given difficulty level, or "only traditionals", or whatever you wish to filter by. Or make a few and compare them. If the high density area shifts from one area to another when you filter out the difficult caches, you'll know that the original area likely contains cache owners that place harder to find ones (which will lower your "score" for the day).
      • A future version of GeoQO will let you multiple the density by, say, a cache difficulty or other number so you can find where the highest density of "easy" caches are, for example.


If you like creative caches then you probably want to select certain caches types to go find.

  1. Micros are generally easier to craft creatively, so you probably don't mind them. Consider looking at a cache-density plots of just micros? Of just micros with a difficulty rating of at least 3? (then add the rest in when you load them into your GPS, but at least try and find good areas).
  2. Look for caches with particular key-words in the logs. Out of the 500 near me, only 105 have logs that have the word "clever" in them. It reduces more when you add other keywords like "camo", "awesome", etc. Head for areas that have high numbers of good words in them. (example command: geoqo -s 'set:import:near me&&log:text=clever&&log:text=camo' -l))
  3. Look for areas with caches placed by people you (or others) have identified as talented. Geoqo can help you with this too, if you don't know the area... Of those 105, there are a few people that have placed the most. A cache density plot with only certain owners in them will give you interesting areas to go to.
geoqo -s 'set:import:near me&&log:text=clever' -d top10:groundspeak_owner_name
Top 10 'groundspeak_owner_name's
 Num    % Value
   6    5 SNSpencer
   4    3 Oldhippy & Granny
   4    3 47Dad47
   4    3 BootyBuddies
   4    3 Pirate Princesses

Taking Advice From Others

Of course, taking advice from others is very helpful. But only if you take advice from others that have similar tastes in caches. If you like the hard ones, find people that find hard ones (and ignore recommendations from people with 10k+ counts and don't look for longer that 5 minutes per site). If you like fast caches, don't take advice from people that are wearing hiking boots. Their idea of good caches are very different than yours.

(GeoQO will eventually help narrow down results so that tags and ratings are applied with a weight factor based on how similar the other users are compraed to your own ratings; but this isn't implemented yet).


If finding geocaches is no longer entertaining, you must be willing to either stop finding them altogether (insert big purple smiley here) or be willing to change your approach.

Either way, it is also imperative to realize that different people like different things. Accept that and simple don't look for caches that don't meet your standards and pretend they don't exist. Let them have their fun (and they'll hate the caches you place too; but that's ok!)

Other things GeoQO can help you with

GeoQO's tagging and rating system is designed to allow similiar minded folk to link up so you can trust just the tags and ratings of those you trust. Or the system thinks are similar to your own. It's not entirely complete yet but starting to tag and rate caches today will help it progress.

It even has the ability now to predict tags on caches you haven't found based on caches that you have found and tagged, but for it to be accurate you need to tag at least somewhere above 200 caches. (the more you tag, the more accurate the artificial intelligence gets).

Example decision input

Log Keyword Density Plots

The following two images show the default density plot in the Sacramento, CA area and a second that shows what happens when you limit the caches included to only those that include complimentary words (see Complex Searches Using the GUI if you are using the GUI interface to create plots):

  • awesome.jpg generated with: geoqo --debug 5 -s '(mem:sacsquare)&&(log:text=awesome||log:text=fantastic||log:text=terrific||log:text=very fun||log:text=cool)' -e kml:size=300:awesome.kml
  • generic.jpg generated with: geoqo --debug 5 -s '(mem:sacsquare)' -e kml:size=300:general.kml
Generic.jpg Awesome.jpg
Includes everything Only those with complimentary terms

If you compare them closely, you'll find the most dense area of "good" caches (purple) has moved. The ones downtown contain more "good" ones than the ones to the east.

By Size Density Plots

The following files how the distribution of caches moves as the cache size gets larger and larger (downtown area is full of micros, where it is harder to hide large caches; toward the east is all hills and non-populated areas where larger ones fit naturally)

Micro.jpg Small.jpg
Above: Micros Above: Small
Regular.jpg Large.jpg
Above: Regular Above: Large

These were created using 4 calls to geoqo to generate 4 Google Earth kml files:

 geoqo -s (mem:sacsquare)&&cache:container=Micro -e kml:size=300:Micro.kml
 geoqo -s (mem:sacsquare)&&cache:container=Regular -e kml:size=300:Regular.kml
 geoqo -s (mem:sacsquare)&&cache:container=Small -e kml:size=300:Small.kml
 geoqo -s (mem:sacsquare)&&cache:container=Large -e kml:size=300:Large.kml

The mem:sacsquare is defined in my $HOME/.geoqo/mem/search/sacsquare file as:



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