The History of Geocaching


~Lucky 13 strikes again~
Geocaching - The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site

GPS Users get an Instant Upgrade

Based on excerpts from the Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching
On May 2, 2000, at approximately midnight, eastern savings time, the great blue switch* controlling selective availability was pressed. Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed their new orders, and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade.

The announcement a day before came as a welcome surprise to everyone who worked with GPS technology. The government had planned to remove selective availability - but had until 2006 to do so. Now, said the White House, anyone could "precisely pinpoint their location or the location of items (such as game) left behind for later recovery." How right they were.

London, Paris, New York, Beaver Creek?

For GPS enthusiasts, this was definitely a cause for celebration. Internet newsgroups suddenly teemed with ideas about how the technology could be used.

On May 3, one such enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an internet GPS users' group. The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit.

The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver. The rules for the finder were simple: "Take some stuff, leave some stuff."

On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beaver Creek, Oregon, near Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his "stash" with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:

N 45 17.460 W 122 24.800

Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates. Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept spread quickly - but this one required leaving your computer to participate.

Within the first month, Mike Teague, the first person to find Ulmer's stash, began gathering the online posts of coordinates around the world and documenting them on his personal home page. The "GPS Stash Hunt" mailing list was created to discuss the emerging activity. Names were even tossed about to replace the name "stash" due to the negative connotations of that name. One such name was "geocaching."

The Origins of Geocaching​

Geocaching, first coined by Matt Stum on the "GPS Stash Hunt" mailing list on May 30, 2000, was the joining of two familiar words. The prefix geo, for Earth, was used to describe the global nature of the activity, but also for its use in familiar topics in gps such as geography.

Caching, from the word cache, has two different meanings, which makes it very appropriate for the activity. A French word invented in 1797, the original definition referred to a hiding place someone would use to temporarily store items. The word cache stirs up visions of pioneers, gold miners, and even pirates. Today the word is still even used in the news to describe hidden weapons locations.

The second use of cache has more recently been used in technology. Memory cache is computer storage that is used to quickly retrieve frequently used information. Your web browser, for example, stores images on disk so you don't have to retrieve the same image every time you visit similar pages.

The combination of Earth, hiding, and technology made geocaching an excellent term for the activity. However the "GPS Stash Hunt" was the original and most widely used term until Mike Teague passed the torch to Jeremy Irish in September 2000.

The Birth of​

For the first few months, geocaching was confined to existing experienced GPS users who already used the technology for outdoor activities such as backpacking and boating. Most users had an existing knowledge of GPS and a firm grasp of obscure lingo like datums and WGS84. Due to both the player base and the newness of the activity, players had a steep learning curve before going out on their first cache hunt. Tools were scarce for determining whether a cache was nearby, if one existed at all.

As with most participants, Jeremy Irish, a web developer for a Seattle company, stumbled upon Mike Teague's web site in July while doing research on GPS technology. The idea of treasure hunting and using tech-gadgets represented the marriage of two of his biggest interests. Discovering one was hidden nearby, Jeremy purchased his first GPS unit and went on his first hunt the following weekend.

After experiencing the thrill of finding his first cache, Irish decided to start a hobby site for the activity. Adopting the term geocaching, he created and applied his professional web skills to create tools to improve the cache-hunting experience. The cache listings were still added by hand, but a database helped to standardize the listings. Additional features, like searching for caches around zip codes, made it easier for new players to find listings for nearby caches.

With Mike Teague's valuable input, the new site was completed and announced to the stash-hunting community on September 2, 2000. At the time the site was launched there were 75 known caches in the world.

If You Hide It, They Will Come​

Slashdot, a popular online magazine for techies, reported the new activity on September 25, 2000, introducing a larger group of technology professionals to the activity. The New York Times picked up the story and featured it in its "Circuits" section in October, starting a domino effect of articles written in magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets around the world. CNN even did a segment in December 2000 to profile the new hobby.

However, because there were so few caches in the world, many would-be participants discovered they didn't have a cache listed nearby. Many wondered whether anyone would bother looking for a cache if they hid one in their area. The growing community chanted the mantra "If you hide it, they will come" to the newer players. After some reassurances, pioneers of the hobby started placing caches just to see whether people would go find them. They did.

Through word of mouth, press articles, and even accidental cache discoveries, more and more people have become involved in geocaching. First started by technology and GPS enthusiasts, the ranks of geocachers now include couples, families, and groups from all walks of life. The excitement of the hunt appeals to both the inner (and outer) child. Today you can do a search on just about anywhere in the world and be able to walk, bike, or drive to a nearby hidden cache.
Here is the link to the main Geo site. Geocaching - The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site

Me and my oldest son have been Geoing for 3 years and we have a blast, it's a great way to get out of the house and spend time with the kid.

We have found things from Geo Bugs, Hot wheels, and small things plus the I found it book, then we leave things in the cache too. We leave comic book goodies, and geo coins in them when we find them.

If you are going to do this it is recommended that you put something in the cache after taking something, but you don't have to take anything from it if you don't want to.
Just make sure to fill out the found it log, and then when you get home you post your findings plus coordinates to any caches you make and put in places.

We have over 30 that we have put out and we have found over 500 across the NS and SC areas.


Staff member
It's a modern day treasure hunt! That is pretty cool.

I don't have a GPS system of any type though so I can't do anything like this, yet. This would be fun to hide things in the mountains though.

What type of GPS device do you use? That would be pretty fun to try to find something by use of GPS, especially if it wasn't the easiest place to navigate such as some mountains or something.


~Lucky 13 strikes again~
What type of GPS device do you use?
I have a Garmin 600, I got it a few years back. Now a days you can get a GPS unit real cheap.

If you have GPS capabilities on your phone then you can use the new Phone GPS Geocaching maps, also if you have a Tom Tom you can use that too.

Most of the newer cell phones have the GPS built right in and are part of your plans.

It's alot of fun and addicting, you will find yourself planning your weekends around geocaching.
I've been Geocaching for the past couple of years, it is pretty big here in VT. I'm not a huge fan of winter caching, but I do it now and again - I prefer large hikes during the fall, or number runs during the summer. I have around 480 finds, which is hardly anything, but is decent for a "part-time" cacher. Haha. I also love to hide them, that may be just as fun as finding them.
I made it to over 600 before kind of fading out. I still do it for exercise, but it just isn't as fun anymore.