I’ve done a bit of geocaching lately on what are normally considered easier caches.  These are caches rated somewhere between 1/1 and 2/2.   I’ve noticed on these kinds of caches that many cache owners don’t feel a hint is needed.    I don’t know if that is every the case.   The most frequent argument I’ve heard for not giving a hint is that the CO doesn’t want to make it easy to find.  From where I stand that is not the point of the hint or the rating system.

I always rate my caches based on how hard it is to find the cache without the hint.  I add hints so that the searcher can determine if they are in the right location.   My hints aren’t meant so that someone looking for the cache can get a sense of whether or not they are looking in the right location.

The other day while out caching I zeroed out in the middle of a bridge.   I wasn’t entirely sure which side of the bridge the cache was under but I was sure it was under it.  I picked the side that looked the most suitable and under I went.   At this point I’m under an iron bridge so I’m not confident in my GPSr.   After some searching in the obvious spots I had an idea of where it might be.   I had to cross some water and stand on some old pilings.  Before doing that I thought I should check the logs and the hint to make sure the extra effort was warranted.  The clue said “The cache is there, the eyes have it”.   This wasn’t a dead giveaway but I deduced that I should make the trip out to the pilings and have a look at the I-beam.  After a little searching the cache was in hand.  For me this was a helpful clue.

I contrast that with a cache a few weeks ago.  This was a 2/4 cache that  was through a ditch from an old railway line.   It was kind of steep but not that bad.  The cache was on a power trail of over 30 2/2 caches by the same owner.   I spent 15 mins looking before checking out the hint, wait, there was no hint.  I had briefly chatted with another cacher on the trail 15 mins early who had just DNF’d this cache.  After 15 min and no hint I decided not to waste anymore time on this cache and started making my way home.   After writing my logs I got a message from the owner.  She said I have to climb the tree to find the cache.   Is it just me or would it make sense to provide a clue along the lines of “look up”?

Here are the kinds of things I think a hint should be used for:

  1. A nudge, something that gets your mind to think in a different direction.
  2. Disambiguation,  “hanging in a tree” is not helpful when you are in a forest.
  3. Correcting for GPS wonkiness.   If you know the GPSr is going to bounce around then provide someway to help the cacher get their bearings.

Like many cachers I like to look for geocaches when I travel.  There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you are only going to be somewhere once and you can’t find that cache.  The DNF will haunt you for a while.  I encourage you to provide helpful hints so that travelers to your cache do not leave disappointed.


I have been writing the cachemania blog since 2008. I'm interested in the development of geocaching and the many ways that people play the game.

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