Welcome to the wonderful world of geocaching! If you’ve ever dreamt of embarking on a real-life scavenger hunt, then you’re in for a treat. Earning the Geocaching merit badge will have you using a GPS and your wits to uncover hidden treasures on your trail to becoming a true geocacher!
Geocaching is a fun mix of hiking, navigating, and treasure hunting. Once you join this widespread hobby, you’ll be able to venture out to discover geocaches from all around the world! Along the way, you’ll learn important navigational terminology and even plan an exciting geo-hunt of your own. 😀
If you‘d like my help with any Eagle-required badges, you should definitely check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I know this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!
Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!
In this Geocaching merit badge guide, you’ll also discover how to read GPS coordinates, decipher clues, and use your surroundings as valuable hints. We’ll even cover geocaching etiquette, ensuring you become a responsible and respectful geocacher!
So, fasten your hiking boots, charge up your GPS device, and join me on an adventure into geocaching! First, familiarize yourself with each of the requirements listed below. After that, I’ll help you to answer every question so that you can complete your merit badge worksheet and earn the Geocaching badge!
What Are The Geocaching Merit Badge Requirements?
- Do the following:
1a. Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while participating in geocaching activities and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
1b. Discuss first aid and prevention for the types of injuries or illnesses that could occur while participating in geocaching activities, including cuts, scrapes, snakebite, insect stings, tick bites, exposure to poisonous plants, heat and cold reactions (sunburn, heatstroke, heat exhaustion, hypothermia), and dehydration.
1c. Discuss how to properly plan an activity that uses GPS, including using the buddy system, sharing your plan with others, and considering the weather, route, and proper attire.
- Discuss the following with your counselor:
2a. Why you should never bury a cache.
2b. How to use proper geocaching etiquette when hiding or seeking a cache, and how to properly hide, post, maintain, and dismantle a geocache
2c. The principles of Leave No Trace as they apply to geocaching
- Explain the following terms used in geocaching: waypoint, log, cache, accuracy, difficulty and terrain ratings, attributes, trackable. Choose five additional terms to explain to your counselor.
- Explain how the Global Positioning System (GPS) works. Then, using Scouting’s Teaching EDGE, demonstrate the use of a GPS unit to your counselor. Include marking and editing a waypoint, changing field functions, and changing the coordinate system in the unit.
- Do the following:
5a. Show you know how to use a map and compass and explain why this is important for geocaching.
5b. Explain the similarities and differences between GPS navigation and standard map reading skills and describe the benefits of each.
- Describe the four steps to finding your first cache to your counselor. Then mark and edit a waypoint.
- With your parent’s permission*, go to www.geocaching.com. Type in your city and state to locate public geocaches in your area. Share the posted information about three of those geocaches with your counselor. Then, pick one of the three and find the cache.
*To fulfill this requirement, you will need to set up a free user account with www.geocaching.com. Ask your parent for permission and help before you do so.
- Do ONE of the following:
8a. If a Cache to Eagle series exists in your council, visit at least three of the 12 locations in the series. Describe the projects that each cache you visit highlights, and explain how the Cache to Eagle program helps share our Scouting service with the public.
8b. Create a Scouting-related Travel Bug that promotes one of the values of Scouting. “Release” your Travel Bug into a public geocache and, with your parent’s permission, monitor its progress at www.geocaching.com for 30 days. Keep a log, and share this with your counselor at the end of the 30-day period.
8c. Set up and hide a public geocache, following the guidelines in the Geocaching merit badge pamphlet. Before doing so, share with your counselor a three-month maintenance plan for the geocache where you are personally responsible for those three months. After setting up the geocache, with your parent’s permission, follow the logs online for 30 days and share them with your counselor. You must archive the geocache when you are no longer maintaining it.
8d. Explain what Cache In Trash Out (CITO) means, and describe how you have practiced CITO at public geocaches or at a CITO event. Then, either create CITO containers to leave at public caches, or host a CITO event for your unit or for the public.
- Plan a geo-hunt for a youth group such as your troop or a neighboring pack, at school, or your place of worship. Choose a theme, set up a course with at least four waypoints, teach the players how to use a GPS unit, and play the game. Tell your counselor about your experience, and share the materials you used and developed for this event.
1a) Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while participating in geocaching activities and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
Geocaching is a fun and exciting outdoor adventure! But just like any other activity in nature, it comes with its fair share of hazards. Being prepared and understanding potential dangers will not only help you have a better time while searching for caches, but will also ensure you and your friends get home safely! 🙂
The word geocache is a combination of “geo,” which means “earth,” and “cache,” which means “a hiding place.” Geocaching describes a hiding place on planet Earth—a hiding place you can find using a GPS unit.—Scouts BSA
Below, I’ll be sharing with you five of the most common geocaching hazards, along with how to prevent them and mitigate their effects should they occur. By keeping this knowledge in mind, and always traveling with a buddy, you’ll be ready to geocache like a pro in any terrain!
|Getting Lost||Familiarize yourself with the area and boundaries.||Use a GPS, map, and compass.||Stay put and make yourself visible.||Carry a whistle or signaling device to alert others.|
|Unfavorable Weather Conditions||Check the weather forecast.||Dress in layers, bring waterproof clothing.||Seek shelter if conditions worsen.||Have an emergency plan, know nearest shelter or have a method to call for help.|
|Injury||Watch your footing and be on the lookout for dangerous terrain.||Wear appropriate footwear, move cautiously.||Carry a first aid kit and know basic first aid.||Seek professional medical help if necessary.|
|Encounters with Wildlife||Know common wildlife in the area.||Make noise, don’t provoke wildlife.||Know how to react to wildlife encounters.||Contact local wildlife authorities if necessary.|
|Trespassing and Personal Security||Ensure geocache is in a public/permissible area.||Respect private property, ask a Scoutmaster if unsure.||Be aware of surroundings and other people.||Apologize and leave the area if requested.|
1b) Discuss first aid and prevention for the types of injuries or illnesses that could occur while participating in geocaching activities, including cuts, scrapes, snakebite, insect stings, tick bites, exposure to poisonous plants, heat and cold reactions (sunburn, heatstroke, heat exhaustion, hypothermia), and dehydration.
Cuts can easily occur when geocaching due to sticks, rocks, and other sharp objects. Wash out the cut and clean the wood as best you can, apply pressure to stop bleeding, and cover with a sterile bandage, and possibly a disinfectant.
This guide would get way too long if we covered each injury and its treatment in detail, but for more info on each of these, be sure to check out the in-depth injury section of my guide to the First Aid merit badge and Camping merit badge. Alternatively, you can Google, “(hazard type) ScoutSmarts” do “Ctrl+F” on the webpage, type in the injury, and you’ll be sure to find the hazard and its treatments fully covered!
Scrapes can also happen when geocaching, especially if you were to slip and fall in the woods. The first aid procedure for scrapes are similar to cuts, but you may not need to cover the area with a bandage depending on how deep the wound is. Just wash out any debris, make sure the scrape is clean, and bandage if necessary.
If you are searching for a geocache in some brush, snakes are a risk you should be aware of. Always be cautious about butting your hands into holes where snakes could inhabit! There are both venomous and non-venomous snakes. Venomous snakes have a more bulging jaw, whereas non-venomous snakes tend to have skinnier heads.
If the snake was not venomous, treat the wound as you would any other cut, which means cleaning it, sterilizing it, and covering it with a bandage. Bites are more prone to infection, so monitor the wound and get medical attention if it appears swollen or irritated.
If the snake was venomous, keep the victim as still as possible to slow the spread of the venom, immobilize the bitten limb using a splint, keeping it low (below the heart) and immediately call for medical assistance so that they can administer an antivenom.
Bees and many other insects may sting you while geocaching. If this happens, first aid involves removing the stinger by scraping it out with a credit card or fingernail, or pulling it out with tweezers. If the victim is allergic, administer an EpiPen and call 911 for professional medical attention.
To treat a basic insect sting or bite, wash the affected area with soap and water, apply a cold compress, and cover with a sterile bandage. Monitor the injury for any signs of worsening, and if an allergic reaction occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
Ticks are common in most wooded and grassy areas, which you’ll likely see a lot of while looking for caches! 🙂 A tick will be embedded in your skin, so use tweezers to firmly grasp the tick close to the skin’s surface and slowly pull it away with even pressure. Avoid wiggling, as the tick could break off in the wound and cause an infection.
Clean the bite with soap and water and keep the tick in a jar. For the next few weeks, you’ll need to monitor the wound for signs of Lyme disease (a red ring and rash). If signs of infection occur, call for immediate medical attention and show them the tick you removed which you kept in the jar.
Exposure to Poisonous Plants
Contact with poisonous plants like poison ivy, oak, and sumac, can cause itching, redness, and a rash. If you notice these symptoms and made contact with one of these three culprits, wash your hands and the affected area thoroughly. Avoid scratching! You can alleviate itchiness with hydrocortisone cream and cool compresses.
If the symptoms don’t improve after a few days, seek medical attention. However, if exposure is extreme or you see signs of an allergic reaction, go to the emergency room immediately. This goes without saying, but there are also poisonous berries and mushrooms. Don’t eat anything unless you’re 100% sure of what it is! 😛
Sunburn can easily occur when geocaching, which is why it’s important to wear a hat and stay in the shade during the day’s hottest hours. First aid generally involves applying aloe vera or using hydrating lotions to keep the skin from drying out too much. You should also cover up to prevent more sun damage and use pain relief medications like aspirin if needed.
Geocaching often takes place in the summertime, with heat stroke being a very real threat. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. As you wait for medical attention, have the victim lie in a cool shaded spot with their feet elevated, remove excess clothing, and use water to dampen clothes.
If possible, also apply ice packs to the neck, armpits, and groin. If the person is able to drink, have them drink small sips of water. the victim may be confused or unconscious, but your top priority is cooling them down and having them rest as proper medical attention is on the way.
There are two main types of heat exhaustion, which is a step down from heatstroke:
- Water depletion: Characterized by thirst, headache, a feeling of weakness, and loss of consciousness.
- Sodium depletion: characterized by vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.
Heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke, and should not be taken lightly. If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, immediately get them into a cool area to rest. Have them drink plenty of fluids and take a cool shower. They may be sensitive to high temperatures for a few days afterward.
If you’re geocaching in the winter, hypothermia can occur quite quickly. If a person is suffering from hypothermia, move them to a dry and warm place, remove wet clothing, wrap the person in dry clothes/blankets, and provide them with non-caffeinated, warm beverages.
Dehydration can easily occur if you forget to drink enough water on your adventures. If this happens, drink fluids high in electrolytes like a sports drink, or drink water slowly but often. If a person is severely dehydrated and unable to drink, medical attention will be required.
1c) Discuss how to properly plan an activity that uses GPS, including using the buddy system, sharing your plan with others, and considering the weather, route, and proper attire.
Embarking on a geocaching trip is more than just grabbing your GPS device and setting off into the wilderness. It requires careful planning to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and successful experience. Here’s your guide to planning a geocaching activity that will have you well-prepared for a great time:
The Buddy System
- 2- Deep Rule: Always geocache with a buddy or a group. The buddy system ensures that you have someone to rely on, share ideas with, and assist if needed!
- Share Responsibilities: Divide tasks between team members. One can focus on reading coordinates, while another keeps an eye out for landmarks and clues. Teamwork makes this awesome sport easier and more fun!
- Share Your Plan with a Responsible Adult: Always inform a parent, guardian, or a responsible adult about your geocaching plans. Share the details of your location, expected return time, and the route you plan to take.
- Emergency Contacts: Carry a list of emergency contacts, including your parent’s phone numbers and local authorities. Preparedness is key to handling unforeseen situations!
Consider the Weather, Route, and Proper Attire
- Weather Awareness: Check the weather forecast for the day of your geocaching adventure. Dress accordingly, considering factors like rain, wind, or extreme heat. Layers are your best friend for changing weather conditions!
- Choose Suitable Routes: Pick geocaching locations suitable for your skill level. Beginners should start with easy terrain and well-marked trails. As your expertise grows, you can venture into more challenging areas!
- Proper Attire: Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes suitable for walking long distances. Consider wearing bright colors to stay visible, especially if geocaching in wooded or densely populated areas. Also don’t forget essentials like hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen! 😀
Essential Geocaching Gear
- GPS Device: Invest in a reliable Geocaching GPS device or use a smartphone with a geocaching app. Familiarize yourself with its functions and features before setting out.
- Geocaching Tools: Pack a small bag with essentials like a pen (for signing logbooks), extra batteries for your GPS device, and a first-aid kit for minor injuries.
- Snacks and Water: Stay hydrated and energized. Carry a refillable water bottle and pack lightweight, non-perishable snacks to keep your energy levels up during the adventure.
By following these guidelines, you’re prepared to have a safe and successful time geocaching! So, gear up, plan wisely, and get ready to uncover tons of awesome caches in the great outdoors!
Discuss the following with your counselor:
2a) Why you should never bury a cache.
For Geocaching to work, everyone needs to follow certain rules and etiquette. That includes you! Otherwise, caches may be too difficult to discover, or in the wrong place entirely. That’s why, one important thing to remember while geocaching is to never burying a cache. Here are the key reasons why:
- Preserving Nature: Burying a cache can harm the environment, disrupting plants and wildlife. Respecting nature ensures leaving no trace.
- Visibility and Safety: Caches need to be visible and easily accessible. Burying them not only damages the surroundings but also makes it challenging for fellow geocachers to find and enjoy your cache.
2b) How to use proper geocaching etiquette when hiding or seeking a cache, and how to properly hide, post, maintain, and dismantle a geocache
Hiding, seeking, and maintaining a cache are the major parts of your geocaching journey. That’s why it’s important to know the proper way to do each of these things before you get started! Here are some key pieces of etiquette to remember for each phase:
- Hiding a Cache: When hiding a cache, choose durable containers that can withstand weather conditions. Ensure it’s waterproof to protect the logbook and any trinkets inside. Place the cache in a location that’s safe, accessible, and away from private property.
- Seeking a Cache: Exercise caution and stealth when seeking a cache, especially in public areas. Be discreet to avoid drawing attention to the cache location. Respect private property and adhere to local laws and regulations.
- Maintenance and Dismantling: Regularly check on your hidden caches. Replace damaged logbooks, ensure containers are secure, and remove items that don’t belong. If you need to dismantle a cache, do it responsibly, leaving no trace of its existence.
Hiding a cache is an exciting prospect, but it’s easier said than done. This fun video (2:45) shows the basics of hiding a cache!
2c) The principles of Leave No Trace as they apply to geocaching
“Leave No Trace” is a simple yet powerful principle that teaches us to enjoy the great outdoors while minimizing our impact. It encourages us to leave natural spaces just as we found them, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors!
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Research the area where you plan to geocache. Understand the local regulations, weather conditions, and terrain. Be equipped with the right gear and knowledge.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to established trails and paths. Avoid trampling on fragile vegetation. When hiding a cache, place it in areas where its impact will be minimal.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Carry out all trash, including empty containers or wrappers. Leave the environment cleaner than you found it!
- Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a distance. Do not disturb or feed them. Your presence should not interfere with their natural behaviors.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Keep noise levels down, especially in serene natural areas. Yield the trail to others and maintain a friendly attitude, showcasing the positive spirit of geocaching!
By following these principles in your geocaching adventures, you not only preserve the environment but also contribute to a positive and respectful geocaching community. Remember, each hunt is an opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impact on both nature and fellow geocachers!
3) Explain the following terms used in geocaching: waypoint, log, cache, accuracy, difficulty and terrain ratings, attributes, trackable. Choose five additional terms to explain to your counselor.
When geocaching, it’s essential to understand the lingo to know what you’re doing. Here’s a breakdown of the 7 required key terms, as well as 7 additional terms to get you started. Knowing these terms will help prepare you to dive into the wonderful world of geocaching!
- Waypoint: A specific set of coordinates used to mark a location. In geocaching, waypoints are crucial for guiding you to the cache’s precise hiding spot. They serve as digital breadcrumbs leading to your cache!
- Log: A log/logbook is a record of geocaching activity. When you find a cache, you sign the logbook inside to prove your discovery. This logbook serves as a testament to all those who successfully located the cache!
- Cache: A cache refers to the container hidden by geocachers. It typically contains a logbook for finders to sign and sometimes small trinkets or toys. The excitement lies in discovering these hidden caches, each one a unique adventure waiting to be unveiled.
- Accuracy: Accuracy denotes how close your GPS device can get to the actual coordinates of the cache. The higher the accuracy, the more reliable your GPS readings. Accuracy is crucial for pinpointing the exact location of a cache.
- Difficulty and Terrain Ratings: Difficulty and terrain ratings are vital clues about the geocache’s level of challenge. Difficulty ratings indicate how mentally challenging it is to find the cache, while terrain ratings indicate the physical difficulty of the location.
- Attributes: Attributes provide additional information about the cache. They indicate specific features such as whether the cache is wheelchair accessible, suitable for children, or requires special equipment. Understanding attributes helps you choose caches aligned with your preferences and abilities.
- Trackable: Trackables are physical game pieces that can travel from cache to cache. They often have unique codes allowing you to track their journey online.
- Ground Zero (GZ): The point where your GPS device shows that you have reached the cache coordinates.
- Multi-Cache: A type of cache that involves two or more locations, with the final location being a physical container with a logbook.
- Spoiler: A spoiler is a photograph or description provided by geocachers who have found a cache. While spoilers might give away the cache’s location, they are useful for geocachers seeking hints or additional information to aid their search.
- FTF (First to Find): The honor of being the first geocacher to find a newly placed cache.
- DNF (Did Not Find): A log type used when geocachers search for but do not find a cache.
- CITO (Cache In, Trash Out): An initiative within the geocaching community to clean up parks and other cache-friendly places while participating in this fun hobby!
- Muggle: In geocaching, a muggle refers to a non-geocacher, just like how a muggle is a non-wizard in Harry Potter. Geocachers often use this term to discuss caches without revealing their secrets to non-players.
With these geocaching terms, you’re ready to start discovering geocaches of your own! However, if you’d like to learn even more, be sure to check out this handy glossary over on geocaching.com to learn more common terms and phrases for this requirement. 🙂
4) Explain how the Global Positioning System (GPS) works. Then, using Scouting’s Teaching EDGE, demonstrate the use of a GPS unit to your counselor. Include marking and editing a waypoint, changing field functions, and changing the coordinate system in the unit.
Understanding how a GPS (Global Positioning System) device works is essential for any geocacher. Otherwise, how on earth would you ever find the cache you’re looking for? Here’s a simplified explanation of how GPS works and a hands-on demonstration, using Scouting’s Teaching EDGE method:
How GPS Works
- Satellite Network: GPS relies on a network of satellites orbiting Earth. These satellites constantly send signals containing their locations and the precise time the signals were transmitted.
- GPS Receiver: A GPS device, like your smartphone or handheld GPS unit, receives signals from multiple satellites. By calculating the time it takes for the signals to reach the receiver, the device determines your exact location using a process called trilateration.
- Coordinates: GPS provides latitude and longitude coordinates, which are essential for geocaching. These coordinates guide you to specific waypoints, leading you directly to the hidden cache.
Scouting’s Teaching EDGE: Hands-on GPS Demonstration
- Explain: Begin by explaining the basic functions of your GPS unit to your counselor, including how to mark waypoints, edit them, change field functions, and switch coordinate systems.
- Demonstrate: Show the practical application of these functions. First, mark a waypoint at your current location, explaining the importance of accurately capturing the cache’s location.
- Guide: Lead your counselor through the process of editing the waypoint. This might include adding a description or adjusting the coordinates for precision.
- Enable: Change field functions on the GPS unit, demonstrating how to customize the display according to your preferences. This customization helps you view vital information at a glance!
Through this Teaching EDGE demonstration, you not only learn the intricacies of GPS navigation but also hone your skills in applying this knowledge practically. By the way, if you’re curious about how all of this looks when using an actual GPS device, check out this super-helpful video (5:03)!
Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of The Geocaching Merit Badge!
Nice work! We’re now halfway done with earning the Geocaching merit badge!! In the next section, we’ll be covering how you will discover a real geocache, and leave behind some awesome treasures of your own! For now though, we’ve definitely learned a ton, so go take a well-deserved break and feel proud of yourself. 😀
Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Geocaching merit badge click here!
(Part 2 is in progress, subscribe to my newsletter for updates)
Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you complete your merit badge worksheets.