Geocaching 101: Logging in

Feb 07

Darren signs the log at a cache we found in 2010.

There’s a lot that can be learned from the logs in geocaching — whether online or the physical logs in the cache. More so, in recent years, with the online logs.

You can learn about the finders, the hiders and everything in between.

There might be subtle hints or interesting photos. All sorts of goodies can be found in the logs. But beware of reading too many before you go finding a cache — you might get an unwanted spoiler. Most people are good about warning you if a spoiler is in a log, however.

Though I don't always post long logs in the book, I always try to put more than my name and date.

There’s the flip side, too. The negative logs. They seem to be appearing more and more.

So, this 101 series blog post is about the log. And, maybe what you may or may not see. I’ll also offer what kind of things I personally do and things I’ve seen that I might not really agree with.

Remember, this game is very open to interpretation, so to each their own.

Importance of the online log

The online log is where most people will get to see your story about the geocache.

The log is so much more important than just getting the find credited to your account. It can work as a tool to the cache owner or future finders. And, it can also be a place where you show your appreciation to the owner and placer of the cache.

First — as a tool. If something is wrong with the cache, the main place where the owner will find out is from fellow cachers. Usually, that will come in the form of something in the log. It could be anything from something small (a full log) to something bigger (a broken or missing cache). But if the owner sees these logs, he or she can then make the decision on how to fix things. Maybe it’s a quick fix. Or, maybe they’ll have to do something even bigger with it. But by letting the cache owner know, you’re giving them a tool on knowing everything isn’t perfect.

This also helps future finders. If the owner hasn’t been out there, there’s a possibility a fellow geocacher will see the log and help fix things when they go find the cache.

It also can help people by maybe pointing out things that have changed since the geocache was placed. Maybe the trails have changed. Maybe a few other things are different. People can help people in these situations.

The logs also serve as history of the cache. It keeps a record of what people thought of the cache. The odds are if the online log is filled with short responses, it might not be the most scenic or challenging. If it’s filled with stories and descriptions, one can usually realize they’ll be finding a decent cache. You can’t bet the same on all log entries, but you can usually get an idea of what you might be walking into.

And, it’s a way for people to express their feelings to the owner. Maybe there’s a great story with the cache or something else. By posting it online, you’ve given the owner some satisfaction to the hide. Even a DNF (did not find) can make for a great online log.

Telling your adventure

Where do you want to tell your story?

Online or in the book?

In the early days of geocaching — and you can tell the difference when you look at older caches and original logs — a lot of the stories were told in the books left in the caches. When we went to The Spot — the fifth oldest active geocache in the world — for my 1,000th find, I sat and read the original log book. It was amazingly cool. People told stories. Or made catchy poems. It was creative.

Sometimes you can tell a story in a small space -- like this one where two of us got a first to find four months to the day where we DNFd it!

Now, as the game gains in popularity and things are based on speed, a lot of people don’t do that anymore. I am guilty of that often, too. BUT, when I come across really good caches, I try and take more time with things. I’m trying to do that more now as I think that’s a cool thing. I always hate going to do maintenance on my caches, only to find pages of “TFTC” or something quick or just the person’s name and date. Worse yet is a lot of people don’t even sign the log anymore — they use a stamp made at Office Max or something like that. Not even a hand-carved stamp, like in letterboxing.

So where’s the best place to tell your adventure. That’s up to you. If the cache is good enough, I do it in the log and online. Much of my stuff comes online because most people don’t take time to read the log. I still try and go through the log to see who has been there and if I know people.

This is personal preference, however, so do it as you see fit.

The in-person log

Though I touched upon this above, I just wanted to tackle it a little more.

In the early days of geocaching, there were often stories, poems or something creative written in the logbooks.

The in-person log can be a wonderful thing. But remember some things about it. What you write in there might be seen by many eyes. People might take photos of the page. They might post things. They might do other things. Once you write things in there, it’s basically in the public domain. So don’t give away personal things that you may not want out there. I know most people will give me the “no duh” comment here, but it’s better to say it than have people not realize it!

The reality is, once the log is being used two or three pages past where you wrote, it might not be seen at all. And if the cache eventually goes bad, it might go into the world as something never seen.

But don’t let that stop you.

There are still many cache owners who check the logs quite often.

One thing is for sure with the in-person log — have fun with it!

Try and read some of the past logs, too. They can be very fun to read. It’s even better when you read a log from a non-geocacher who stumbled upon the cache and wrote a log based on what he or she found!


One thing I’ve noticed more and more lately is negativity. I don’t get it, either. Don’t get me wrong — I realize that some bad things need to be pointed out. But it can be subtle. Enough for the cache owner to realize that something might be wrong or unwanted, but not enough to basically call them out.

That latter part is happening more and more lately.

It can be a wide range of things, too. Anything from coordinates to attributes to cache container to location are open game for complainers to lay into the cache owner as to why the seeker doesn’t particularly care for a cache (or, just to question things). This is something I’m seeing more and more of and it’s kind of disheartening. I’ve seen it in my area and I’ve seen it in my travels.

And it stinks.

If you go back and read the bulk of my logs, I try and keep things upbeat and positive. There are times when I believe things need to be called out, maybe more as a reason to warn future finders. Maybe the cache is in awful shape (which I will usually post with a maintenance log). Or there have been so many “did not find” logs and the cache owner doesn’t seem to care or go look, maybe it needs a “needs archived” log.

But outside of that, I try and remain upbeat and find something good. I’m not the guy who just writes “TFTC” (thanks for the cache), but I also won’t write a novel unless it was a cache that really blew me away with its amazement or gave me a great story to tell.

When I do post something a little on the negative side, I try and remain subtle.

For example, when finding a newer local cache, it put me in a situation where I felt a little nervous. So, in the log, I said: “I have to be honest that this one made me feel uneasy.”

I figured, if the cache owner was interested, they would e-mail me. They did and I explained in further detail my issues. Simple. No issues. No wonders. No worries.

But, when people are negative, it’s usually not that subtle. It’s blatant and can be perceived as being quite nasty. And a lot of times, it can feel a bit confrontational. Worse is that many logs seem to be going that way at times. Almost like some people have to find something negative about a cache and point it out. It can be anything, too. As I mentioned above, the topics to be negative about are quite a range.

I’ve been lucky to find geocaches in many places and it seems there are always a few people who do this. It’s not just one or two people in one area. It’s all over.

And it’s a shame.

This game is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to take you to interesting places, or, at worst, give you something to do. To go and make such a blatant rip on someone is uncalled for an unnecessary. E-mail the cache owner.

My favorite?

Complaining over coordinates. I love that. People get all up in wads if coordinates are off by 30 feet or so. But see, here’s the thing. Thirty feet could be the difference in the day, weather, time that it was placed, GPS unit used or anything like that. And who says the coordinates the finder took are the right ones?

The problem is that when this happens, a lot cachers will up and change their coordinates, instead of heading back out and checking it for themselves. Again, if someone found something after dark, the odds are the coordinates are going to be different than those of someone who placed a cache at noon on a clear day.

Now, if you have a difference of 100 feet or something, by all means post what you got. But if we are talking 20-40 feet, it could be anything from the weather to the GPS, so keep that in mind before hammering somebody in your log about coordinates.

After all, who says you are right.

I don’t want to beat the negativity subject, but one more. Look at the attributes and respect them. I’ve seen far too many people who either A) put in their log how they blatantly ignored one of the attributes or B) question them. If you have issues, e-mail the cache owner. There’s probably a reason these things are there. I don’t always agree with them, either. Believe me, I’ve scratched my head many times when I’ve seen the handicap-accessible attribute and then have to hike a quarter of a mile down an uneven trail and reach into a tree to grab the cache. But I usually will just drop a note to the cache owner stating that they might want to re-consider that attribute. OR, if I mention it in the log, I won’t try and bash — I’ll do it as a quick note and leave my reason why.

The attributes are there for a reason and the owner’s use them for different things. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean you are right. So bashing someone for these things maybe isn’t the way to go, ya know?

Final thoughts 

In the end, how you log is fully up to you.

Sometimes reading past logs can show you things you'll never see in the online logs.

Whether you are more happy with logging deeper in the books or online is something only you can decide. You are also the one that has to decide how you post online — easy, calm, harsh, too truthful, long-winded, short or whatever else.

The reality is this, though. Many people will only know you through your online logs. It still irks me when I go to an event and people call me by my geocaching name, despite them knowing my real name.

But that’s how you are perceived.

So do what you feel is the best for you and how you feel to do it. But in the end, try and have as much fun with the logs as you can as it’s a part of the game that can be extremely enjoyable for you and for others when reading.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook by clicking the button on the right side of the page!


  1. Not surprisingly, I agree with 85% of what you wrote here, P.J. I’m one of those people who does question attributes and other cache related issues in my logs. I try not to be too negative about it and I think I’ve gotten better over the last year after a couple of people have called me on it… but I still feel the log is the best place to let people know of potential issues with their cache or description or attributes. I see your point about sending a note to the cache owner directly… and I’m going to think about that. Honestly, for me it is a matter of efficiency and response. I’m lazy enough to only want to write one message– and in those cases when I’ve sent a note to the cache owner directly, they often haven’t made the changes I feel they should to their cache description… so that kind of discourages me from taking that direct, subtle approach in favor of publicly letting future cachers know about the issue in question.
    UU Jester recently posted..Bearly on Vacation (D437)My Profile

    • I understand what you are saying, Craig, but I still respectfully disagree with how I am interpreting your comment.

      If a cache is in crummy shape, the owner isn’t responsive or hasn’t logged onto in a long time, by all means, call them out. It’s deserved. If there’s something where something can be harmful to a future cacher or a major issue, sure, again call it out. Understood.

      But most things people log about with attributes are silly and petty and don’t need to be called out in a public forum.

      You said: “and in those cases when I’ve sent a note to the cache owner directly, they often haven’t made the changes I feel they should to their cache description… so that kind of discourages me from taking that direct, subtle approach in favor of publicly letting future cachers know about the issue in question.”

      Just because you feel those changes should be need doesn’t mean they feel that way. Remember, in the end, it’s their cache. If it’s something that can be harmful, OK, I can see it. But if it’s just something you see differently than they do, then they don’t have to change something because somebody sees it differently. By publicly doing it, I feel it could do more harm than good. That’s just me.

      Personally, when I place an attribute on a cache, there’s a reason for it. And if someone calls me out on it because they disagree, I don’t think highly of said person because they’ve taken something to a public forum that doesn’t need to be there. People will always disagree with attributes — but unless there’s something I’ve left out that could eventually do harm to another person, it shouldn’t be in that public forum.

      Here’s an example: If I say “No dogs” on a cache, there might be more of a reason to it than when someone pulls up and says “There’s no sign that says no dogs,” ya know? Cacher A might show up and say “Why can’t I take my dog?” And then post “I don’t understand why you can’t have dogs here.” It seems harmless enough. I shouldn’t have to explain why dogs are not allowed there. It’s in the attributes. But, that log is there now. So, the next three caches see said log and bring dogs. Meanwhile, the landowner sees this, contacts me, gets mad and demands I take the cache down.

      Done, just like that.

      All because someone disagreed with my attribute in a public forum.

      I shouldn’t need to defend my attributes. Geocachers should just honor them and realize that 99 percent of the time, there’s a legit reason why those attributes are listed, either in the cache listing or in the “attributes” part of the listing.

      Again, my two cents. I see where you are coming from and to a point — I can agree. If the problem is really bad or can pose potential harm to another cacher. But most of the time, it seems like it’s petty things that get complained about.

  2. IrishTala /

    While I think both of you make good points, I need to agree with PJ. I do think that it is disheartening that some insist on finding at least one negative thing with each cache that they visit. As a cache owner, I want to hear both the positive and negative comments, but I would rather not hear about one certain thing each and every time somebody logs. As PJ stated, it is up to the cache owner to determine attributes and not the finder. It is a matter of respect to not only the CO, but the land owner and the hobby of geocaching itself to honor the attributes and wishes stated in the cache description. Not much in life goes the way we want it and try to dictate it. Instead, we should sit back, think about why we were brought to the spot, and enjoy what we have just found. I would encourage those who feel that they are the “ultimate cachers” to instead reflect upon themselves, and be sure that if they see something they don’t like, be sure not to do it with one of their own caches. And to also, think about how their comments will make others feel. Why take the rush of hiding a cache and finding a cache away by being deliberately hurtful?
    If the cache is a safe one, in good shape, and was hidden with even a grain of creativity, then by all means, applause and praise are deserved. It doesn’t need to a long log, but it does deserve something. Most cache owners have hidden their containers to bring you to a spot that is special to them. You can learn a lot about someone by their choice of hiding spots!
    And now, my two cents….thank you!

    • Well said, Tala.

      I never actually even tackled the aspect of what the cache owner might think. It’s true that when saying things it could be hurtful to the owners as there might be a significance to what people are seeing etc. Sometimes those attributes might be based on what one is seeing, not so much the cache.

      To be fair, I do think there is a time and a place for negative comments in the public forum, just not always. Good points that you brought up to think about.

  3. I tend to leave longer online log posts for caches I really like. When I’m at a cache, I usually just sign and date the log quickly if muggles are near by. I’ll write more if we’re alone with the cache in the woods maybe. As a cache owner, I appreciate notes and logs on my better caches that let me know when people like the effort that went into the construction of the cache. I can’t stand cachers who leave nasty logs, just for the sake of being nasty. It’s uncalled for. If the cache needs maintenance, then make a note in the log and put up a “needs Maintenance” note. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I thought I’d return the favor!
    kim scornavacco recently posted..Wheels00 Hits 5000!My Profile

    • Hi Kim and thanks for stopping by! I tend to think many people are the same way with logging. I’m trying to change myself from doing that as I feel like writing a bit more in the physical log is an art form being lost. People might take more time to stop and stare if there’s something to read. I do agree that I’m more likely to do it in the woods than if I’m in a muggle-rich environment! And it sounds like many of us agree on the nasty logs. But, as I mentioned, it seems like negative logs are becoming more and more normal, which is too bad. Do I take it that it’s happening in your area, too?

  4. Wow I really enjoyed reading the comments, I’ve never really thought about the cache owner’s side of things, but generally I try to stay positive unless there was something really amiss with it.
    What I’m getting really bummed about is how many geocoins and travel bugs are going missing (yes PJ I’m still bitter about my untimely exit from your race!!) LOL!
    tattooedmommie recently posted..The Best 6 Years EverMy Profile

    • The cache owner side is one I don’t think many think about when it comes to commenting. And I agree on the positive unless something was really amiss.

      And I fully agree on the TBs and geocoins. I still don’t know why fellow geocachers snag them (though I do realize that some people who take these items are not geocachers).


  1. Foto Friday: Geocaching | A 'lil Hoohaa - [...] How negative many geocachers seem to be anymore (logs, coordinates etc.; I’ve previously covered this) [...]

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