Quick Guide to Getting Started
The quickest, easiest way to get started, even without a GPS, is simply go to a cache listing site, for example, geocaching.com. In the upper right-hand corner of the home page, and type in your zipcode. The zipcodes are good for the US, Cananda, Britian, and Australia. Then click GO.
The resultant page will be a list of all geocaches within 100 miles. The center of this circle of caches is point set by the geocaching.com site -- gc.com, for short -- and might not be the closest to you. It's a bit more complicated to get the caches closest to your home, but we really don't need to do that to get you started.
Selecting a good starting cache
To find a good starting cache there is three columns you need to be paying attention to. These are the "Icons" column, the (D/T), and the "Last Found" Column. The first two are the most important. Under the "Icons" column look at the green and white icon that signifies a traditional cache. You can hoover over the icon for each discription.
Once you've found a tradition cache on the list scan right to the (D/T) column which will have two bits of information; one is how hard the cache will be and the other is the size. How hard the cache is complete is signified by two numbers, they range from 1 to 5 with 1 being the easiest. For your first cache, you want it to be easy so anyth 2 or under is fine. Under that is a representation of the size of the cache. Again, hoover over the icon to see the sizes. Micros are a bit advanced and harder to find, so start off with a small or larger.
The last thing to look at is the last rightmost column which will tell when it was last found. You don't want to start off with a cache that hasn't been found in many months because it might not be there anymore. Anything in the last couple of months should be okay.
Once you've found a god prospect, click the name of the cache.
The cache page
I'm not going to go into much detail on the cache page. Read the description to see if it is something you might like to attempt. If not, go back to the cache list.
If this sounds goods, then next scan down to the logs and read the logs. If you see logs that mention the cache may be missing or the contents are wet, try a differnt cache as this hunt might not be a pleasurable experience.
If everything sounds okay, then let's go!
Hunting the cache
This author hunted his first several caches without the benefit of a GPS and will be describing how it is done "sans GPS." Don't worry, several geocachers are famous for thousands of finds without a GPS. It's not as easy, but you don't have to put out the cash for a GPS unit to get started.
First, just to get you started, let's go ahead and look at the hint. Around the middle of the page you will find "Additional hints." Click "Decrypt" next to it. This will allow you to read the additional hints provided.
Below that you should find "For online maps..." Explore those links. This should give you an idea of where the cache is. It is beyond the scope of this tutorial to go in further detail. Besides, part of geocaching is discovery, both online and off.
It is also advisable to print the cache page out to take with you. There is a link in small text towards the top of the page next to a small overview map. Look for "Make this page print-friendly" and click it. Click "decrypt" again to decrypt the hints on this page, too. Now, print it out.
GO FIND THAT CACHE!
Your First Find
On your first hunt don't worry about trading. Look through it and get a feel of the contents. Read the log book. It's my experience most people just sign the log, mention what they left and took, and thanks the owner for the placement. You can write anything you want, just make sure you sign the log as proof of your visit.
When you are finished, be especially carefull to replace the cache exactly how you found it. For now, we'll not get into the nuances of "how the cache owner intended it to be hidden."
Also, please be careful about be observed when hunting, signing in, and replacing the cache. Caches aren't well protected and the only security is their secret location. Please don't reveal its secret location to anyone other than a land owner or steward, or some authority that asks like a police officer.
After the Hunt
After you return from your hunt it is polite to notify the cache owner of your visit. Most people do this via the online log function of the site. In order to do this, you need to be a member of the site and signed in. Navigate back to the cache page of the cache you found and look in the upper right corner and click the "Log Your Visit" button.
On the next page fill in the form. Under log type, if you found the cache select "Found it." If you didn't find it, select "Didn't Find It." (There is no stigma in not finding a cache, known as logging a "DNF." This author has many DNF's to his name. Many times a DNF log is more interesting than a Find log.) Select the date you found, or did not find, the cache and then tell us about your adventure!
We hope you had fun!