In the spirit of "hidden treasure", most geocaches contain trade items (besides the stash note and log book that remain in the cache). Those who find the cache may take an item, but are expected to leave something of their own for others to find. Many geocachers carry with them a collection of trade items to exchange for things in the caches they find. Trade items are rarely of any significant value.
Basic trading etiquette expects those who take something to also leave something of their own for others to find. When trading, the item(s) left in the cache should be at least as valuable as the item(s) taken. The total value of the items in a cache should never decrease as a result of a trade. This is sometimes expressed as "Trade up, trade even, or don't trade."
While dollar store trinkets are typical, some geocachers prepare for trading with an exceptionally well-stocked cache by carrying a few more expensive items as well. Others simply leave cash on such rare occasions.
Also, many themed caches request (or even require) that trade items fit a certain theme. As much as possible, please respect the themes of such caches.
Hitch hikers are items that move from geocache to geocache. Those who take hitch hikers from a cache are expected to leave them in some other cache, and should not keep them. Often, hitch hikers will have a specific mission (for example, to travel from New York to Florida, one cache at a time).
- Travel bugs are items with a metal dog tag, which can be tracked at Geocaching.com. They are not considered trade items; they remain the property of their owners, and anyone willing to help them on their journey can move them from one cache to another.
- Trackable geocoins are specially minted coins imprinted with a tracking numbers. Those that are trackable at Geocaching.com are not considered trade items; like travel bugs, they remain the property of their owners.
Other hitch hikers (including those trackable at sites other than Geocaching.com) may or may not be considered trade items.
Suggested trade items
The following are good trade items:
- Fresh batteries
- Inexpensive hiking/camping equipment
- Single-use insect repellent
- Single-use skin cleanser (Tecnu, Zanfel, etc.)
- Signature items (personalized items made by or for a geocacher)
- Unactivated travel bug tags or geocoins, with a note explaining that they are unactivated trade items, and not hitch hikers
- Foreign coins
- Inexpensive toys (e.g., kid's meal toys, playing cards)
- Trade show freebies
- CDs, DVDs, or video/computer games
Prohibited trade items
Please do not leave anything dangerous, illegal, or edible in a cache. Trade items should be safe for all ages. Prohibited items include:
- explosives or fireworks
- weapons (including knives) or ammunition
- alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
- food, or anything that might smell like food to an animal
For further discussion, see the expanded article about prohibited cache items.