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You’ve heard of cache saturation, what about cacher saturation?

A great wee post from KajakJim over at Thanks for the Cache about the balance needed in cacher numbers.

One thing that I have noticed lately is the increase of ‘geocaching’ appearing in the media. Whether it’s a
foreign building being evacuated due to others thinking the geocache is a bomb, or the occasional news story about caching, I have been wondering how others in the geocaching community feel about increased media attention about this activity.

My first thought is that I feel rather fortunate to be a cacher in New Zealand where the treat of terrorist attacks is sufficiently low that we don’t have to worry too much about it. But as an avid watcher of the geocaching news it does concern me that geocaching is frequently getting bad press. Reviewer less listing sites could lead to more bad cache placements that may lead to more bomb scares. More bomb scares could lead to more public scrutiny that may develop into public animosity towards the hobby. There may come a time when being a geocacher in some countries or areas is, at least in the court of public opinion, an illicit activity.
Highly unlikely I know but stranger things have happened.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because you are a geocacher. Regardless of your geocaching experience or number of finds, I’d like to know your thoughts about  increased participation in caching. Do you welcome more participants to geocaching? Do you feel that with increased attention to this activity, it will draw more and more people to geocaching? How do you feel about more cachers in the field?

Yes, I do welcome more people into geocaching. I have wondered previously whether we have passed the golden era where there were lots of cachers and only a few cachers in the area, where good hiding spots where still readily available and no-one complained about saturation. We probably have. But IMHO the more people that know about geocaching the better.

Will the increased attention draw more people into geocaching? Yes.

How do I feel about more cachers in the field? Good. And not because I’m unconcerned about cacher saturation, it is something that worries me slightly, but because I believe that there is only a small percentage of the population that are interested in geocaching. What!?! I know, it is hard to believe, but not everyone is into geocaching. I’ve introduced a lot of people to the hobby in my short time and whilst some have taken it up for a little while most have enjoyed the experience, logged their finds and gone on with their lives. I suspect the experience is the same for a lot of others who take the sport up and it would be interesting to see how many people actually make it past 50 finds.

I have mixed emotions about it. On one hand, I try to explain to members of my family or friends about geocaching to see if they might get excited about it and want to try. On the other hand, I don’t want this hobby to become over saturated with participants like everything else. When you think about it… how many times have you wanted to go to an amusement park to ride the coasters; go camping and enjoy the outdoors; play a few rounds of golf; visit a water park and enjoy riding the tubes or shooting the rapids… pick your event and you’re going to run into crowds of people. It seems that whatever I want to do, a gazillion other people have the same thing on their mind as well. I know this big rock of ours is growing in population every day, and wherever you go, you’re bound to run into someone doing the same activity. But (so far) when it comes to geocaching, I’ve not run into very many people doing the same thing. It’s rare that I find another person looking for a cache. It happens, but not very often.

The thought of lining up to sign a log is a scary one!

I know I can’t have it both ways – I can’t get others excited about geocaching and yet, try to keep the number of participants down. It’s idiotic to even consider such a thing. But that balance is nice where you can still go out and not run into a line of people waiting to sign the logbook. I enjoy participating in something that is not so freakishly popular that everyone has to do it. At the time of this writing, according to geocaching.com, “There are 1,261,292 active geocaches around the world.” That number continues to grow each day. I’m currently at 47 finds. I know I’ll be damn lucky to reach a 5 digit number of finds – unbelievably lucky. But for now, I enjoy the fact that this activity hasn’t caught on as a big fad in the general population. It may come to that, and it’s something I’ll deal with. With the recent holiday’s, I’m sure Santa delivered quite a few GPS units. And, with apps available for iPhone, iPad and Android phones, the number of participants will surely swell.

This final point about smart phones is an important one. I posted yesterday about the experiences of another blogger who came into geocaching through their smart phone. More and more people will discover the hobby through this route than through the media and automatically have the tools to go out and start hunting. One of the major changes this brings is that these people will not likely be introduced to geocaching by participating with an already experienced geocacher, they will be off doing it by themselves. My concern for this is for the newbie cacher. How many will be put off by an initial bad caching experience? I failed to find my first two caches but for some reason I persevered. Maybe this is just a case of geocaching survival of the fittest?

2 comments

  1. gsvnofixedabode

    I started off early and read as much as I could about caching before getting a GPS to hunt my first few: this was 2003 before internet-based mapping tools.
    Many of today’s cachers (ALL are welcome!) stumble on this by reading a brief, often slightly incorrect, writeup and hop onto the bandwagon. To most of them caching is about filmcans or 200ml snaplock containers under a bush in a kids’ playground, and that’s what they then place. That fancy smartphone they’ve got with (A-)gps may have an EPE of anything up to 100 metres, but they don’t realise that. [Ok, hands up who had to google EPE? 😉 ]. 4 DNFs – probably unlogged – will be the result.

    So what to do? Perhaps educate via local forums, local events, local groups. Any other suggestions?

    1. Lone R

      I agree with gsvnofixedabode. The concern isn’t so much about increased number of finders but rather increased numbers of poorly informed new cache placers. Especially those cache owners who don’t understand (ignore or don’t read the guidelines) or aren’t committed to the game but place a cache for a lark. I’d like to see Groundspeak (and other database services) emphasize that cache ownership is a responsibility and should be taken seriously. The proposed quiz for new COs would be a good start. At least a 1 month wait (preferably a 3 month wait) after registration before placing a cache is something else I’d like to see implemented. Education via local forums, local events, local groups are all good things but would probably only reach about 5% of cachers.

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