Geocaching vs Orienteering: The Ultimate Comparison

Having fun while walking around a large open space can simply be listening to what is happening, while others prefer to have some adventure to their travels. Geocaching has become one of the most well-known ways of exploring the world, but it is not the only one. Orienteering is more a sport than just a hobby, usually relying on organized events than random searching.

Geocaching is the hobby of looking for hidden caches using a GPS device, while orienteering is a group event, with several waypoints along the way. Orienteering is set up by groups of people and relies on your ingenuity to understand some clues to reach the next waypoint, with everyone involved in the activity being recorded on a central log.

There are many differences between orienteering and geocaching; one can be enjoyed as an everyday hobby while the other is more of an event that takes place at selected times and locations.

Many people that love one or the other will cross between the two hobbies; many cachers will happily start orienteering once they learn about the hobby. There is still a clear difference between the two that everyone should be aware of, and knowing them will be important.

These are the differences between orienteering and geocaching, along with everything you need to join the world of orienteering!

How do you start orienteering?

Unlike geocaching joining the world of orienteering can be simpler than just downloading an application and going on the hunt. Orienteering involves many tricks, with the most important one is joining the right community to know where the next orienteering event will occur.

Unlike geocaching, that has a set of applications and websites where you can simply find the nearest cache that has been logged; orienteering works with organizations. Most countries will have official guilds, associations, or organizations that are specifically focused on orienteering events. This is due to orienteering’s complexity and how much work is required to participate in the events.

Orienteering events are not random events that take place. By joining the right organization, you can easily know where the next public orienteering event will be. Further, you can arrange official orienteering events to take place for your school, company, or group of friends.

What makes orienteering more difficult?

Geocaching has only one thing that is difficult to do, and that is finding the actual cache, wherever it may be hidden among the brush or trees around the location. This is one of the reasons some of the other hobbies don’t always understand it. Orienteering is not much different. While orienteering is a larger group activity, it can be a lot more difficult to accomplish everything required.

Four main things make orienteering a lot more difficult and fun than geocaching.


Geocaching is a group activity with a large crowd of people all working together anonymously through the various applications to easily find and log caches across the world. This is not always the case with orienteering, where many times, companies inject an edge of competitiveness in their orienteering tasks.

While not always the case, with larger events usually just about having as much fun as possible, some orienteering events are competitive, requiring that you accomplish all the tasks and beat others to reach the end first. There are usually silly prizes involved and means that the full event will only last one day.

This is not the normal way of doing orienteering, and some purists may prefer not to compete at all, but if you are looking for a fun group activity for the end of the year, you may want to look into doing this. There are many ways to compete with orienteering, and finding the right one for your purpose can be as simple as talking to the right people.


While geocaching enjoys using a physical GPS or your phone’s GPS, orienteering specifically does not allow you to use these devices. You are usually given a map at the beginning of the event and have to use a compass to find your way. This is where the difficulty in orienteering for the modern world becomes evident.

Sometimes people cannot read a map effectively or might not know how to use a compass, usually only when they enter the hobby for the first time. These two skills are not the only two that are being used; you have to know the lay of the land and how to travel between two points to save time and energy effectively.

One of the greatest things about orienteering is the refinement of skills you never thought you had, and reading a map or using a compass have proven useful to many people. Some of the more challenging orienteering events require that you not use a compass at all, using nature to orient yourself in the world.

Fewer Clues

Geocaching can have many clues, or none at all, depending on the difficulty of your cache. This is not how orienteering would work, with each marker giving you a clue to the next marker. But that would also be the only clue you may get; sometimes, it could be a poem, a few words, or simply a direction to follow.

This has meant that many geocachers have a bit of a learning curve to overcome, seeing as they can no longer rely on their phone to find the next marker. Each marker in orienteering usually has a special stamp or code as well, which is how you mark that you have indeed been to all the markers required for the orienteering event.

Which hobby offers more challenges?

Each of these two hobbies has different levels of challenge, with the most difficult caches only being a coordinate for a cache that could be a few miles from the spot logged. Orienteering can experience the same ramp-up of challenge; in some areas of the world, markers will be several miles apart, making them difficult to find.

Both of these hobbies can be extremely challenging and offer a large learning curve to those just entering the hobby. Knowing which one is more challenging in your country is a matter of experiencing both; in urban areas, geocaching may be a lot easier than orienteering.

Most orienteering occurs in areas where hiking is popular, with botanical gardens and farms usually being used to allow for long distances to be traveled. One hobby may not be more challenging than the other; their difficulty simply relies on what you have the easiest access to.

Do the two hobbies work together?

While the two hobbies are similar in some facets, they do not work together because of the event format that orienteering takes. Anyone anywhere can start taking part in the geocaching hobby, grabbing their phone and a pair of walking shoes to go hunting. This is not the same for orienteering; you need to register and take part in an event to enjoy orienteering thoroughly.

Many people who enjoy geocaching or orienteering will do both because orienteering is not always active. Those seeking adventure may take part in geocaching when they are not actively taking part in an event, while geocachers may get tired of hunting for caches that could not be there.

While the two hobbies may never work together, the participants may easily take part in the other. Not all exploring hobbies perfectly intermingle with each other, but the participants can certainly do more than one hobby at a time.

Are there any geocaches that are also orienteering sites?

One of the most amazing things about geocaches is how many of them are made for the first time, with many cachers opting to place them as a commemorative item. This is usually what happens when an orienteering event takes place in an easily accessible public location.

Some of the world’s oldest geocaches are in botanical gardens or parks where people were part of a group that had some event take place there. These caches are placed at the end of events, and owing to many orienteers also being geocachers; they tend to place them to remember events of the past.

This has made for some most interesting geocaches globally, where the geocache holds the history of a location and of all the people who took part in a specific event.

How much time do you need to do your hobbies?

These two hobbies have one glaring difference between them, the time it takes to complete them. Knowing how long they take is vital to choose which one you will be doing over the weekend; it can be the difference between wasting a weekend or losing only a few hours of your time.


Orienteering is a commitment that takes time and means that you will be wasting anything from a full day to a weekend. This is due to the scale of the event, and the total size of the area used to play in. Experienced orienteers may only take a few hours to complete a course; however, getting all the markers is not the only goal.

There will often be a small party of friends cooking or grilling something at the finish line of the orienteering course. This makes orienteering so much more social than most of the other hobbies; it is truly a social event for people who want to have fun together.


Most geocaches will only take between one to two hours to complete, with the longest part being the journey to the cache. This is why most geocachers work the hobby into their daily exercise routine in the beginning, becoming serious only when they have run out of local caches to visit within running distance.

When you work to get more geocaches, you will inevitably drive with your car to caches further away. Finding caches in other parks is usually the part that can take the longest, with many cachers spending between two to three hours looking around in foreign parks to find caches hidden in odd ways.

What is the point of orienteering?

Orienteering is from marker to marker at speed, through unfamiliar territory, using only a map and compass. The point of orienteering may differ from person to person, with some going to have fun and explore new areas.

Other more competitive people may want to do it to win the race, while even more other people may not even entirely care about orienteering at all. These are the people who gather at the finish line and prepare a good grill for those who finish the event.

The only real goal of orienteering is to meet new people and have as much fun as possible while doing it.

What do you need for orienteering?

Just as with geocaching, there are a few things that you will need to know and have with you at all times when you go orienteering for the first time. These are a few basic rules that will make or break your enjoyment or just the equipment you should have with you and ensure that you have the best possible time while orienteering.

Golden Rule

Every hobby has a golden rule, in Geocaching it would be not to leave a trace that you were there; for orienteering, you must always check into the finish line. Sometimes the job can be too much, and you will want to quit for the day; however, because of the nature of orienteering and the registration-required event, officials will know who is currently orienteering.

This means that even if you have found only one marker, you will have to go to the finish line, wherever it may be, to log that you are either leaving the event or were unable to finish. This will save the event organizers from thinking that someone has gone missing.

Walking shoes

It should be needless to say, but you will be walking or running a lot while orienteering, easily putting down several miles before the end of the day. To ensure you are not hurting your feet or becoming overly tired, it is important to wear a pair of good shoes and walk properly for the entire trip.

Exercise clothing

Sometimes people forget that denim and t-shirt are not even close to perfect when exercising, and the same can be said for walking long distances. If you are going at a leisurely pace, it may be fine, but it is always recommended that you wear some exercise clothing when you go orienteering.

This will save pain and time from chafing in extremely uncomfortable locations throughout your body.


If you are old, young, unfit, or just slightly fit, it doesn’t matter; orienteering and geocaching can be done by anyone willing. Just be sure that your heart is in the right place and follow all the general rules set up!

Just be sure not to go geocaching while you’re trekking through a forest on the hunt for the next marker; you may end up somewhere strange.

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