There are very few cases in which you should replace a geocache that does not belong to you. I want to make clear what Groundspeak has to say about it and give examples of when I believe it is okay to replace a geocache.
What does Groundspeak say?
Groundspeak support gives clear instruction about what should be done if you do not find a geocache. To find out you would have to go to www.geocaching.com. Click on the learn tab and then select Geocaching 101. Now click on the “help center” link in the first sentence on the page. In the menu on the left, select “Finding a Geocache” under knowledge books. Scroll down to section 3 and click on “3.4 What should I do if I have discovered a geocache has gone missing?” Or you could just read on.
According to Groundspeak, “If you visit a geocache location and the cache is missing, make sure to log the cache with a “Didn’t find it” log so that the owner is notified.” Cache owners who are still active will usually check on a cache that has repeatedly received “Didn’t find it” logs to make sure their geocache has not gotten muggled.
The Groundspeak help center says “don’t replace the container unless you have permission from the cache owner.” Sometimes geocache containers are just hard to find and not missing at all. If you replace it, there will be two containers at the location.
*The rest of this post is Crazy Dave’s opinion
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When is it okay to replace a geocache?
Groundspeak has spoken and not left much room for confusion, but there are still a few times, in my opinion, it is okay to replace a geocache you do not own and have not found.
- You have spoken with the owner and confirmed that the geocache container is, indeed, missing and the owner gives you permission. The Cache Owner(CO) is responsible for the geocache hide and any maintenance that is needed. He or she should be the person to decide when and how to replace a geocache container.
- If the CO is no longer an active geocacher and if a cache is too special (really old or something like that) to be archived, and you, at some point found the original container, then it might be okay to replace it. But by replacing it, you should also take some responsibility for its maintenance.
- If the CO is no longer an active geocacher and you can make contact with one of the original finders of the geocache who can give you a detailed description of what they found, in extreme cases, it might be okay to replace a geocache container.
Some geocachers feel it is okay to replace a geocache container if they have been unable to find it. (This is especially the case if no one has found it in a while.) But what if the original container is still there and it’s just hard to find? Now you have multiple containers at the same location causing confusion for future geocachers. I have found as many as three containers at the same location.
No one likes logging a DNF, but I would rather have an honest find than claiming a find on a “throw down.” In the words of Peter Pan, that’s just “Bad Form” and it’s against the rules!