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Where are the missing DNFs?


Staff member
Jan 19, 2024
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When you can’t find a geocache, do you log your DNF? To some cachers, it may sound like a trick question, because of course they do. Others cite any number of reasons for not logging a “Didn’t find it.” Maybe they think they didn’t spend enough time looking, or they only log a DNF if they feel certain the cache isn’t there. Some fear their DNF log will be the reason for a cache’s archival (it won’t). Whatever the reasons, most geocachers would agree that a lot of DNFs go unlogged.

Recently, HQ’s Data Team set out to approximate how many DNFs are unrecorded. They conducted a study of 3500 Traditional Caches located in the United States, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (these regions account for 58 percent of the world’s active caches). Approximately 200 experienced geocachers visited caches in their areas to evaluate DNF rates, container and log conditions, as well as characteristics of the cache locations. In the majority of cases, people were evaluating caches they had found previously. The survey achieved a 99 percent confidence level from the results.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Actual DNF rates were 3–5 times higher than what was reported in online logs, with some countries showing true DNF rates near or above 20 percent (compared with 6–8 percent in online logs).
  • Not surprisingly, countries with more engaged cache owners have lower actual DNF rates on caches.
  • Caches whose owners have not shown any obvious activity in the past five years had actual DNF rates almost twice as high as caches whose owners were active in the past year.

When DNFs are not logged, engaged owners are less likely to know there may be a problem with their cache. In cases where the owner is no longer active in the game, not logging a DNF delays the process of bringing the cache to the attention of the local community volunteer reviewer.

To those who always log your DNFs, thank you! But if you’re among those hesitant to use the DNF log, please consider the Data Team’s findings the next time you can’t find a cache. When the geocaching gameboard is more healthy, we can all have a lot more fun playing!
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