What A DNF Geocache Entry Means

When you select a Geocache to hunt for, you’ll see logs left from previous players. It’s great to see a TFTC entry that signifies someone had an enjoyable experience previously hunting it down, but there are plenty more codes you’ll see too like DNF.

DNF means Did Not Find in Geocaching. It is used to report an unsuccessful attempt to locate the Cache when someone tried to find it. It doesn’t always mean it’s missing, it could just have been overlooked, but the more DNF reports there are, the greater the chance it is gone.

double checking geocache gps location

Why Are Caches Missing?

There are a wide range of reasons why a Cache isn’t where you expect to find it. Let’s look at a few possibilities.

Causes Of DNF Geocaches

DNF CauseDescriptionAction Required
You’re in the wrong locationThe first thing to check if you think you’re running the risk of a DNF is to double check your location matches the Geocache clue.

This predominately means making sure your current GPS co-ordinates match those provided when you selected them from the website or app.
Move to the correct location by checking the location again and continuing your search.

If you’re still unsuccessful, file a DNF log.
The cache has been ‘Muggled’.When a Muggle stumbles across a Cache, its a real possibility that they have no idea what it is, or the problem they will cause by interfering with it.

This is a big part of why Caches should be well hidden, disguised or otherwise arranged in a way that reduces the likelihood of them being tampered with by people that aren’t familiar with Geocaching.

If a Cache has been removed for any reason by someone that didn’t realize what it was, then it has been Muggled.
File a report on the cache with a DNF log online (or via the app) if you aren’t successful in finding it.

Geocache owners may choose to rectify the situation with a replacement if they know it’s been Muggled.
It has been deliberately removed.On occasion, a Cache may have been removed by its creator, either for it to be discontinued, updated, repaired or another reason.

A note should ideally have been made on the Cache details page if this is the case. However, people may forget to update the page, think (incorrectly) it’s not necessary or even negligently left the Cache absent for whatever reason without removing it from the Geocaching database.
File a report on the cache with a DNF log online (or via the app) if you aren’t successful in finding it.

The cache owner will be able to check on their Cache and re-establish the location if they also find it’s missing and wish to do so once you’ve reported it.
A land owner has removed the Cache.As part of the rules of Geocaching, you should have permission to place a Cache, but the global nature of the sport means that it’s inevitable that some will be introduced on private land without permission.

Just because a land owner removes a Geocache, it doesn’t mean they are against people participating on their property, it could be that they just didn’t know what it was wen they found it.
File a report on the cache with a DNF log online (or via the app) if you aren’t successful in finding it.

Reporting allows the owner of the Cache to check on the Cache, and also decide whether to contact the land owner and attempt to agree to reinstate or replace the Cache if necessary.

When a Geocache is no longer available, reporting it online is important. This serves two primary purposes:

  1. Other participants will be able to see your report and choose a different Cache location
  2. Owners of Caches are alerted to problems with their Geocache and able to investigate and remedy problems.

What Should I Do If I See A DNF Report When Selecting A Cache?

DNF reports aren’t always accurate, and that’s an important fact to keep in mind. What it means is that the person making the report is saying that they could not locate the Geocache.

It is possible that the Cache is fine and well, sitting in the correct location awaiting the next player to find it. It is also possible that the location has been interfered with and there’s nothing to find.

By keeping the DNF report in mind, you can make an informed decision whether to go out and find the location where the Cache should be.

If you successfully locate the Geocache, you can add to the paper log (don’t forget to BYOP!) mentioning that the clue suggested it was missing, and also add an additional entry to the online database to show that you’ve found it even though the previous report listed it as DNF.

If you are also unsuccessful in locating it, you should also log a DNF to reinforce the previous report for future players.

Either way, you’re helping to improve the quality of the data in the Geocaching database for website and app users.

Should I Search For A DNF Geocache?

You should definitely not be put off by a DNF log when choosing a Geocache to find. It’s a great feeling to locate a Cache that others have marked as DNF. As we mentioned before, just because you see a DNF log, it doesn’t automatically follow that it’s missing, destroyed or moved.

What Should I Think About With DNF Logs?

In deciding whether to go out looking for a Cache with DNF reports, you might like to consider the following:

  • How many DNF logs are filed?
    If there are many DNF reports, it’s more likely that the Geocache is missing compared to there being a single report. However, think of it in the context of the proportion of overall logs on the Cache. If a Cache has five logs attached and the last four are all DNF, then there’s a good chance that there’s a problem. On the other hand, if there are hundreds of logged entries and four say DNF interspersed randomly in the middle, it’s almost certainly alive and well.
  • What Are The Terrain And Difficulty Scores?
    Again, context is king. If you’ve got an easy difficulty and terrain score, you’d expect a low number of DNF reports if things are well. Conversely, a very hard cache is by its very definition hard to find. A DNF report isn’t saying something isn’t there, just that someone can’t find it. You would almost expect a DNF or two as a minimum on a tough to find (or access) location.

Always Remember What DNF Means

As you have read, the key to understanding DNF is understanding how the logs fit into Geocaching. While some players incorrectly use it to mean a Cache is gone, that’s only a subset of the possible meanings.

Did Not Find literally means what it says. It’s not an accusation of anything, just an acknowledgement that a Geocaching mission didn’t end in success.


Hi, I'm Kevin. I discovered Geocaching several years ago on a family vacation at Center Parcs in the UK with my wife's family. Since then we've regularly been out and about avoiding the Muggles and hunting for caches.

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