Geocache Longevity

I was curious how long the average geocache lasts, so I did a little research.

I examined all of my finds (from GSAK) that have been archived, excluding events, CITOs and other event-type caches. The chart shows the median number of days between placement of the cache and the final log, which was normally the archive log.

I have a theory, several of them in fact, to account for the results. First of all, I think 2001 is a special case. Caches placed back in the very early days achieved a sort of iconic status and have been kept alive by others long after the original owner has left the geocaching world. This is true for the two year 2000 hides I found, both of which are still active. It is also true for many year 2001 caches that are still active, but not shown on the chart. I checked about half of my 2001 archived caches on the chart and three of those had been adopted during their lifetime. The same did not appear to be true (or as true) for the 2002 caches.

For 2002 and 2003, I believe the short duration was due to the learning curve of the flood of new cachers entering the sport. I know my early hides were not well-chosen spots. After a few that were lost to gardeners, thieving muggles, or construction crews I learned what kind of spots worked better. The period 2004 through 2008 shows pretty good consistency, with a median lifespan of about 2200 days (a little over six years). Remember, these are median lifespans. Half of the archived caches lived longer than that, and of course many are still active. For those years after 2008, the apparent shorter lifespan, I believe, is explained by the fact that longer-lasting caches are cut off by the simple fact that it hasn’t been long enough since those were hidden for them to live out a normal span. Put another way, one end of the bell curve of longevity (caches that last 8 years or more) is cut off by insufficient passage of time, causing the median age to be lower. I suspect that if this same exercise were to be done in five years you’d see caches from 2008 to 2013 or so have the same median of around 2200 days.

There could be other explanations. Since these are my finds, maybe I cached differently in the years 2005 – 2008 from later years. Maybe the changing rules from Groundspeak have caused people to hide caches differently. Feel free to posit your own theories in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Geocache Longevity

  1. David [Team DEMP]

    Interesting chart. I’m wondering what the data would look like if it was normalized (?) to the later years? As an example, for 2002, 2003 & 2004, if you look at caches archived within 1 year from placement date, what does the graph look like? What about 2 years between placement an archived? 3 years? That would be more an apples to apples comparison between those old years and the more recent years.

    Or am I misinterpreting the dataset?

    An example of what I’m wondering is if say for 2002 there were 100 caches that you found and 5 were archived in 2002, 10 in 2003 and 10 more in 2004. Over 3 years, what is the median? It would more reflect the last 3 years of the chart.

    We all know everything was better back then 🙂 but how much better?

  2. Russ Post author

    Those are interesting points. I would have to determine not just the longevity of the cache but what percent of the caches were archived for the various years. I would also have to normalize those for when I found them. I could do that, but it also poses its own statistical problems and require more work. For one thing, I would have to restrict the set even further to caches I found the first year or within the first few weeks, which will drastically reduce the data set. I am still occasionally finding caches from years prior to 2005, say, although not many. Those are obviously not typical and skew the data toward long-lasting caches, which can’t be done for 2017-18-19 caches. I invite you or anyone to go ahead and do your suggested calculations on your own finds, or even on mine. That data can be retrieved from a profile. I’d be interested in the result, but I’m too lazy to do that on my own finds. This chart was easy to generate.

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