Many new Geocachers are concerned about finding caches that will suit them in terms of skill levels and available time. Fortunately the process of selecting an appropriate cache is made easier by a widely accepted rating system. This system differentiates between the difficulty of finding the cache itself and the difficulty of traversing the terrain while making your way to the cache. Both of these factors (difficulty and terrain) will obviously have to be taken into account while planning a geocaching hunt.
* Easy: The cache is almost in full view and very little searching is required in order to locate it.
** Average: It should take a geocacher of moderate ability and experience about 30 minutes to find the cache.
*** Challenging: Even experienced geocachers will have to do some work to find this one and it could take a few hours to locate.
**** Difficult: Finding a cache classed as difficult may take several excursions and will also require in-depth preparation. Special skills and/or knowledge may be needed.
***** Extreme: Finding an ‘extreme’ cache will almost always require specialised skills and equipment. A significant amount of planning will be needed.
* Handicap Accessible: One star terrain is usually suitable for wheelchairs and finding the cache will require a hike of less than 1 km.
**Suitable for small children: The cache can be found by sticking to clearly marked trails without steep inclines or obstructions (e.g. thick vegetation). The required hike will generally be less than 3 kilometres.
*** Not suitable for small children: Finding a cache on three star terrain will normally require some off-road walking. It can also involve one or all of the following: walking through thick vegetation, negotiating uneven terrain and walking for more than 3 kilometres.
**** Experienced outdoor enthusiasts only: It is likely that the majority of the hike will be off-road. It can also involve one or all of the following: Moving through very thick vegetation, negotiating very steep inclines (use of hands may be required) and hikes of more than 10 kilometres. It may in some cases be necessary to plan an overnight stay.
***** Requires specialised equipment, knowledge, or experience: Getting to this type of cache will be very difficult. Depending on the terrain some of the following may be required: a boat, a four-wheel-drive vehicle, rock climbing equipment, ice exploration equipment or diving gear.
Some geocachers use the star rating system as a shorthand description of a cache. For example: ‘3/2’ refers to a ‘Challenging’ cache that is hidden in terrain that is suitable for children.