What are the Top Ten Geocaching Countries?

The recent popularity of the World Cup – yes, even here in the United States – has many of us thinking globally.

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What if there were a World Cup of Geocaching?  Who would be in the “Group of Death”?

Phrased that way, I admit it is a silly question.  But anyone who has ever launched a trackable and seen it go global has wondered about the people and places it has encountered on its travels.  Events like the recent World Wide Flash Mob pique our interest in how the game is played on other continents.

In this post I will answer the important question of our time:  who are the top ten countries in terms of their passion, their fervor, their love of geocaching?

And the answer is…

…It depends.

Yes, it depends.  If you look at the raw numbers, large countries dominate.  But if you adjust the data to account for differences in population and land mass, you get a somewhat different result.  I’m no statistician, because all that time sampling populations and whatnot would cut into my geocaching time.  But I did spend a few hours collecting information from geocaching.com and related websites to get a rough idea where geocaching is most popular.

I was surprised at what I found.

First let me give you an idea of my methodology.

Method

I measured geocaching’s popularity in each country by counting:  1) the number of caches placed in each country, 2) the number of serious geocachers in each country (those with 200 or more finds), and 3) the number of geocaching events held per country during one month (April 2014).

Next, I adjusted the data to put all countries on an equal footing.  I looked up the 2013 population and the total land mass of each country.  I divided the geocaches in a country by its land mass (in square kilometers) to get the number of geocaches in the country, per square kilometer.  Similarly, I divided the number of serious geocachers and the number of April events by the population of each country, to get geocachers and events per capita.  Then I ranked the results of the three categories 1 through 30 and added the rankings to get a total score.  The lower the score, the greater the popularity of geocaching.

Results

The summary tables for the raw and normalized rankings are presented below.

Rankings Based on Raw Numbers
Rank Country Category Rankings
Total
Score
Caches Geocachers Events
1 USA 1 2 1 4
2 Germany 2 1 2 5
3 Canada 3 5 4 12
4 UK 4 4 5 13
5 Czech Rep. 8 3 3 14
6 Austria 9 8 10 27
7 France 6 14 7 27
8 Australia 7 12 11 30
9 Portugal 15 10 6 31
10 Finland 13 9 12 34
Rankings Based on Normalized Numbers
Rank Country Category Rankings
Total
Score
Caches Geocachers Events
1 Germany 2 3 3 8
2 Czech Rep. 8 1 1 10
3 Denmark 4 8 8 20
4 Austria 9 6 7 22
5 Portugal 11 12 2 25
6 Netherlands 3 7 16 26
7 Finland 19 4 4 27
8 Switzerland 7 9 12 28
9 Norway 16 10 5 31
10 Luxembourg 1 2 33 36

Five countries show up on both lists:  Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Portugal and Finland.  One of the surprising results is to see how certain small countries like Czech Republic and Portugal, seem to be hotbeds of geocaching.  Does the sport have a viral appeal that allows for quick penetration in small countries?  Or are there unique cultural quirks that lead to it being more popular in Portugal than, say, its’ larger neighbor, Spain?

As a result, the United States again finds itself in the “Group of Death” with Germany and Portugal.  Glad it’s not a competitive sport!

I do know that if I ever make it back to Europe, Portugal is definitely on my itinerary (I’ve been to Germany, Czech Republic and Denmark, but that was a decade before geocaching existed).

The international appeal of geocaching got me thinking how wonderful it would be if we could arrange geocacher exchanges between traditionally-hostile countries:  US-Cuba, Britain-Argentina, Israel-Iran.

Peace through caching.

Could we get a Russia-Ukraine exchange going…right away, please?

Sources

Geocache count by country:  http://blog.geocaching.com/2013/02/celebrating-two-million-geocaches-list-by-country/

Geocacher count by country:  http://www.cacherstats.com/LocationIndex.html

Event caches:  http://www.geocaching.com/calendar/

Population (2013) and Land Area:  Wikapedia