I've been plotting caches from here to VT and notice that some cache hiders still have trouble understanding how to rate their caches.
The first digit, difficulty, is how hard the cache is to find. This can include puzzle difficulty, muti stages, cleverly concealed containers, or anything else that might make it difficult to see the actual cache. Difficulty has nothing to do with terrain or distance from parking! An ammo box on top of Mt Everest in plain sight and heated so it could be opened would be a 1 difficulty. I spotted what I believe are a few errors right here in Maine. Having not found the caches, I can not guarantee that, but when a log says "easy find", it's probably not a 4 or 5 difficulty.
* Easy. In plain sight or can be found in a few minutes of searching.
** Average. The average cache hunter would be able to find this in less than 30 minutes of hunting.
*** Challenging. An experienced cache hunter will find this challenging, and it could take up a good portion of an afternoon.
**** Difficult. A real challenge for the experienced cache hunter - may require special skills or knowledge, or in-depth preparation to find. May require multiple days / trips to complete.
***** Extreme. A serious mental or physical challenge. Requires specialized knowledge, skills, or equipment to find cache.
The second digit is terrain. it has nothing to do with the difficulty of finding a cache or solving puzzles. Distance has a slight effect on this rating, and elevation changes and terrain have a larger effect on it. A 1 terrain implies the cache could be accessed by wheelchair. A 5 terrain suggests use of special equipment like a boat to acess.
* Handicapped accessible. (Terrain is likely to be paved, is relatively flat, and less than a 1/2 mile hike is required.)
** Suitable for small children. (Terrain is generally along marked trails, there are no steep elevation changes or heavy overgrowth. Less than a 2 mile hike required.)
*** Not suitable for small children. (The average adult or older child should be OK depending on physical condition. Terrain is likely off-trail. May have one or more of the following: some overgrowth, some steep elevation changes, or more than a 2 mile hike.)
**** Experienced outdoor enthusiasts only. (Terrain is probably off-trail. Will have one or more of the following: very heavy overgrowth, very steep elevation (requiring use of hands), or more than a 10 mile hike. May require an overnight stay.)
***** Requires specialized equipment and knowledge or experience, (boat, 4WD, rock climbing, SCUBA, etc) or is otherwise extremely difficult.
The best way to rate a cache is to use the Geocache Rating System And adjust slightly as neccesary or if finders logs suggest otherwise.