Geocaching in Review – A new treasure every day!

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Ever since I read Treasure Island, my mind has been full of dreams of finding buried treasures and going on pirate adventures. Well, that was when I was but a wee little lad – since then I’ve cleared my head of such nonsense, but still, the idea of how great it would be to go on a real treasure hunt haunts me. And then I heard of Geocaching…

Ok, to start it off, Geocaching is kind of a game, akin to 150-year-old letterboxing, and appeared shortly after the removal of “Select Availability” from GPS receivers back in 2000. It involves using a GPS receiver to hide and seek containers (“Geocaches”) anywhere in the world. So think of it as extremely advanced treasure hunting. The first cache was laid by Dave Ulmer and as of today, Nov 2 2009, there are over 933 160 active geocaches all over the world. And it was him who formulated the basic rule of the game, used to this day: You’ve got to log your find in the logbook in the cache and if you take something, you must leave something of equal or greater value. And that’s it.

Talking about the app, Geocaching, it is actually basically an interface to the site Geocaching.com (the largest and oldest of the geocaching sites) but with a lot of great features thrown in. The app requires a valid Geocaching.com account and the info is synced between the app and website.

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Talking about features – you can do a full-fledged search using the app, including a quick search for nearby caches, or  searching by zip code, address or cache code. You can also view the whole list of results on the map. What is really great is that you can save the results for offline use. This is extremely useful, since you can mark what caches interest you and not waste any time looking them up each time. And it’s also invaluable if you’re abroad. If you want, you can also hide already discovered caches from the search.

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After you select the cache you’re going to seek out, you can view the route to it on the map. The map is pulled from Microsoft Virtual Earth or OpenStreetMap.org (configurable in settings). Personally I would recommend the Microsoft one. The app can also display the topographic (via OpenCycleMap.org) or satellite view (also from MS Virtual Earth). You can also place waypoints to ease navigation. The downside is that the map is not available in offline mode, which is odd, considering you can save the cache info from offline use. This made it extremely difficult for me to find the cache when I was on my vacation abroad and should definitely be addressed in the next update.

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Once you find a cache, you’re supposed to post this on the website. You can do this using the app, as well as mark the cache found. If you don’t have Internet access, the post is stored and can be later sent out from the settings tab. Another thing, useful for hardcore geocachers is the ability to follow their trackables (special items, placed in caches to be moved to other ones by friendly geocachers).

The settings are quite simple, allowing you to toggle Metric or Imperial units, choose the data sources for the maps and filters. The help section features an extremely simple tutorial, which outlines the process and rules of geocaching in simple statements and comic-style pictures.

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All in all, if you haven’t yet joined the geocaching community, you should definitely try it out – it is a really fun way to spend the day. It is a real adventure and even my wife loved it (which says more than you can possibly imagine). I would recommend for you to try out the activity using the website or the Geocaching Intro (Access three geocaches near your current location only) in advance though, since it is free and will give you a feel for whether you’re ready to turn out $9.99 for the app. But for any geocacher, this is definitely a must. And the iPhone is perfect for this activity!

With this I declare Geocaching officially touched!

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App Summary
Title:Geocaching (v.2.3.1)Developer:Groundspeak Inc.
Price:$9.99App Size:5.3 MB
  • Excellent and easy to use interface
  • Nice tutorial
  • Very good maps including sattelite and topographic
  • Full featured search
  • Save caches for offline browsing
  • No offline map access

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