Geocaching: Treasure Hunting with your iPhone

All over the world, there are millions of hidden treasures called geocaches just waiting to be found. People just like you create and hide little boxes with stuff in them such as coins, marbles, pencils and more, and upload the coordinates to the official  Geocaching site . You only need a GPS or GPS-enabled device and the coordinates to one of them, and the adventure begins! Just remember, you can’t just find one of them and take everything in it. The rule is, if you take something, you need to put something else back in.

There are many ways you can practice Geocaching, like visiting geocaching.com, getting the coordinates to one of the caches, and use the Maps application on your iPhone to find the treasures. But the official Geocaching app makes it so much easier, as we’re about to discover.

Getting started

Geocaching has been around for a long time (long before the iPhone appeared). In the beginning, you had to search on the website for geocaches near your area, write down the coordinates and some of the tips, and head to the outdoors with your GPS device. This was fun, but it’s not as comfortable as having the Geocaching database on the palm of your hand everywhere you go. Now, you can just take your phone, fire up the App, and you’re good to go! It makes it very easy to find geocaches worldwide.

The App's start screen.

The App's start screen.

There are two ways to find geocaches: one is to use the geocache’s code (which you can find on the geocache itself or on the Geocaching website), and the second and more practical is to search for nearby caches, which we’ll cover here.

Tapping on “Find Nearby Geocaches” on the App’s start screen takes you to a list of all nearby treasures, sorted by distance. For each result, you can see how difficult it is to find the cache, the terrain classification, the size and distance. There are many different types of treasures, from small to large. Some can be hidden on a park, where the terrain difficulty wouldn’t be too bad, and others could be hidden on a mountain, where the terrain difficulty would be much higher. But beware, even a big cache in the city can be difficult to find, since the GPS coordinates can only give you an approximation as to where the cache is. Finding it is another story, since it could be up on a tree, under a rock or a bridge, or who knows, even under water!

Finding nearby treasures using the map and list modes.

Finding nearby treasures using the map and list modes.

You can also see all the nearby geocaches on a map, but the downside is that you can’t see that much info about the caches as you can see on the list (like size or difficulty), but it gives a more general view of the surrounding area.

Picking and Finding a Geocache

Once you pick a target, you are presented with some options. You can tap on “Navigate to Geocache” to be taken to the map and compass view and you can go to “Add to Saved List” to download all the information to find the geocache while offline. You can browse through the Description, the Recent Logs (which may contain spoilers, so beware!), get some Hints in case you’re lost, and see some user-uploaded pictures.

Information about the treasure.

Information about the treasure.

Tapping on “Navigate to Geocache” takes you to a map, showing your current location and the location of the cache. You can also switch to the Compass view, where you can see how far you are from the treasure, and your heading. Personally, I find this view way more fun. From here you’re on your own. Walk (or drive) in the direction of the cache, and start looking around — it could literally be anywhere. I’ve found caches under rocks, forcing you to dig around, and others on top of trees, hidden behind leaves. Stay safe though! Don’t try to find a geocache hidden somewhere too difficult if you’re not up for the challenge.

Map view and compass view.

Map view and compass view.

Offline mode

What if the cache is too far from civilization and there’s no internet conectivity there? There’s a solution. At home, or wherever you do have a connection, search for the treasures, and pick the ones you like. Then, on the details section, tap “Add To Saved List”, which will ask you to create a new list or pick an existing one. Once you pick a list, you can select which map types to download, along with the pictures (and of course all additional data like the hints and description). Keep in mind that not all map types are downloadable (Google Maps are not, but Bing Maps are).

Saving a geocache for offline use.

Saving a geocache for offline use.

Settings

There’s not much to change on the settings of this app, although, unlike other apps, this one gives you the ability to change the map provider. You can switch between Google Maps, Bing Maps and OpenStreetMaps. The app uses Bing Maps by default, which aren’t bad at all, but I personally prefer to use Google Maps. There’s one downside to using Google Maps: you can’t download these maps if you want to save a geocache for offline use. If you think you’re going to be using the offline feature a lot, I’d recommend choosing Bing Maps. It also gives the ability to switch between miles and kilometers for the units, and some search options like filters and limiting the number of results.

Customizing the app.

Customizing the app.

 

Final Thoughts

This is a really great app if you’re a Geocacher or an outdoors enthusiast. It makes geocaching very easy, allowing you to find nearby treasures in seconds right from your phone. The application is very complete, and has all the features one would need. The interface is not perfect however, and has some minor issues here and there. The price tag is slightly elevated at $9.99, but I personally couldn’t find any other apps for geocaching. If you’re not sure you want to buy it, you can always try the “Geocaching Intro” app, from the same developers.

Overall, it’s a great app, very practical, and makes geocaching easier and more fun!


Summary

Learn the sport of Geocaching with your iPhone in a fun and simple way.

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  • Mike B

    You said it, compass mode it the only way to do it. Otherwise, what’s the point.

  • http://www.nickcornaglia.com Nick Cornaglia

    My son and I love Geocaching. And we love the Geocaching app. This app is more of a convenience to us…keeping us paperless. GPS is only just so accurate anyway. Plus most caches (near us) are in tall wooded areas….making our iPhone GPS worthless at times.

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