Anybody here into geocaching?

Posted by: dougwalkabout

Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/01/09 08:36 PM

Anybody here into the geocaching thing?

One of my older nephews, a fine young fellow, has started expressing interest in hiking, backpacking, survival, and ... geocaching.

Seems to me a number of these things could be combined (on purpose that is). Positive time with family, and an excuse to tramp around the woods practicing useful skills. Seems like a winning situation to me.

Tips? Ideas? Preferred equipment? Pitfalls? Good links?

Just for kicks, I might just do it "old school" with map and compass. I need to scrape the rust off my navigation skills anyway. Maybe a competition, new tech vs. old geezer?

I'm a newbie, lay it on me.



Posted by: Montanero

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/01/09 09:09 PM

It is a great way to teach children (or anyone else) the art of navigation. It is fun and they learn more about the world as well. I have my kids do research on the places they hear about from other geocachers.

My favorite GPS is the Garmin GPSMap 60csx. It has a SIRFSTAR III GPS chip which is very sensitive, and you can load the topo maps into it.

I like to have hard copy maps and a compass for my kids. I will help them plot coordinates and I let them navigate to a final attack point, then I make them use a compass and azimuth.

http://www.geocaching.com/

This site has all of the info you will need to get started. Get a few finds under your belt and then place one.

Geocaching can be done in any terrain, urban or rural environments and all over the world. It is fun and educational; and it is not a video game!
Posted by: 2005RedTJ

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/01/09 09:11 PM

I've found a few since I started doing it. My Tom-Tom One is not really very well suited for it, but it's the only GPS I own. I'm pretty decent at the ammo can-sized caches, but I gave up on looking for micros.

We found one in my area that had been destroyed by a bunch of a-holes and fixed it back up. Another member of the Geocaching site ended up getting permission to move it a little ways to keep it out of harms way (it was maybe 6' from the side of an old railroad bed originally), since it had been abandoned by the original cacher.

I find it to be a lot of fun and want to get more involved in it when time permits. I can see me finding quite a few of them this summer while offroading/camping.
Posted by: oldsoldier

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/01/09 11:20 PM

I am quite active with it during the warmer seasons. I enjoy getting out for a day and exploring. I usually clean up anything within 5 miles of me, then just sort of pick an area, and head there for the day.
I usually carry my 3-day pack with me, or, at the very least, keep it in my jeep. I have enough in there for an overnighter, should I feel inclined. Plus, I usually have my psk on me.
I also use a garmin 60cx (similar model, just no compass), and love it. I am so used to it, I wouldnt trade it for any other model. When/if this one dies, I will likely pick up the same model, even though there are newer models out there.
My experience, at least where I live, is that most caches are no more than a couple miles from a parking lot. This would preclude most folks from carrying anything more than a daypack; I sometimes downsize my gear to fit in my MULE. It really depends on my mood, and the weather.
As for doing it with a map & compass; I have only known a few folks that have done that to any extent...and my hat goes off to them. That is a great way to brush up on your land nav skills. Me, I'll stick with my GPS...I get too frustrated as it is sometimes, just searching the RIGHT area....
Posted by: Roarmeister

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 12:25 AM

"Sticking hand in the air", yep me too with 60CSx and caching.

A great excuse to keep active, I prefer the bushwacking caches and getting out into the countryside to the city caches.
Posted by: sotto

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 12:45 AM

I have a Garmin Venture HCX. It's very economical, and has a built-in geocache feature. When they first came out, I spotted one for half price (less than $100) on the West Marine site. I thought the price was odd, but took a chance and ordered it. Sure enough, they sent the previous version without the high-sensitivity chip. I called them on it, and they sent me the new version at the old price. Nice. Anyway, geocaching was made with families in mind. It's about the most fun you can have when you're spending some time with kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren. My wife's an artist and uses a lot of the "treasures" she finds and swaps for in the caches for her art projects. Do yourself a favor and fix yourself up with a small emergency kit, including a hiking staff/stick, and some water when you head out. Oh, don't forget spare batteries for your GPS. If you're venturing into the woods, you're probably not gonna get lost, but you will most likely slip and fall at some stage, get a splinter or cut looking through various debris for caches, and you definitely don't wanna go poking your hands in hidey holes in any place (like around here) where there are poisonous snakes. Use the hiking stick for that.
Posted by: dougwalkabout

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 02:05 PM

Thanks for the info and stories, guys. I think I'm getting the geocaching bug. Does it start with a slight fever and quickening pulse?

I still like the idea of pace and compass, map in hand, because I've half-forgotten so much of it. I hope it'll be like riding a bicycle.

But pre-trip, is there any effective way to make use of Google Earth or some other land nav imagery/maps online? A little cyber recon might give me an edge over 'team high tech.' (It's not cheating, it's 'doing my homework.' PPPPPP.)
Posted by: MDinana

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 03:00 PM

The problem with Google earth is the resolution. No way it'll let you see down past about 20' or so. You can probably make out a car if you scroll all the way in, and it's an area that's been well photographed.

Besides, all you're likely to see is tree tops, right?
Posted by: M_a_x

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 03:51 PM

The geocaching bug starts with a slight attack of curiosity. After a short incubation time the fever and a quickening pulse indicate that you are beyond cure. Sorry but there is little hope for you.
GC.com offers links to Google maps. Sometimes they help, sometimes they donīt, but trying never hurts. Occasionally they help to avoid some pitfalls.Itīs not always fun to find out that you are on the wrong side of a long fence or a river. The satellite images often give hints on the actual vegetation. With experience you may find the cache even without GPS.
Cyber recon wonīt give you an edge over `team high techī. They do it too. And they will also read the last few logs right before the trip starts. That may help to avoid not finding a caches thatīs no longer there.
Posted by: KenK

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 07:51 PM

It seems that in the geocaching world the Garmin 60CSx is percieved to the best best current unit. How did I get so lucky as to have purchased one??? I really do like mine. So far I haven't seen much in the new models that is worth the extra $$$.

The Delorme units' ability to obtain 24K topo maps seems nice. Not sure I'm sold on their reliability yet.

I still like paper maps best, though I use electronic maps to do lots of pre-planning - usually using Geobuddy software. That is almost as much fun as the trip itself.
Posted by: 2005RedTJ

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 09:18 PM

I use Google Earth to give me an idea of where I'm going ahead of time. I go ahead and lay out several caches I want to hit and make a day of it, so I don't have to be in a hurry.
Posted by: comms

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 09:45 PM

Where does one go to get coordinates for in my area.
Posted by: oldsoldier

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 09:55 PM

Put your zip code in, that will give you the caches in a certain area. I would HIGHLY recommend signing up for a premium membership, once you get going. Its only $15 or so a year, but there is alot more that is available to you as a paying member.
Posted by: MDinana

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 10:39 PM

So on a random side note, I was on Ebay last night cuz of this thread. The bare bones, old as dirt Garmin Etrex is about $50ish (but it's about 10 years old)

Now, just for my own clarification, "car" gps units like the TomTom do NOT work for off-road applications, right? Even without the map, would they give GPS coordinates?
Posted by: comms

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 10:46 PM

I have a decade old Garmin eTrex Vista. I just updated the firmware last summer and it works just great but it still is nothing compared to the color, touchscreen, relief showing, topo realistic screens of today.

Sigh, a boy can dream. A PLB before a new GPS. But I checked and there is two within a quarter mile of my office. Might check those out.
Posted by: Roarmeister

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/02/09 11:28 PM

Originally Posted By: dougwalkabout
But pre-trip, is there any effective way to make use of Google Earth or some other land nav imagery/maps online? A little cyber recon might give me an edge over 'team high tech.' (It's not cheating, it's 'doing my homework.' PPPPPP.)


I often do a GE search before a difficult cache to find the best route into the area. I used GE on one cache that required a fair bit of hill climbing but with GoogleEarth I scouted an alternate route that turned a D/T of 3/4 into a 2/2. After logging, the owner jokingly came back to me and said that I cheated myself out of walking past some other great features in the Badlands and that I should go back and redo the hike the way he intended it to be done!
Posted by: Mike_H

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/03/09 12:28 AM

I've done a bit of geocaching with a friend. Definitely a fun time to be had.

I'm looking at purchasing a Garmin GPSMAP 60csx myself... I've heard a lot of good things about them.
Posted by: bacpacjac

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/03/09 01:05 AM

Originally Posted By: Montanero
http://www.geocaching.com/

This site has all of the info you will need to get started. Get a few finds under your belt and then place one.


Thanks so much Montanero!! This is great!!
Posted by: 2005RedTJ

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/03/09 02:09 AM

Originally Posted By: MDinana
So on a random side note, I was on Ebay last night cuz of this thread. The bare bones, old as dirt Garmin Etrex is about $50ish (but it's about 10 years old)

Now, just for my own clarification, "car" gps units like the TomTom do NOT work for off-road applications, right? Even without the map, would they give GPS coordinates?


They will work, just probably not as nicely as a regular GPS. It will give you distance to a GPS point. You just have to know how to do it with a Tom-Tom or other car-style GPS. Every Geocache I have found since I started has been found with a Tom-Tom One. Once you get off recognized roads, you switch modes and have to zoom in tight to find your way.

I've never owned a non-car-type GPS, so I don't find it all that hard to use a Tom-Tom to do it with.
Posted by: GameOver

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/04/09 07:39 PM

GeoCaching is known as "Treasure Hunting" in my household. Lots of local parks in the area have caches. In some places the map looks like you can use them as stepping stones across the region.

We find it is a good afternoon time activity where there is some directed interest/goal for the kids to latch on to. The GPS (an old model Magellan) gets us near, then it becomes a challenge to find the hidden cache. Often we just sign the log book instead of taking something (TN/LN - Took Nothing, Left Nothing). Teaching the girls that the journey is its own reward, along with "don't stick your hand in that dark hollow log without checking for critters first".

Be warned, I have friends who got very hooked on geocaching, to a disturbing extent...
Posted by: sotto

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/06/09 05:04 AM

Not to be a wet blanket, but I started out with my usual degree of enthusiasm, found lots of caches around LA, but by no means all. I'm sort of cool on geocaching now. If I'm going somewhere with young relatives, or interested friends, I'll load up the recent cache list on my Garmin Venture HCx. One thing I find futzy with this lower priced model is the 25 megs of storage space (or whatever it is) does require me to basically unload all the LA data that's useful when I'm in town so that I can upload new data for say Phoenix or S. Francisco where I have young relatives. If I ever get another GPS, it's gonna have all the detailed data for the U.S. built-in, or at least easily loadable on a SD card, with plenty of room to load caches for any new areas I might be interested in. The Venture HCx is a very excellent unit for the price, as I've said, just short on storage which I accepted as a cost saving measure when I bought it. Knowing what I do now, I would have saved up a little more money for better storage.
Posted by: GameOver

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/06/09 06:13 PM

My Magellan is so old it has no map and no PC interface. I fat finger cache positions in using the rocker switch to select the numbers. The need for geocaching is to show your position and the cache position in relation, so something as simple as a Garmin Geko would work. A track back type of feature (shows your breadcrumbs) is nice if you go off trail to find the cache.

GPS is just like the rest of the gear. The basics are often sufficient unto the task, but bells and whistles are oh so pretty...

Tangent: I recently went to look at a new vehicle. The salesman spent more time going through the interactive entertainment features than anything else. I had to ask him to pop the hood so I could see something truly useful.
Posted by: dougwalkabout

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/06/09 06:56 PM

I just noticed a local sale -- Magellan Triton 200 and 300 for half price ($80 and $90 CAD, respectively).

Anybody have strong opinions on these? It's a great price, but I don't want to throw away money on a clunker.

EDIT: I just looked up the Web reviews for these units. The consensus seems to be "dude, run away!" So maybe this is another example of how the Web saves me money. Guess I'd better hunt for a basic Garmin.
Posted by: dougwalkabout

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/06/09 10:42 PM

Any thoughts on buying a used GPS? Wise or foolish? How would I test it?
Posted by: elgecko

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/07/09 01:01 AM

I started out Geocaching in 2005.
I used a Garmin Legend till late last year. I kept talking myself out of upgrading since the Legend still worked perfectly fine. Yes, a color screen would be nice and a more sensitive receiver and finally broke down after many months of debating.
I was looking into the Colorado and Oregon and found most liked the Oregon better the the Colorado for Geocaching. A nice feature with both units is that you can download the info into them about the caches you are searching for, "Paperless". Such as cache size, Description, Last logs by other finders, etc.
The Oregon cost more then I wanted to pay, plus the "Paperless" feature did not mean that much to me since I use a PPC for the cache info.
I ended up buying a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx. I love this GPS.
Bought it new off ebay, shipped to my house for $270.00 which was a great deal when I purchased it. I just did a search and see I can find a new unit shipped for $281.00.
I would also recommend the TOPO maps to load into the GPS.

As for a used one.. not sure about that one. Maybe if it was a friends who was upgrading.
Posted by: dougwalkabout

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/07/09 01:33 AM

I appreciate the honest comments. And yes, there's no point in buying inadequate gear; it just costs twice as much in the long run. But this is starting to look like a black hole for hard-earned cash. So I'm open to wise suggestions ... how do I get into this without having the wallet ripped off my butt?
Posted by: elgecko

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/07/09 02:17 AM

If your thinking of trying this out and seeing if you like it, get something like the Garmin Legend. The original (non-color screen). I think I've seen them at Dick's or other sporting good stores for around $100.00.
Or I looked around and found a brand new, not a referb, Garmin Legend CX, color screen for $129.99. Refebs at around $105.00.
It's a good trusty GPS.
The original Legend I used almost 4 years and over 700 Geocaching finds.
Both come with a very basic, not much detailed base map, as do most models. You can get TOPO maps which I use, and love, but the thing with the Legends is that they have a fixed amount of memory for the maps which is small. So if your going out of the area of your "standard" maps you would have to upload the new area maps.
Maybe find out if there are any Geocaching groups in your area. There's a group that meets every 4th Thursday of the month around me. Maybe you could find someone who has an old one around they could let you use for a bit a to make sure it works and then purchase it???
Posted by: oldsoldier

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/07/09 12:34 PM

Your only investment would be in gas & a GPS. I know you've been pointed to geocaching.com; they have device reviews there now (unless its for premium members only, but I dont think it is). That may help you decide which GPS. You CAN do it with even the most basic GPS and a little mapwork; I did about 45 finda with nothing more than a garmin 201, which is their wristop gps. that was simply a breadcrumb trail that I could follow, no maps, nothing. Just wanted to throw that out there for ya.
Posted by: hillbilly

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/09/09 03:52 PM

Where can you download maps (free) that are good enough to use?
Posted by: scafool

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/09/09 04:30 PM

The US Geological Survey has a map server called the National Atlas.
Canada and Mexico have similar services.
You can download from Google Earth too.
Posted by: scafool

Re: Anybody here into geocaching? - 03/09/09 04:59 PM

@Dougwalkabout.
A good test for a used GPS is to put batteries in it, let it locate itself, enter a few waypoints, then shut it off and take the batteries out. After about 5 minutes put the batteries back in and see if it remembers its location and the waypoints.

The most common reason GPS receivers go bad is the internal battery fails. The internal battery serves the same purpose as the battery on the motherboard of your computer. It looks like a watch battery much like the ones in computers. It keeps the chip memory alive.
When the internal battery fails in a GPS you lose the memory features and the GPS will need to recalculate its location and every time you turn it on and will lose its waypoint registry.

They are replaceable but it is not usually a do it yourself job because the battery is usually soldered into the battery clip on the board.