Use Geocaching.com to learn about caches in your area and get geocaching software
Submitted Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or other navigational techniques to find and hide containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world. You locate the cache by using a set of GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude) provided by the person who placed the cache. Since GPS receivers are accurate to within about 10 feet, you may have to hunt around for it once you get to the coordinates. The person who placed the cache may also give you clues to help you locate the cache; you may need them if you’re stuck in the vicinity of the cache but are having trouble locating it.
Once you’re ready to start geocaching, you need to check out Geocaching.com. It’s the online community for “geocachers” all over the world. It offers the coordinates for many of the caches that people have hidden, plus clues, description, etc. It’s free to set up an account, and then you can browse the information on all of the available geocaches. You’ll want to download as much information as possible about each cache, including where to park (especially if the cache is somewhere in a wild area). You can put the info in a Notes file on your device.
Further, by entering your ZIP code in the Geocaching.com site, it will show you all the geocaching sites in your area. They’re listed in order by how close they are to the center of your town or city. You may be surprised to see how many caches have been hidden near where you live!
You can also buy geocaching software to make the whole thing easier. Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine recognizes Windows Mobile programs each year with its Best Software Awards. In the 2006 awards, GPS Tuner (GPSTuner.com) won the top honor in the geocaching category, and it is available for both the touch screen devices (Pocket PCs) and non-touch screen smartphones. BeeLineGPS (VisualGPS.net) and GPSdash2 (Wimobi.com) were two other finalists.
Geocaching software can download the latitude and longitude coordinates of multiple caches, and then give you easy-to-follow prompts to help you locate the cache. It may display an arrow pointing you to the cache, tell you how far you are from it, and even display specialized maps (including topo maps) so that you can see the terrain you have to traverse on the way to your destination.
The traditional GPS navigation software that comes with most GPS units is designed for street-level navigation and provides turn-by-turn directions from one address to another. If the geocache is located next to a building or in a park, the traditional navigation software may get you close to the cache, but it’s not particularly useful for off-road work.