A Geocaching Tutorial
Created: 05/05/2005 | Updated: 08/17/2008 | By: C. PISARRA | Comments

GEOCACHING, (pronounced "geo cashing"), is a hi-tech treasure hunt. The basic idea is simple:

People all over the world travel to a location, log the GPS coordinates, hide a waterproof container with a log book and some prizes and then share the coordinates on the Internet. GPS owners then download the GEOCACHE "waypoints" into their GPS units and use it to find the caches. Once you find a cache, you are entitled to take one of the prizes as long as you leave something in return.

Sound like fun? It is. After all, who doesn't like to get prizes? Not only that, but the adventure itself usually leads to something breathtaking views and adventures. Geocaching is a good excuse to get the family outside and running around, especially during the warmer Summer months. It is also the perfect first date!!

Geocaching is starting to gain in popularity and was even featured in the May 8, 2005 episode of Law & Order: CI on NBC.

Before you can play, you need to get the right GPS unit for GEOCACHING. Prices for GPS units can range from under $100 to over $1000. You want one that is handheld and designed for geocaching navigational purposes. We're here to help...

Which one is right for you? Check the MethodShop Geocache GPS Buying Guide below for help. We've picked out the six best GPS units for GEOCACHING that fall in three separate price ranges.

GPS Buying Guide

GARMIN GEKO 101 GPS

GARMIN GEKO 101 GPSBATTERY LIFE: 8 HRS
TYPE: (2) AAA BATTERIES
SCREEN: 4 LEVEL GRAY
BACKLIGHT: YES

PROS: Inexpensive, lightweight, small cell phone sized, More accurate than advertised, Perfect for beginners

CONS: Low battery life, limited options, Cannot connect to PC

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MAGELLAN SPORTRAK MAP GPS

MAGELLAN SPORTRAK MAP GPSBATTERY LIFE: 14 HRS
TYPE: (2) AA BATTERIES
SCREEN: 4 LEVEL GRAY
BACKLIGHT: YES

PROS: Ease of use, Rugged, Included PC serial cable, WAAS enabled, Geocaching waypoint friendly

CONS: Somewhat small 6MB flash memory may be too small for some people

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GARMIN eTREX LEGEND 8MB GPS

GARMIN eTREX LEGEND 8MB GPSBATTERY LIFE: 22 HRS
TYPE: (2) AA BATTERIES
SCREEN: 4 LEVEL GRAY
BACKLIGHT: YES

PROS: Small and Lightweight (5.3 oz and 4.4 x 2 inches), Great price for its options

CONS:
Can take several minutes to locate satellites, only average reception quality, 8MB capacity can hold one big city but that's about all, Somewhat flimsy hardware design, Additional cost for USB cable and maps

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GARMIN GPSMAP 60C 56MB GPS

MAGELLAN SPORTRAK PRO GPSBATTERY LIFE: 22 HRS
TYPE: (2) AA BATTERIES
SCREEN: COLOR
BACKLIGHT: YES

PROS: Bright color screen, Large 64 MB capacity, comfortable, WAAS enabled, Tons of options, Great battery life

CONS: Default maps not very detailed (can order detailed from Garmin)

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MAGELLAN MERIDIAN TRAVELER GPS

MAGELLAN SPORTRAK PRO GPSBATTERY LIFE: 22 HRS
TYPE: (2) AA BATTERIES
SCREEN: COLOR
BACKLIGHT: YES

PROS: Bright Color Screen, Vehicle Mounting and Cig Lighter adapter included, WAAS enabled, Free Detailed maps included, Expandable 64 MB Secure Digital Cards

CONS: Battery life shorter than advertised, SD Memory slot in an inconvenient place, No USB support (serial only)

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MAGELLAN SPORTRAK PRO GPS 

MAGELLAN SPORTRAK PRO GPSBATTERY LIFE: 14 HRS
TYPE: (2) AA BATTERIES
SCREEN: 4 LEVEL GRAY
BACKLIGHT: YES

PROS: WAAS enabled, Extremely accurate, large bright screen, 23 MB available for additional maps, Rugged, Included antenna for better reception

CONS:
Small buttons, Somewhat meager battery life, No USB connector (need serial to USB adapter), Would be beautiful if had a color screen

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SIX Easy Steps to GEOCACHING ( How to Geocache )

Step 1

Search for Geocaches

Before you can get outdoors to find your GEOCACHES , you need to search for them online. Although there are several sites for doing so, the most recognized one is Geocaching.com There, you will be able to search for geocaches by ZIP code and within a radius distance that you choose. Is there one in your backyard? Go find out! If you have a Mac, and you are currently using OS X Tiger (10.4) operating system, make sure you check out the new dashboard widget that will search geocaching.com for geocaches in your area...

 

Step 2

Transfer to Your GPS

Once you find a GEOCACHE that you want to go after, there are two ways to input the data into your GPS unit:

One: Download the "way point" from geocaching.com as a .loc file. Connect your GPS unit to your computer via USB or serial port. Transfer the .loc file to your GPS unit using the proper software. For the Mac, use GPS Connect or MacGPSPro and for the PC use EasyGPS

Two: Simply type in the coordinates (ex. N 40° 51.662 W 074° 12.156) from the GEOCACHE you are going after into your GPS unit.

 

Step 3

Print out page as a Backup

It is very helpful to print out a copy of the GEOCACHE "Cache Detail" page from Geocaching.com to have as a backup. For one, there are clues on there to help you narrow down your GPS hunt if needed. Two, if you're searching for multiple caches, it can serve as a reminder as to how difficult the cache is to find or what to expect as far as contents, terrain, or time.

 

Step 4

Go Geocaching!!

Use your GPS unit to track your direction towards the geocache. Remembering that your GPS unit gives you the shortest distance to the geocache, you'll have to use your head to determine whether alternate routes will get you to the cache quicker while facing less obstacles...For example, going straight up the side of the mountain might be the quickest route distance wise, but will take much more time than finding a path that runs alongside the mountain. This is where the beauty comes in. You get to see many interesting overlooks, streams, and other natural (and sometimes unnatural) beauty, many of which the geocacher intended for you to see.

 

Step 5

Search for the Geocache!!

Finding the GEOCACHE can be painfully easy, or excruciatingly difficult. There are times you may walk away empty handed being that you just couldn't find it, or maybe it had been stolen, but these times are rare. More often than not, your search through fallen down trees, cracks between boulders, or tree vines will end up in hidden treasure.

 

Step 6

Find the Geocache!!

Your efforts have paid off! Whether you've hiked a mile up hill, skipped to a nearby building, or plunged underwater, your search is a successful one. You can find all sorts of goodies in a GEOCACHE such as money, jewelry, toys, CDs, or anything else imaginable. The idea is that if you take something, you have to leave something for the next geocacher. Once you've taken and left what you want and signed the log book, it's time to re hide the GEOCACHE in the same location for the next searcher. When you get home, you can go back online to Geocaching.com and log in your entry and talk to others who have found the same GEOCACHE.

 

FUN FACT: GEOCACHING was born on May 1st, 2000, when GPS signal degradation, called Select Availability (SA), was removed by the Clinton Administration. It opened up the possibility of using GPS units for games like this one.

 
 
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