If you’ve read my articles before, you’re aware I’m a frugal sort. For years, I resisted purchasing a smartphone due to the insane costs of a service plan. But, thanks to the recent addition of pay-as-you go smartphones, I’ve finally picked one up. The first benefits were realized when I began using the technology for thrifting, and now that it has paid for itself, I plan to use it for my new hobby – Geocaching. As a new player, I first set up a free account at Geocaching.com, then began searching for helpful apps for my new phone. In a practical sense, I wanted to test the waters before committing to more dedicated equipment, such as a handheld GPS unit.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching as a sport has taken off in recent years thanks in no small part to the proliferation of smartphone technology. The sport revolves around players searching for, or placing, containers that contain a log sheet to record success. Caches may also contain items for trade, following the cardinal rule of ‘Take something, leave something.’ Locating these caches requires using the global positioning system, or GPS. This can be through a dedicate handheld unit, or a smartphone. A simple explanation is the game resembles a higher-tech version of a scavenger hunt. Instead of looking for a pine cone or a dented soda can, players seek marked containers such as film canisters, ammo boxes, or even garden gnomes hanging about in trees deep in a state park. Now, on to the apps.
At $9.99, the Geocaching app from Groundspeak is one of the more expensive of those on the market, but this price is well-realized in use. Geocaching is up-to-date with the premium account services available on the GC website, identifying caches available only to those members. Users can maintain an easily accessible list of preplanned sites, as well as log finds from the field.
This app has many followers, based perhaps on it’s long list of functions paired with a price tag of free. Developed by c:geo team, the c:geo app is an open source platform that utilizes a two-pronged approach for visual navigation by drawing from both Google Maps and OpenStreet. Not only can you store collected cache information on your device, you also have the ability to work with that information offline.
This is a cool little $1.99 app that I wish was compatible with my phone. The iMarkMySpot app developers iCloseBy synched your device’s camera software to the internal GPS unit to instantly tag locations in Google Maps. With each picture taken, the waypoints are logged automatically. This works not only as a bragging platform, but a reliable filing system, making it that much easier to input coordinates into your Geocaching.com account when you get back home. Where was I? Oh yes, the picture has that info.
Finally, there is the $5 CacheSense app, arguably the most popular smartphone platform for geocaching. Developed by Zitafarm, this app is lightning fast with plenty of options to use in finding caches, such as the ability to synch with a geocache.com account on the fly. The developers update the program constantly based on customer feedback, so it’s functionality has increased based on use, not simply on marketing gimmicks. When I searched for what other geocachers were using, this was the app most often recommended for novice and seasoned players alike.
Now, I just need to teach my daughters how to use these tools. Cheers!