Friday, February 11, 2011

Geocaching On Android

Geocaching [jee-oh-kash-ing] is fun and a great way to get out and see the world, nature, and even the urban jungle. There are different kinds of caches everywhere for everyone and at every skill level; get out and do it! If you have never heard of it just watch the video below to get an idea. The largest unofficial governing body is Groundspeak and they run, (my profile) and do a great job.

There are many ways get started with an almost unlimited number of devices and software. You can even go out with a paper map and compass to find them! To ease you into the word I will take you on my journey of geocaching; don't worry it is not a long story. Being good with directions, knowing how to read maps, and loving the outdoors are all qualities that will make this hobby enjoyable.

I started by getting the Magellan eXplorist 100 Global Positioning System (GPS) unit in September 2006. Talk about basic, this unit does not have maps; it is a dot (you) and a dotted line (where you have been), that's it. Of course it knows your location via GPS and provides those coordinates. In those days I would go onto the website and research where I was going to be then write down the coordinates to some caches in the area. Once I was in the woods on a hike and close to the area I would turn on the GPS and set it to direct me to the bounty. It was not hard back then, but it was not like today; I did not do to many caches over the next few years.

Enter the Android mobile operating system and the Motorola Charm. Being a member of Geocaching I knew there was an app and I went to get it. No such luck; it was not available yet for my phone. Now what? After searching I found an amazing geocaching application called c:geo that links into the Geocaching databases and has many great features. I installed it and I was off geocaching again. This app and the mobile platform made it fun. I had everything with me and any place I was I could fire it up and see what caches were around and go find them. There are two other apps I use in conjunction with it; they are RMaps and GPS Status. Some technical knowledge and patience is recommended for this set up. Having a Geocaching premium membership is also preferred as you will get more data and have it flow without interruption through c:geo.

That application is now available on my phone, but I am not so sure about the $10 price tag. The app should be free for paying members! I digress. My brother does have the app on his iPhone though and it works perfectly. We have gone out together and both of us find the caches with our setups. (Update, April 5, 2012, I purchased the Geocaching Android app and it is very good and worth the price if you go a lot.)

Geocaching is fun, but can also very frustrating if your equipment is not working. I highly recommend you start out with a friend that knows what they are doing if you are not comfortable. Even once everything is working there are many challenges.

Tips: 1) If you are going to have your life depended on GPS, especially in freezing conditions, do not trust your cell phone. Use something even as simple as the Magellan I have above. When I go on backpacking trips, whether or not I am geocaching, I bring it. 2) Bring a paper map and compass, you don't want your life in any GPS' hands. I speak from experience on both items.

Good luck out there and have fun out there.