Category Archives: Geocaching

Reverse Geocaching?

Geocaching is a really cool hobby where somebody hides a container, sometimes so small it only fits a tiny bit of paper for a log all the way up to ammo cans (sometimes larger). They then post the coordinates of the container on a geocaching website where other people then try to find it.
One would think a hobby using GPS like that would be easy, but it can be a real challenge.
Anyhow, there is a new take on it called Reverse Geocaching. In this case you are given the cache up front, but it has a special device on it to keep it from opening until it is in the correct location.

Okay I Have a G1, but I Could Still Use a Good Handheld GPS

I love geocaching with my G1 using GeoBeagle. It is a great phone with GPS abilities, and of course GeoBeagle is the best program out there for the Android platform for geocaching (plus, it’s free). However, there are times when you exceed the ability to use the program, especially if you need a map to find where to drive to and you are in an area not serviced by T-Mobile. Such was the case the other day when at the family reunion in Minerva.
There was an additional problem, I loaded my G1 up with the 500 caches nearest me, and they stopped just outside of Minerva. This was no fault of the phone, the program or anything other than there being too many caches close to me to include Minerva. I have since ran a search for Minerva and will add those to the list soon.
The big issue while there was the lack of a signal. I couldn’t find places on Google Maps as it requires a good signal, and I couldn’t find new caches in the area to add manually as I didn’t have a signal. At the moment, GeoBeagle doesn’t support offline maps, though it is on the feature request list. Of course even if it did, my lack of foresight wouldn’t have solved the problem of not having caches for the area loaded up. Once again we see the value of the lesson of what happens when you assume something. I assumed that the area would be covered in my 100 mile search radius, but it is just the first 500 in that 100 miles that the query pulls, and in this case I wasn’t loaded in from my full database, which probably includes Minerva already.
Anyhow, the offline maps issue and some others show the value of still needing a good handled unit.
To that end here is the list of handheld units I want… Continue reading Okay I Have a G1, but I Could Still Use a Good Handheld GPS

Lots of New Caches Found Using My G1 and GeoBeagle

I have now found a total of 11 caches, 6 of which have been using my T-Mobile G1, and GeoBeagle that I downloaded off the Android Market. I have to say I find that the G1 does really well in the cover of woods. Far better than I expected. GeoBeagle is my favorite Android app so far, and its free, unlike some of the other geocaching apps for Android devices. GeoBeagle is still fairly early in the beta cycle, but there are no real bugs. A few features would be nice to have, and I put a request for those on the forums for it, and the UI could be made a little easier, but all in all a very good app with a very bright future. I am at a loss as to if features should be added/and current features tweaked first, or upgrade UI. With C#, you start with the UI and work on the back end after. This isn’t so much the case with Java, or so I’ve seen so far from what little I have done with Java. I am going to skip listing all my finds this time, if you want to know, the geocaching icon to the side of the page should take you to my geocaching profile. There are two Did Not Finds on that list, none could be blamed on the G1 or GeoBeagle. The one I got a hint for and forgot one of the obvious things about geocaching, the caches are not always on the ground, as for the other, nobody has found it and logged it yet, so it may be MIA.

I Found My First Geocache Using My G1

I got a G1 recently. Great phone with a built in GPS. So now I can go geocaching.
First I got GeoBeagle (available on the Android Market) and it’s required application Radar. Then I had a moment to run accross the street from work… well okay, I drived across the bridge to the other side of the freeway… and went looking for the 77 Cemetery cache. I found it all right. Along the way I saw a baby bunny right next to the cache location, but I didn’t change to camera mode quick enough before he scampered off.
I have to say GeoBeagle works really well. Can’t compare it to the paid apps, but it does the job admirable.
Now to take Sara out with me soon.

Rethinking Which GPSr to Get and Garmin and DeLorme Announce New GPSrs

I have decided to either go for a DeLorme (yes, the same company that makes the large street atlas you may have in your car or elsewhere) PN-40 (noted below) or the PN-20

$349.99 at Amazon (link above), but that includes topographic maps of the country, which can be used for full road routing. 1GB SC card and the usual complement of other stuff.
However… Factory refurbished units can be had for $199.99 from places like Tiger GPS and a few others. I have read the forums, and it seems factory refurbished units are just as good as (sometimes better than) new units. (May be better as the factory tests them more than new units.)
This makes it cheaper than the $234.09 Garmen Vista HCx (which by most accounts isn’t nearly as good)

and far cheaper than the equal model on the Garmin side, the one I would like to have of the Garmin’s the $299.99 60CSx (price dropped from last time I looked, perhaps due to the fact Garmin has a new GPS coming out soon)

But… there is always a “but.” But, there is a new DeLorme coming out called the PN-40, which by the looks of things is amazing… This is the one I would most want to have… but given economic realities, I’ll probably have to take the PN-20.
Continue reading Rethinking Which GPSr to Get and Garmin and DeLorme Announce New GPSrs

Good Geocaching Day

Ari and I went geocaching Saturday (Sara decided to stay home and have some Sara time) and Ari played a bit in the park.
We still don’t have a GPS, so I still rely on Google Maps or Google Earth to locate things before I leave the house.
First we went for and got, The “Price” is Right! #2, GCWD82. This is a fun micro cache, where the stealth is more about timing and looking smooth. There was at least one more name from that day on the log.
Then we went for The “Price” is Right! #3, GCWD8C, but there were too many Muggles in the area to search too much, so Ari played for a while on the playground, looked at the ducks and geese, then we came back. Despite a bunch of Muggles were still at a picnic pavilion nearby, we managed to snag it. The log was too wet to sign.
I didn’t go for any of the others in Price Park.
Next we went and found Park Sandwich, GCXJ5Y. Not too hard, but required some forethought. We tried finding Rotary Rooter, GCVYCF, but without a good GPSr, this one will be really hard to find. Google Maps/Earth will only take you so far when it is deep in the woods of a park.
We also techinically tried to get BOOMERS LITE BRITE, GC13GNZ, but I didn’t mark it as an official attempt since I didn’t remember which pole it was at (it is a light pole cache). I looked at one, but didn’t look too closely (when I got home, turns out that was the one I should have checked better), then tried another pole but a Muggle was parked next to it as well and taking his sweat time. I waited for a while, but eventually had to go into the store. When Ari and I came back out, the dude was still there. So we putzed around some more, but the guy never left, so we didn’t get to try (which is just as well since it was the wrong pole anyhow).

Pick Me…Pick Me At The Travel Bug Tree (GCXW4Z)

I found my first geocache! I specifically picked Pick Me…Pick Me At The Travel Bug Tree (GCXW4Z) first because it was supposed to have a Travel Bug in it, and when we go camping here soon, there will be a gathering of geocachers who will trade Travel Bugs. Also, based on it’s location on Google Maps, I figured I could find it before I got a GPS. Good on both counts!
The Travel Bug, is Buzz (TB121WH). As I said, I’ll be taking him camping with me, where on some day and time at some location on the campgrounds, some geocachers will gather for fun, talking, and trading of Travel Bugs. Since I won’t have time to get my own Travel Bug ready (I plan on getting one with the goal of sending him to New Zealand and then all over New Zealand, spending some time in the Nelson area if it can), I figured finding a local one would do, and I would do what I can to help it travel. Buzz’s goal is to visit all 50 states. He’s been in 7 states that I see off hand. Hopefully I can send him towards the West, or at least to a state he hasn’t been to yet. Once traded and we are back, I’ll drop the new Travel Bug off at the same location.
The cache itself was a fun find. I think when I go back to take the new Travel Bug, I’ll practice a little cache in, trash out since there seemed to be a few beer bottles lying around. Sara and Ari were with me, but I left them in the van while I ran for a quick search since we were on our way to her parent’s house and didn’t want to dedicate too much time looking for it. I was about to give up before I stumbled upon a likely spot and found it.
Just in case the pictures may spoil (though I tried to make sure I didn’t show too much) I’ll bury them below the break… of course if somebody got here via Google anyhow, they are probably looking at the full post, in which case advert your eyes. 🙂
Continue reading Pick Me…Pick Me At The Travel Bug Tree (GCXW4Z)

Father’s Day GPS Deals

Amazon has some Father’s Day GPS Deals. Unfortunately none of the GPSrs that I am looking at are part of the deal… as a matter of fact, none of the ones that they have a deal on would work for much of any of the stuff I want a GPS for aside from road navigation, none of them would work for geotagging photos, though a couple would work as very basic geocaching units, but aren’t really meant to be taken on a hike as they aren’t rugged enough. So I am still looking at the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx Color High-Sensitivity Mapping Handheld GPS as the unit of choice (at the low end, or the Garmin 010-00422-00 GPSMap 60CSx 2.6-Inch Mapping Handheld GPS at the high end since I decided against a Garmin Colorado 300 Bilingual Handheld GPS Unit with North American Maps for now due to firmware issues… though those will be cleaned up… probably soonish). I detailed everything in my last post, Locked Down on a GPS Choice.

Locked Down on a GPS Choice

I have decided on which GPSr to get.

This costs $234.09. (Not sure why they don’t show the price on the front, perhaps it is too cheap to advertise on the picture since everyone local sells it for $299.99… so see, were getting a deal here.) I am also willing to toss in some on my own cash to help, though I would rather use my money to get some of the accessories, such as the street maps….or getting the 60CSx below which sounds like it would be better for turn by turn directions.

A few notes. Notice the HCx added to the name, this is an important feature over the regular Vista… Also notice is a Vista not a Legend.

Father’s Day is coming up, and I’ll remind people that I spent over $80 on Mother’s Day. 😉
Perhaps people can team up together to get it. Mother… father… Sara… Perhaps some still owe something for my Birthday (LOL).
Of course we need a few accessories to go with that:
Continue reading Locked Down on a GPS Choice

So Exactly What is this Geocaching Thing Anyway?

Okay, so I have covered geocaching a couple times. Perhaps you followed the Wikipedia links…perhaps not. In either case, here is a good video about Geocaching.

Some videos such as the one below shows that it seems to be a largely group activity:

It seems lots of people go out in groups or teams.

A few notes. Some may think having a GPSr ruins the point, but it only gets you to 10 feet at best, and when you add that person who hid it had a receiver that was at best 10 feet off, you end up with a fairly large area to search, and will need to rely on the clues in the cache description to find it. Also, most parks have many trails, so finding which trail will take you closest to the cache is also a challenge.
The cache will have sometimes have some items in it. It is good practice that if you take a trinket you leave one in its place. You will almost always fill out the log included with it.
You should also practice cache in, trash out, where by you pickup trash on your way out of the location to clean up the park or whatever location you are at.

Geocaching in the Presence of Muggels

As I noted before, I am getting interested in going geocaching. While most people know the term Muggle to refer to a non-magical person in the world of Harry Potter, but in geocaching parlance it refers to anyone not aware of geocaching who might endanger the cache, become suspicious of your activities while you are wondering around looking at your GPS or otherwise looking for the cache, or might find the cache by accident. (Some cache’s have been destroyed by bomb squads after somebody accidentally found it and feared it was a bomb, sometimes it may not go that far but the find may cause problems.)
Anyhow, here is a humor video I found on geocaching in the presence of Muggels.

The video is apparently also a hint to finding geocache GC18WM8.

Thinking Seriously of Getting a Handheld GPS

Okay, a better title would be “Seriously WANTING a Handheld GPS”. My actual consideration levels aren’t all that high… yet… 🙂
I was thinking how cool geotagging was, and how it would be nice to add to photos we take. Then there a GPS games, and of course being able to find your way around… Well, I am getting a head of myself. Let’s back up.
A few days ago I saw the iPhone 2.0 may get geotagging abilities. Odds are, if this is a real story, it will just use cell triangulation, which isn’t very accurate. Then a short time later, I saw Sara looking at XKCD’s Geohashing page and from there the interest built.
Some cameras (mostly high end SLRs) allow for a GPS receiver to be hooked up directly to them, then they store the data. In general however, you make sure your camera has an accurate time and date, then using your hand held GPS unit you mark your waypoint. When you get home, you use software to combine the geotagged data with the photographs.
There are cameras coming out with built in GPS abilities. GE has one coming out this year, and AIR Semiconductor, is releasing a single chip solution that will be available to camera manufactures soon. I am going to guess you can choose to leave the tag data off if you want, since if you are taking a picture of your kids and posting it on the Internet, you don’t want the coordinates to your house embedded in the photo. However, it helps recall the exact location of pictures you take for other situations. You will then be able to sort photos by location, as well as other metadata.
While looking up more about it, I learned of a GPS based sport/game of sorts called Geocashing, also spelled geocaching. It is a sort of treasure hunt where you use your GPS to locate an item. There are several sites dedicated to it, perhaps the biggest. There are books about it, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching (The Complete Idiot’s Guide), Outdoor Navigation With GPS: Hiking, Geocaching, Canoeing, Kayaking, Fishing, Outdoor Photography, Backpacking, Mountain Biking, and It’s a Treasure Hunt! Geocaching & Letterboxing and plenty of other stuff out there.
Of course the ability to find one’s way around is also part of it all. While I have a built in direction finding ability, some others, I won’t name names, don’t. Unfortunately most hand held units in our price range aren’t as helpful with driving directions as those in the higher ranges. They can still be used, but lack some of the stuff you typically want in a GPS for driving.
This page covers what they consider to be the best GPS units.
I hear units like Garmin nüvi 350 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator, while mostly for road use, can be handheld. That has obvious advantages over small handheld units like the Garmin eTrex Legend Mapping Handheld GPS, though that is only $104. The advantage of the $104 unit is that it can be justified a bit more, since you could use it for driving…somewhat… Neither is perhaps as fancy as the Colorado series, which directly link to… then again, those run $480, but a Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld GPS Unit with US Topographic Preloaded Maps would be beyond cool to have.
However, I am still searching. I’ll update this post later with what I find.

I am starting to narrow the field down some. From lowest to highest.

$196.80, adds color and better sensitivity.

$226.96. I skipped over some of the lower end Vistas. If you are upgrading to the Vista over the Legend, it seems you may as well go for the HCx. It apparently offers turn by turn directions for when you are driving.

A quick note before I go on. With all the Garmins, it seems best to get one with an x at the end of the name. That means you can add a micro SD card… and perhaps best to get the H in the front of the name, since that adds resolution.

$303.31 Moving well above my price range, and while it doesn’t have the H in its name, it apparently does have high resolution (ability to find satellites in dense situations and the like). It offers turn by turn directions like the Vista above, but a better button layout. (Further review reading seems to suggest the Vista above may be better overall.)

(You can save a bit, by getting the $279.99 Garmin 010-00421-00 GPSMap 60Cx High-Sensitivity Color Mapping Handheld GPS, which is basically the same, but lacks the electronic compass so I don’t know if it can do turn by turn directions).

Finally we move to the Colorado series, which is about as high end as you can get for the handheld market. I already mentioned they link directly with the one geocaching site to do paperless geocaching. They offer turn by turn directions for when you are driving, offer high resolution images and high resolution satellite finding, even deep in the forest and urban jungles (this is the type of high resolution I am talking about above when I spoke of high resolution).
$396.97 gives us the:

At the high end for $481.96 we have the:

The 400t offers topographical maps already installed, where that is an option for the 300… Amazon’s price for the Garmin MapSource Topo U.S. 2008 is $80.99, so you may save a bit by going with the 300. I don’t know if the 400 offers any other features on top of that or not… The chief advantage is with the 300 you are using some of the memory, where the 400t has it built in. (There are other 400s, with inland water or shore water, good for fisherman, but for geotagging and geocaching, probably not so much. Then again, if you find you need those maps, just add them later.)
The Colorados would be the way I would go if I could justify it. A Garmin nüvi 350 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator, which is one of the cheaper GPS units normally used for cars, but is portable enough to carry in your pocket is $233.65 (there are 200 series as well, which tend to be cheaper, but the 300 and up series offer an MP3 player and other features that make it worth the extra money over the 200 IMHO). The problem with the nüvis is they don’t log stuff, so they are not as useful for geotagging, which is of course what initially got me going on this journey.