My Boyfriend and I love hiking and being out in the countryside walking our dogs. We stumbled upon the geocaching website and decided to have a go. It was at the same time that we both got iPhones too and I found this App in the app store.
It is £5.99 but it is one of the best buys I have bought from the app store (I usually just get the free apps but you know what I mean!!)
This app is similar to the website and obviously made by the same people.
Firstly an explaination on Geocaches, anyone who lives near Dartmoor, where I grew up will have heard about letter boxing. An outdoor pursuit which involved searching rocky crags over dartmoor for a little tin which would have a rubber stamp you can use to stamp your book and add to your collection. These letter boxes had no co-ordinates and it was a kind of hit and miss finding them really. Geocaches are letter boxes with GPS and OS map co-ordinates attached to them to make hunting them more fun as you have a starting point. There are many different kinds of geocaches and millions hidden over the world.
There are just normal geocaches which are just a tin with a log book and items to games or treasure hunts within one geocache.
So now we were hooked on geocaching the iPhone app seemed like the perfect companion. Once launched the front screen allows searching for Geocaches from the current location or a location imputted into a search.
We usually use the search at current location, as long as there is phone signal or GPS signal it will locate the phones position and then bring up a list of all geocaches in the area. You can change the amount which come up and the kind of geocaches which are shown.
You can also see these caches on a map, either street view, contours map or satalite view.
This is the view we prefere. The map updates as you move and it shows you getting closer to the cache. Once the map is showing your position ontop of the cache it is time to put the phone in your pocket and start searching. Yes sometimes it is getting down on your hands and knees to search under stones and in tree trunks. There does seem to be a competition between my partner and I as to who can find it first. I think he is winning at the moment with the most finds so I need to up my game!
Once the cache is found and the log book is signed, there are items you can take as long as you replace an item, there are also travelling bugs which you can take and move to another cache, you can log a live update of the cache to the groundspeak site. We always log a find and then a little message for the owner of the cache ie "Good hide" or "Log book running out".
As long as there is a phone signal and 3G or Wireless the update will go straight to the website, otherwise it will wait until there is signal and send them then.
Other features are logging travelling bugs you pick up and where you drop them. Also you can save some caches to your phone in case there is not phone 3G signal where you are. These are saved to the phone and the map view can be brought up and GPS used to locate them. This is a great idea as most place we go are back of beyond and there is little phone signal so in thes ecases we can still play geocaching when there is no signal.
This really is one of the best apps we have bought and is used so often that the £5.99 is nothing. If you like the outdoor and fancy trying geocaching get this, you will not be dissapppointed.
For a while now, every weekend, come rain or shine, thanks to this App my daughter and I can be found out and about Geocaching, thanks to this paid for app which, at £5.99 seemed like a huge investment on the scale of these things when we bought it, but which has been well worth the price we paid for the amount of fun we have had from it.
First things first, if you are wondering what on earth Geocaching is, I should probably briefly explain. Put simply Geocaching is a world wide treasure hunt in which anyone equipped with a GPS device can take part. There are various treasure boxes, or "caches" hidden around the world, well over a million in actual fact, of various sizes. Quite often a cache will be a tupperware box containing a notebook and some small treasures and will be hidden in a tree or under some leaves or even somewhere in the urban environment. You don't need to buy this app to take part in geocaching, or indeed pay anything and there are more details to be found on the geocaching site (link at the end of this review), which explains how it works and the rules by which Geocaching works. Basically when Geocaching you aim to leave caches as you find them and leave your name and something of equal value if you take a treasure - it's a simple idea that makes a walk in the woods quite the adventure and is, in my opinion, suitable for anyone young or old. Anyone can register for a Geocaching account and take part for free, this app just makes Geocaching without logging into the site or planning a trip easy and practical.
The app is available for android and windows 7 phones. My experience of using it is with an i-phone 4, it will work with a first generation phones or the i-pod touch (with wifi), however to access all the features you will need 3 or 4G. With 3G the app enables you to pick up your phone and geocache anywhere you are out and about in real time.
Appearance wise the app is, to anyone used to more snazzy looking fare, not very "pretty" looking, it definitely is in boy colours and wouldn't win any beauty prizes, but it's intuitive and easy to use. When you open the app your current position is displayed and you have the option to "search" for nearby caches, and then to navigate to them. Cache positions can be shown on a street or satellite map or via their description, e.g 345m away. As well as having a position description there is usually a description of the cache, its area and size, though the quality and detail of these will vary as all caches have been placed by members of the geocaching site, and in fact anyone who want to is able to hide a cache and make it available to the public via the geocaching site, there is no facility to do so via this app.
Once you have selected a cache which you wish to find, wherever you are, navigating to them is pretty easy to. In my experience in the areas I have been to since owning the app there are generally caches within under a mile - the first time I switched on the app was in my house and I was astonished to find there was a cache within metres of me. Pressing "navigate to cache" allows you to see your progress on a map or to switch to a compass view, this screen also counts down how near you are to the treasure. Talking of cache distance, one thing that is a little of a downside to the app is that you can't actually have distances set in anything other than km and metres, probably due to the fact that the software company is American but a bit annoying to anyone more comfortable to thinking of distances in terms of miles.
In my experience this app and the iphone which, apparently uses a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi positioning and phone masts to see where you are, is pretty accurate, to about 2 metres. When looking for a cache should we be unable to find it, the app also has an option to get a "hint" or even to see a photo of the cache if someone has taken one. Generally our success rate in using this software is pretty good, though we tend to select caches of a low difficulty rating - so a box or similar, some caches are the size of bullets or even hidden in fake bolts or in other cunning ways.
The app allows you to post a photo or also a log once you have discovered the cache, and to see when the cache was last found. This can be strangely compelling when you discover someone has been following your tracks, or find out that you are the first to find a cache. Posting a log also allows you to keep track of the caches that you have found, because the app is so instantly accessible it's pretty addictive and can liven up a trip to most places in my experience, since we have had the app we have geocached wherever we have been. Logs are available for view via your account on the geocaching site, which this app is linked to, and also accessible via your phone so you can see which caches you have already found at any given time.
Generally, network coverage allowing - in some more remote areas this can be an issue - this app works quite smoothly and does all that we need it to do in order to geocache. We have found that it can be likely to freeze in compass view from time to time, but restarting the software normally resolves this problem which is, in any case, an occasional occurrence. You will tend to use the search menu the most, but you can also save an itinerary and look for "trackables" - ie items that travel between boxes with the help of geocachers.
So is it worth buying?
Though, as I have said, this isn't the most design heavy app you will ever use, it is very simple to use and, even if you don't have much iphone experience, very intuitive - it's easy to use gestures to zoom into maps for example and everything runs smoothly, basic as it is. There's no getting away from the fact that this isn't a cheap app (you can download a preview version to have a look), and the reviews on the apple store are not glowing, but I would say it's been worth every penny we paid for it. For less than the price of a cinema ticket we have, on tap, an activity that we really enjoy. This very weekend my eldest daughter and I spent a happy two hours wandering around woods that are less than 10 minutes away from my house but which I didn't even know were there and generally having a great time jumping over streams, enjoying the outdoors, exercise and each other's company and finding a whole 5 caches, and swapping a few treasures to boot. This app has allowed us to see our local area differently and, call me old, but I find it amazing that technology and the power of the internet has been used in this way, that we can hold a small device in our hands and see a satellite view of where we are and find a small object hidden by others. It's all very "star trek", and great fun.
I'm so glad I bought this app, and if this sounds like something that you would enjoy, I recommend that you do too!
Info on geocaching:
http://www.geocaching.com/default.aspx here you can read about the history of geocaching and learn more about the community and how to geocache with or without a phone, worth a visit just in the interests of entering your postcode - you may be surprised what is hidden in your area!