Geocaching is a “sport” that has you running around trying to find hidden log containers using GPS. You can think of it like orienteering with a 21st century twist and worldwide availability. No matter where you are, the nearest Geocache won’t be far away, with currently 1.8 million caches hidden worldwide.
I’m a geocacher, and I’ve mentioned that on a few occasions, including my experiences with doing it using an iPad 2. While my normal geocaching gear includes a proper outdoor GPS capable of telling you which branch a cache hangs on in the middle of a forest, having the app on my mobile devices – my phone in particular – does open up for some opportunities to go caching that I otherwise wouldn’t get.
Today was one example. I planned to go visit family, but the last leg of my trip turned out to not be needed as they were heading in my direction anyways. I had about 40 minutes to kill while waiting, and where some people would whip out Angry Birds and kill some green pigs, I instead started the Geocaching app and went crawling around the bushes.
The place I was at in this case is my former semi-home town, and as such I’ve found most caches there. A few new ones had popped up since the last time I was there though, and one of them was nearby. Despite my phone trying to set a new world record in inaccuracy, reporting my location as being 180-1000(!) meters away from where I actually was, I managed to reboot some sense into it and find the place. This particular cache was rated as more difficult than most, and the lack of any hints, the amount of people walking by, and the annual mosquito meetup being held on top of the location meant I wasn’t able to find it in the time I had. That’s a rare case though, as normally getting to the locations is most of the job.
Despite not being able to find it, the attempt successfully kept me occupied while waiting. While there’s something to be said for gearing up and going on a real caching trip, the ability to use your phone to simply go hunt for nearby caches when you’re in a new place can be as good of a reason to start this hobby as that. Many outdoor hobbies and sports are like games, but very few can fit into a 30 minute time frame while you’re waiting for the train, and be managed fully from a mobile app.
There are several third party apps that give you access to geocaching features, but the official app is the way to go for normal caching. It has everything from the ability to search for caches, to navigation, logging, and so on. It’s an all-in-one solution for anyone who wants to get into geocacher, and that in itself is awesome for a hobby that traditionally has required you to have an expensive outdoor GPS.
The pricing system is a bit backwards at the moment. The Android and iOS apps use the old $10 price scheme for the app, while the Windows Phone 7 app is free and instead seems to be based around the normal Geocaching price scheme of $30/year for a premium membership, with three caches per day as a limitation for basic members.