For Geocaching you will need some kind of GPS system, which can be an expensive piece of hardware, if you want to get your hands on a dedicated device (e.g. Garmin Geocaching – especially if you require the additional download of GPS maps). But in most households the necessary hardware is already existing: smartphones.
I am going through a short review of the geocaching app that I personally use on my Android phone, called C:Geo.
C:GEO - geocaching app
You can download it for FREE at Google Play. This is for sure the easiest way to start off your geocaching adventures if you’re new to the subject. The big advantage of the c:geo app is that once you installed it, you’re ready to go. No need for any additional geocaching maps, messing with the geocaches on Google Maps first or any offline preparation.
There are certainly dozens of Android geocaching apps freely available, but c:geo is my personal favourite – and I am going to outline why:
c:geo exclusively uses the database of www.geocaching.com for the cache search (which is by the way the original geocaching site the game started off with and biggest of it’s kind worldwide). So – to be able to use this app at all you will need:
- Android Smartphone with 3G or some kind of Internet connectivity
- Account with www.geocaching.com
The website offers 2 kinds of accounts – a free version and a premium version. As an owner of a premium account you have exclusive access to certain features and gimmicks. For example you can regularly import up to date geocache data from a geocache map in gpx-format into your device and will this way have all data readily available on your GPS device or GPS map. While free account users can only use the website itself for searching geocaches on google maps (update: as of 1st of february 2012 geocaching.com utilizes geocaching maps beta, based on OpenStreetMap) or one of the other search options. So that pictures, cache-description, hints etc. can only be viewed online. That is exactly the point where the geocaching software c:geo joins the game J, because eventually it kind of emulates the website functionality. This way you have all up to date cache data always with you from the comfort of our smartphone, but without the need of even opening a browser.
All search options of the website are also available in c:geo:
- caches nearby
- search by coordinates
- search by address
- search by geocode
- search by keyword
- search by user
- search by owner
I personally prefer the „Live map” option, which is the best geocaching maps option I’ve seen in such apps so far.
geocaching maps on C:geo (right) -- Homescreen (left)
It is just so handy that you can be anywhere, you have some minutes for caching and all you need to do is: turn on the internet connection of your phone, turn on location reporting (via gps or wireless network), launch c:geo and click on „Live map”. Within a few seconds you will be presented with all the geocaches around you. Pick one – you get all the info, that would normally appear on www.geocaching.com as well – and go J. It’s that simple. Of course locating the geocaching containers themselves is where the fun really starts.
Overall, there are a lot of ways to choose caches to search for, but the geocache map option is definitely the easiest and quickest if you just want to get going without preparation.
In case you don’t want to be online during your whole treasure hunt, c:geo let’s you save offline versions of the caches as well.
The downsides are: Your phone’s battery will suffer intensively, the app tends to crash sometimes (common it’s free and open source…) and – at least for me – the included compass does not always point into the right direction.
But the distance to the targeted geocash is shown very precisely due to the app using a kind of cross validation of your GPS position and wireless networks. This way you don’t even necessarily need the compass function. With the included geocaching maps free version you always see where you are compared to the cache.
Once you’ve found your treasure (and potentially some geocoins J ), you can log your visit instantly and on the spot. This is possible because the app is logged into geocaching.com all the time, if you have turned your network connection on. No more printing of cache descriptions required, no more manual marking of found caches on any paper geocache maps and no more asking yourself after a long caching tour „Did I find exactly this box – or not?”.
All in all an absolutely great application:
+ It gives you all the functionality that normally only a Premium geocaching.com account would get
+ no need for preparation – very good for spontaneous trips
+ paperless caching
+ The built in Live geocache maps make searching a child’s play
- geocaching app reduces battery life of your Android
- Sometimes application crashes
- Compass is often upside down
+ It’s free!!! – It gives you geocaching maps free of any charge
What are you waiting for – turn off that computer – let’s go geocaching!