|Image borrowed from satorismiles.com|
If you’re stuck for something to do one weekend and fancy trying something new in the great outdoors, and if you have a smartphone, then this review is for you.
Geocaching is a game/sport/hobby not unlike hide-and-seek, where what’s hidden is a ‘cache’ of treasure and you have to seek it using a GPS.
Sounds geeky? Well… yes, it does a bit. But thankfully the introduction of GPS to smartphones like the iPhone has meant that geocaching is now within the reach of all of us.
Geocaching.com is a huge site dedicated to the activity, and they’ve released a set of Apps (for iPhone and Android), including this free version which lets you try out the game without commiting anything.
I downloaded the app a couple of weeks ago and fired it up at home. To my genuine surprise it showed that there were 3 caches within a mile of my house, so one night I struck off with the dog to find what was listed as a ‘microcache’ at my local church.
The app gives you a little information about what you’re looking for, and a clue as to where to find it, and then brings up a map showing your location, the cache location, and the route to get to it. If you have a phone with a compass in it (iPhone 3GS/4) then it also points the way on that.
The maps are pretty slow to load (but I have a very weak signal near home), but are as good, if not better, than Google Maps. They show footpaths and bridleways as well as roads.
As long as you stay in an area with decent GPS and phone signal (2G or 3G) then the phone continues to display your position as a moving, pulsing blob overlayed on the map. Really easy to follow.
The app got me as far as the church and then, somewhat frustratingly left me to scour for the cache myself. The iPhone’s GPS (or possibly the free app’s level of detail, I don’t know on that score) got me to within 50ft and no closer. There was a lot of Church to search, so I left it there.
As an introduction to the wonders of Geocaching, this app, and the phone interface are excellent. It really was good fun playing hide-and-seek and to give a dog-walk a purpose. If I lived in an area of better signal I’d invest in the full app (£9.99).
The app graphics are easy to follow, and don’t require any real thinking. Perfect for young and old alike.
SUMMARY: If you’re new to geocaching, this is well worth a go. Don’t expect miracles if your smartphone is low on signal or GPS reception, but it’s good fun trying to follow the maps. For a commitment of no money whatsoever, it’s definitely worth a punt. Scored down because of the phone itself’s reliance on slow network and poor GPS.
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