Thursday, October 23, 2008

Geocaching Without a GPS

Is a Global Positioning System (GPS) Receiver necessary for modern Geocachers?

In this modern age of detailed street maps, satellite maps, and now even "street view" photographs available at your fingertips, is a GPS receiver still necessary? To illustrate my point, I was in downtown Houston last week for a conference and was staying on the upper floor of a deluxe hotel. Even though I forgot to bring my hand-held GPS with me on the trip, I decided to locate my hotel on a Geocaching.com map to see how many geocaches were nearby. There happened to be two caches within a block of my hotel - one of which was right outside my window. Despite not having my GPS receiver with me, I decided that I wanted to go hunting for these caches anyway.

To find each cache, I thoroughly read the cache description, pulled up the Google Map view of the coordinates, zoomed in as much as possible, and could identify within approximately 10-12 feet exactly where the cache was hidden. If fact, I felt more confident about finding this cache than I usually do whenever I use my GPS. Not only did I know what area of town the cache was in, what street it was near, and what park it was inside; I could tell which tree it was under and almost which side of the shrubs it was on. Needless to say, it took me longer to ride the elevator down from my hotel room than it did to find this cache - even without a GPS.
Aerial views are great, but Google has now gone one step further and added Street Views to its maps for most major metropolitan areas. This extremely close view can help you pinpoint exactly where a cache is located from ground-level. Using this feature, urban geocachers can not only see what an area looks like from above, they can view extremely close details of the hide location allowing them to scout out an area well before they arrive on the scene to begin searching. So, is a GPS receiver still necessary for Geocaching?

13 comments:

Adam said...

wow! I didn't know you can go geocaching without a GPS! I never tried it before. nice post!

you can also visit this site: http://mygeocachenation.com

Anonymous said...

Just a week or two ago, we had a cacher find one of our caches, saying that this was his second cache without using a GPS, because he was too cheap to buy one! This cache is in a wooded area, and Google maps don't show the street view there yet...so we're not sure how he found it. He said it took 15 minutes from when he left his car. It's only a minute or two walk, if you know where it is...

Tina said...

Yes, it is very easy to cache without a GPS. When I first started caching I didn't have a GPS, had never used one and didn't really see a need to buy one. I did exactly what you described in your article. I checked Google maps, looked at identifying landmarks and set out to find caches. I found many with this method and still do to this day. The majority of these finds are woods-based caches and I've even done a multi this way. Although I now have a GPS, I use it primarily when I hide caches and search forests outside my local area.

Geocache Mania said...

I live in Canada and it's not so easy to geocache in rural areas without a GPS. Sure you can do it in Toronto but there are many areas near where I live that doesn't have images of sufficient resolution to allow for GPS free geocaching.

Geocaching ID
teamvoyagr

Betsy N said...

we have found 83 caches without GPS!
i think it is more fun, and more challenging without a GPS.
i have a notebook, and we draw the area in the form of a map, write out vital info, and go from there.

Todd Fogle said...

I actually tried it before I had a GPS but living in a small state (Arkansas) in a town of 50,000 people, google did not help me much. I have not had the experience of caching in a large city yet.

Chris said...

There is an organization called Seeking First Adventure Ministries that actually has a link dedicated to caching by compass. It's called GeoFish under their special programs.

Brent said...

I see this article is from 2008 and I realize this option may not have been available to all geocachers. I have been using a Windows mobile phone with internet access since I started geocaching in March and have found over 300 in four months using a windows mobile phone and a GPS together.

OR Maverick said...

I have been using Handheld GPS Units for all my geocaching. I’ll have to give this a try.

Thanks of the idea!

Allison said...

I have found about 90 geocaches without a GPS using the same method as you have described here. This method works perfectly well in urban environments. However, I have run into difficulty on our So. Cal. wilderness trails where the landscape becomes very repetitive and very little arial landmarks exist. Also it is particularly complicated when attempting to do a multi cache. I usually go home, enter the coords, view the map, and make my way to the next spot. It may take me a couple days/outings to complete one, but that doesn't really bother me. My husband takes photos of the arial views on his Nintendo DSlite, which has been a life saver when out caching. If we're going out for several caches, the photos are indispensable.

Anonymous said...

I tried a few a few years ago before I got my Legend, but never found any. I was actually a Letter Boxer before I was a geocacher. Now that I have my Oregon, I can't imagine looking without it.

M. said...

I've found about 40 geocaches without GPS. And I like it MUCH more. Sometimes I go to search a cache without a GPS and find it almost immediately and then I just read the logs where people write how they had to go there two or more times because the coordinates were a little wrong! I sometimes have a feeling that the people searching with GPS for too long only watch the arrow and don't look around them...

GeoProspectorS said...

We've tried this method before we got the Geomate.jr, but had no luck finding any caches. It is definitely possible to geocache this way, although it is more of a challenge and you just need a little more patience. ;)
www.geoprospectors.blogspot.com

Post a Comment