GETTING STARTED: THE BASICS
While compared with many other leisure pursuits, geocaching need not be expensive, you do need certain basic items of equipment, not least a GPS receiver in one form or another.
The basic items you need, then, are a GPS device, a map of the area you are searching, and the co-ordinates of the caches you are looking for. The parent website for geocaching is www.geocaching.com. When you first connect to the website it all looks a bit bewildering, but the more you use it, the clearer things become.
All the information you need to guide you through the multiple layers and fascinations of geocaching are explained at length in ‘Geocaching in the UK’, by our consultant, Dr Terry Marsh.
Create a membership
There are two levels of membership – basic and premium. Basic membership is free; premium membership has a fairly nominal subscription. The difference between the two? Well, basic membership is just that, basic, allowing you to download co-ordinates and location information for caches, and to share your experiences online. This is all you need in order to make a start, so it is advisable to opt for this level of membership initially. Premium membership does have a number of advantages, and some caches are available only to premium members, so if you elect to have basic membership you will not have access to all the caches.
To create an account for yourself, and effect membership registration, select either ‘Create account’ from the top right of the screen, or ‘Join’ in the top menu bar. Both options take you to a Membership Registration page, the details of which are self-explanatory, and enable you to make a start.
Make a name for yourself
Part of the process of creating a membership is deciding on a geocaching ‘name’ for yourself. All the obvious ones have long since gone. So you need to invent a pseudonym for yourself that is, perhaps, a composite of initials or names, such as PamandFred, Meandthedog, LostnWet, or something that has significance to you.
Having devised a name and created a membership, you are almost ready to go. Part of the membership creation process requires you to validate the email address you are using. So, once you have selected your pseudonym and agreed to the terms and conditions under which geocaching operates, you will be sent an email asking you to validate that the email address really is yours. Once this is done, you can then log in to www.geocaching.com.
Adding your home co-ordinates
Once you have created your membership it is a wise move to add your home co-ordinates. This enables the website database to send you information about caches near you.
Calculating your home co-ordinates can be done either by using your GPS device – it is a good idea to do this outside your home, assuming it is not surrounded by high-rise buildings that will obstruct a satellite signal – or by asking the website to do it for you.
1. Log in to the website, and select ‘Your profile’ (top menu).
2. From the drop-down menu select ‘Quick view’. At first you have an almost blank profile screen, but on the right is a small panel headed ‘Search options’, with a message saying ‘You have not set a home location’. This is followed by the option to ‘Add them now’.
3. Select ‘Add them now’, and you are taken through to a screen showing a map headed ‘Manage location’.
4. Try entering your post code (including the space) into the ‘Search’ field, and click on the ‘Search’ button. If your post code does not conflict with a similar code in another country, you are then taken through to another map with a small panel on it pointing to a man icon at your post code location. However, because UK post codes cover more than one property, the icon may not correspond exactly with your home address. For complete accuracy simply drag the icon to the correct position on the map, and make a note of the latitude and longitude co-ordinates now showing both on the icon and in the ‘Search’ field above it.
5. Then select ‘Save changes’. You have now told the website where you are.
The sensible thing to do first is to search for geocaches near your home.
On the home page of www.geocaching.com is a section headed ‘Search for Nearby Geocaches’. In the data field immediately below, your home co-ordinates (assuming you have set them, as described above) will be displayed. Click on the small magnifying glass, and the system will return a page of all the geocaches close to those co-ordinates. Entering your home post code, often acquires the same information.
Now, having a list of geocaches near you, select a cache you want to go in search of, connect your GPS to your computer, and, from the cache page select ‘Send to GPS’. For this to happen successfully, you will need to download and install a plug-in called Garmin Communicator (assuming you are using a Garmin GPS). Just follow the on-screen guidance for downloading this plug-in, and then try again to ‘Send to GPS’.
Once the geocache is in your device, ‘Find’ it on the device (probably under ‘Waypoints’), select it, and tell your GPS to ‘Go to’ the cache…and off you go.