Simply put, geocaching is the world’s largest and greatest treasure hunt, with more than 2 million different caches hidden around the globe. It is enjoyed by adults, children, and also adults looking to better engage with their children in an exhilarating outdoor activity, where exploration and discovery await in equal measures.
The rise of smartphones has seen this game – which kicked off on a web-based platform – shift more predominantly to the apps. With the exception of the game’s official app, Geocaching by Groundspeak, the apps on the market today are compatible with either iOS or Android, but not with both.
It can be difficult to know where to begin, so sit back as we run you through what is the best app for geocaching, and on which operating system they are available.
Here’s our list of the 5 best apps for geocaching:
1. Geocaching by Groundspeak
This is the game’s official app, which is why it appears first in this list (and also because it is compatible with both Android and iOS). It features a free version that allows users access to just the basic caches with easy difficulty and terrain ratings. For $29.99 per year you have the option to go premium, which greatly enhances the available features of the app.
You will have access to the premium caches with higher difficulty ratings. It also gives you the option to download maps for offline use, absolutely vital if you are heading out of range for a while.
- The free version allows users to get a feel for the game before committing.
- It is compatible with both iOS and Android.
- The free version is quite limited.
- New caches must be logged on the website.
Download the app here: geocaching.com
This app is available for android users only and is completely free, which is perfect for those not looking to take cache hunting too seriously. You will still need a geocaching.com account, and although it will work better with a premium membership, that is not actually necessary.
You are able to view geocaches on a live map, on either Google Maps or OpenStreetMaps and search for those caches by various criteria. You are also able to log your finds in either online or offline mode, store cache information on your android device and also manage and create waypoints.
- Store caches and maps on your device to view in offline mode.
- Easy to use and navigate with compass, map or other available apps.
- Not available for iOS users.
Download the app here: play.google.com
Cachly is an iOS only app that is compatible with iPhones, iPads and even Apple Watches. There is no free version – you can get the app for a one-time payment of $4.99 – but it is packed with features that will make your cache-hunting experience easier and fun.
Not only can you download maps for offline use, but you can also choose your favorite map app: Google Maps, Apple Maps or even Ordinance Survey for the serious hunters.
It has other really handy features, such as the ability to find caches close to the one you are already searching for, and to hide caches on the map. This is particularly useful if you have already found the geocache and want to remove it to avoid confusion, or perhaps you are just not interested in finding it in the first place.
- Fairly easy to use and inexpensive.
- You can social network with other treasure hunters by adding friends who have a geocaching.com account.
- It only works for iOS.
- There is no free version.
Download the app here: cach.ly
4. Cache Maid
This android app is Geocaching-live enabled so that you can download caches and upload logs wherever you are in the world. It offers an array of advanced features that are easy to navigate. It features offline maps, paperless caching and support for trackables, as well as the ability to import pocket queries and gpx files.
- Great for offline use.
- Free to download.
- The GPS sometimes disconnects with the app.
- Need to purchase additional features via in-app purchases.
- Only available for Android.
Download the app here: play.google.com
5. Looking 4 Cache Pro
This iOS app comes in a ‘Lite’ version which is free of charge, however the Pro version, which comes with an array of extra features, is the one we recommend. Priced at $5.99, this app comes with everything you would expect from a program using the geocaching.com live API. You can download information to view in offline mode, and import a gpx file or a pocket query.
Another nice touch is the proximity alert, so you can keep your iPhone in your pocket and be notified according to how close you are to the target. Or alternatively, install and sync the app on your Apple Watch to see what it happening without having to continually remove your phone from your pocket.
We also like the ability to enter corrected coordinates directly into the app, as well as a collapsible compass that you can position above the map.
- There is a free version of the app to see if you like it
- It is compatible with Apple Watches
- Not available on Android
Download the app here: looking4cache.com
Can you geocache without WiFi? You can geocache without wifi, or even without network coverage, as long as you have downloaded your offline data for a geocache list before you head out of range. For most apps, this will automatically save the offline maps required to your device, and you can then use GPS (or your mobile phone) to navigate your way to the selected geocaches.
These features are not normally available in the free apps, or without paying a membership fee, but they are essential for serious geocachers hunting in remote areas.
What’s inside a geocache? The most important thing you will discover inside a geocache is a logbook. It will tell you the history of everyone who has located this geocache in the past and their experiences while searching for it. You should take a pen or pencil with you, just in case the geocache does not contain one.
You will also probably find a collection of small-value treasures, such as little plastic toys or trinkets. It may also contain some findings from the local area, such as beautifully colored rocks or pretty feathers. The general rule of geocaching is that you should take something from the box, and replace it with something of equal or greater value.
Who invented geocaching? Before May, 2000, GPS signals included a feature called Selective Availability (SA) that scrambled signals and reduced accuracy to within about 330 feet. When President Clinton announced the abolition of SA, a man named Dave Ulmer from Beavercreek, Oregon became the unwitting inventor of geocaching.
He announced the coordinates of N 45 17.460, W122 24.800, along with the message: “Lots of goodies for the finders. Look for a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground. Take some stuff, leave some stuff! Record it all in the log book. Have Fun! Stash contains: Delorme Topo USA software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot!”
A week later a man named Mike Teague launched a website onto which hunters could log cache locations, and at the end of May, 2000, Matt Stum coined the name geocaching for the first time. Within just one month of Dave Ulmer hiding that first cache in Oregon, geocaches were being logged in places as far flung as Australia. Now there are over two million recorded caches, and that number is growing every day.
What does “Muggles” mean in geocaching? A muggle is the term used by a geocacher for a person who is a non geocacher. It was adopted from Harry Potter as a term meaning a non-magical person. Similarly, if a geocache has been muggled, it means that it has been compromised by someone that does not play the game.
This could result in the cache being stolen or dismantled by the muggle. Sometimes the muggle will do this without having the slightest idea about geocaching or that it even exists.
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As a travel writer and photographer, Gordon spent the better part of 2018 visiting 13 different countries as far apart as Chile, Morocco and Vietnam. He is in New Zealand in 2019, writing a third travel book, while exploring pretty much anything that forms a bump on the Earth’s surface.