gps magellan gps gps vehicle tracking gps systems auto gps gps tracker ipaq gps bluetooth gps axim gps gps macintosh gps software garmin gps iii pda gps gps for auto gps car navigation garmin gps v gps child locator gps navigation systemcompact flash gps garmin

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What the Heck is Geocaching? A Beginner's Guide
Many thanks to members of the Getting Started forum for their generous and patient advice -- Thot

It's a high tech Easter egg hunt. Someone hides a container of inexpensive knickknacks -- a cache. Then they post its latitude & longitude on the internet, and other people go hunting for it. If they find it they trade knickknacks and sign a log to record their visit. The picture on the right is an example of a classic cache

In Mid. '03 few people had heard of geocaching -- it was almost a secret game. It's grown a lot since then. I stumbled onto the game in about June '04 and have been playing since.

The minimum you have to have to play is a handheld GPSr (Global Positioning Satellite receiver). Global Positioning Satellites are used in all forms of navigation today. They send signals that these receivers use to figure out where on the surface of the earth they are.

As the game has grown it's developed a number of variations. There are micro caches that are only large enough to contain a rolled up, or maybe folded flat paper log for you to sign. There are puzzle caches, and other spin-offs. (Here's a list of cache types.) There used to be locationless (also called reverse caches) and virtual caches, but locationless caches are no longer supported by as of the end of 2005. Most (many?) preexisting virtual and webcam caches can still be hunted and logged as finds, but no new ones are being approved.

There's more than one website that supports this game, but far-and-away the most extensive and most popular is, what else, -- also called Groundspeak. You get cache locations there and then return there to record your success or failure to find them. On the upper right of the main page you can enter your zipcode and get a list of the caches near you.

When I explain geocaching to friends the inevitable question is, "Well if the GPS gadget takes you to right where it is, what's the game?" First, the gadget only gets you close -- typically about 15-20 feet away. And, the cache is hidden -- either from geocachers to increase the challenge/fun, or to conceal it from muggles. Muggles are the uninitiated -- people who don't know about geocaching, and may stumble on the cache and take it, ruin it, or throw it away.

But, the real fun is discovering endless new parks and interesting places near you that you never knew were there. It's absolutely astounding how many interesting places there are near you that you're probably unaware of. If you resist the temptation to make this a contest and just have fun and enjoy the places it takes you, it will be a more rewarding activity. Kids love it, so it provides a setting for outdoor family fun.

Click here to visit my photo journal of the places I've gone and caches I've found.

One weakness I have found is the FAQ's at the geocaching website aren't thorough. That's why I decided to create this page. To help beginners learn geocaching. Here's help with some of the fundamentals:

Which GPS Receiver?

They cost from $100-$600+. To start geocaching you should be able to get a satisfactory unit for $200 or less. If you intend to also use your GPSr for navigation in a boat or car you need to explore this question at a website that covers general use. The two most popular brands are Magellan and Garmin, but Lowrance is growing.. Garmin sells many more GPSrs than Magellan. There's a lot of ill-founded but intense brand loyalty. From what I've read comparable units perform about the same across brands. The basic performance differences are between units that support something called WAAS and those that don't, and newer mid-price units (with the SiRFstar III chip) have better sensitivity. In my opinion if you are buying a GPSr and you're in the United States you want one that supports WAAS -- it increases the accuracy by up to a factor of 5. I used to say, other than this about all you get for more money is more features -- not better basic accuracy, but with these newer mid-price units you can get better/faster accuracy. If you already have a handheld GPSr that lets you transfer waypoints (cache locations) to it from your computer it will do fine to start you out. As of Nov '06 WAAS only works in North America and (sort of) in Europe, so the rest of the world does without it anyway.


A GPS is a Global Positioning Satellite that transmits signals indicating where it is. A GPSr is a receiver that receives signals from several GPSs and uses them to determine where it is on the surface of the earth.

The most popular GPSr for beginning geocachers may be a Garmin eTrex Legend. I've never used one, but the more I learn about this unit the less I care for it. For three years I used a Magellan SporTrak Pro and was happy with it (This model has been discontinued. You'll have a terrific deal on a beginning unit if you can get a used one with/cable for $70 or less on EBay.). A number of people believe the Magellan units do a better job of finding locations in adverse conditions, like heavy tree cover, than the eTrex and other lower priced Garmins (Recent mid and higher priced Garmins probably do a little better than the SporTrak). The tradeoff is the Magellan's take longer to settle down when you reach the general area. You have to wait a minute or so for them to decide on the final location, whereas the Garmin units don't have this delay. My Magellan does a good job in tree cover, but I do have to give it a minute or so to settle on an answer after I get to the general area. The bottom end of the Magellan and Garmen lines are inexpensive, but you can't transfer waypoints to them from your computer. This rules them out for geocaching as far as I'm concerned. I recently bought a Garmin 60CSx -- it's the top rated handheld for geocaching at this time (May/08). I haven't found it a lot better than my SporTrak for basic cache finding, but it has some features that make it easier to use. USB is much better than Serial Port for sending/receiving data to the unit. Battery change-out is easier. The popup menus are nice. It holds more caches. Batteries last longer. If you use it for maps (I don't) the color screen is easier to read. And, if you're an FTFer (First to Find) Garmin's direct download into your unit is nice. Click here for my review/comparison of the 60CSx vs the SporTrak.

You'll want a cable that hooks to your computer to download cache information into your unit. To repeat, some cheap models don't connect to a computer -- avoid them. Entering waypoints manually is very tedious; plus, the first time you wander off into some awful place because you entered one of all those numbers wrong you'll regret not buying a unit that lets you enter them with your computer. The cable itself is an optional extra with some inexpensive models, and it's cost can make-up the difference in the price of a better unit, so consider that if using cost as a deciding factor. You don't need a high end GPSr for geocaching.

[update note: models released after 2004 seem to have USB connections, but pre 2004 models are still in production]

How Do I Get Cache Locations Into My GPSr

First and foremost, always enter the cache coordinates into your unit, even if you have to do this manually. Do not try to wander around watching the coordinates on your unit change until they match the ones printed on the cache page. This is a very painful way to hunt.

Go to the main web page. Enter your zipcode in the upper right corner. This will give you a list of caches moving out from the center of your zipcode. You could go to each cache page and enter the coordinates manually, but that's a lot of work, and an error can put you in the some terrible place. (You'll have to do it this way if you don't have a computer cable.). At the bottom of the list is a button that says Check All. Click this and it will mark all caches on that page for download. Then click the Download Waypoints button and download the file that contains this list of coordinates. I think you have to register to see the Check All and Download Waypoints buttons, but it's free. Geocachers use handles/pseudonyms like Renegade Knight, OpinioNate, moonpup, despot&smitten, guttergrrl, tirediron. When you register, your username becomes your geocaching name, the name you will be known by. Also, you will have to write it over and over and over in all the cache logs you sign, so you may want a short easy to write one like Thot :-) Spend a little time thinking about what you want to be called before registering. Click here to see a list of geocacher's names. Think about signing a name like "headed_west_and_never_looking_back_0671" hundreds of times, often on tiny pieces of paper. Changing your name used to be painless, but not anymore. You have to start another account and return (on the website) to all the caches you've found, delete your original logs and reenter them under your new name. Be sure to use the same date and explain what you're doing so the owner doesn't think you're claiming a find and didn't sign the logbook. NOTE: Recently some people have appealed to to change there name and they did. I don't know what kind of pull you have to have to get them to do this.

Now go here and download & install the program EasyGPS. If you click on the cache list file you downloaded it will start EasyGPS. Hook the cable you got with your GPSr to your computer. Unfortunately some models haven't entered the 21st Century and still use Serial Ports, so you may have to ask a computerish friend to help you setup the cable the first time.. [I understand there are 9 pin serial-to-USB adapters for GPSrs available -- e.g. $15 at Best Buy.]

Once you tell EasyGPS which brand & model of GPSr you have, which Comm port you're using, and turn on your unit; then click this button on the EasyGPS toolbar and it will load the set of cache coordinates/waypoints into your GPSr.

You have to download these lists one page (20 caches) at a time. It's a little clumsy to work with these sets one at a time. For that reason I wrote a program which combines many sets into one. You can download it here. It's free

If you decide to become a Premium Member ($30/year or $3/month) there's a more convenient way to get cache lists. They're called "pocket queries." I have no idea what they have to do with pockets.

If you really get into this you'll probably want to get a program named GSAK. It costs a few bucks and is more difficult to learn, but it does

a lot more things with pocket queries than EasyGPS.

What Should I Carry When I Go Geocaching?

As you might expect, opinions vary on this question.

My list is from the perspective of an old guy.

I use a denim carry bag to keep things together/collected, to carry to the car when I start out. When I leave the car for the hunt I take the bag, but I leave some items from it in the car. My stick is always in the trunk, except when I'm on a hunt. Here’s my list:

  1. GPSr & extra batteries
  2. A pen for signing logs.
  3. Printed copies of the PDF file you can generate near the top of the cache description screen including at least the last 5 logs, & a zoomed map linked to MapQuest from the cache description page. I carry these pages for the cache I'm hunting folded in my pocket, the rest are left in the car until needed. Note: If I expect to hunt more than one cache on a single hike I put the pages for all these caches in my bag. [UPDATE: I now go largely paperless using a PalmIIIxe I bought on eBay for $15 including shipping, and caching software for the Palm called Cachemate, which is getting long in the tooth now but it's still cheap. I carry the Palm in my pocket.]
  4. OFF/Deet - in Houston this is essential -- jillions of mosquitoes and West Nile Virus
  5. A stick for walking on irregular ground, moving stuff aside, beating back brush/weeds, knocking down spider webs, tapping tall grass or areas ahead of you you can't see to warn snakes you're coming and poking around in worrisome places you'd rather not put your hand. My stick happens to be 2 cm square yardstick with a wrist strap on one end. [UPDATE: About a year ago I bought a $9 aluminum trekking pole at Walmart.] It's hard to decide whether the stick should be listed fourth or fifth. For me it's essential. I never go to a cache hidden in the woods or where I have to walk on uneven terrain or tall grass without it. Urban micro caches don't usually require it.
  6. Compass - which I use infrequently, but there are occasions when it's very useful. In undergrowth you sometimes can't move around to do my "hunt-hunt-dance" to locate the cache. In this case you can use the GPSr's bearing and your compass to see which way to look. Sometimes you can't get a good GPSr reading -- it jumps or wanders around (A number of things can cause poor/erratic signals.). With a compass you can move to locations with better signals, then use the it to triangulate on the cache. I got a standard Silva Ploaris 177 Boy Scout compass from Walmart for $10. [NOTE: I find I use the compass in the woods more often for this triangulation than I did when I started geocaching.]
  7. One chopstick in my bag for pushing tiny caches out of tight places.
  8. A cap/hat if I'll be in the sun or winter cold.
  9. Right hand (I'm right handed) heavy leather glove - for sticking hand into/under worrisome places.
  10. A Digital Camera & extra batteries is optional, but it's how I record my adventures. You can also upload pictures to your internet log. A few caches require you take pictures. (Don't post spoiler pictures showing how to find the cache in your internet log. In my photo journal that's part of this article I scrambled the photos and made the names anonymous to avoid giving anything away. None of the spoiler photos in this collection were posted to my web logs.)
  11. A snack size ziplock bag (3" x 6") with 4 wet wipes, 4 alcohol wipes, 4 betadine wipes and 6 band-aids.
  12. Now-a-days I also carry replacement logs and signature geonickles, but obviously these aren't necessary.

The stick and the following items are more important to us old codgers who can't climb, stoop, bend, squat and kneel like younger folks. And, irregular ground is more of a problem - it threatens a fall and things break easier.

  1. Inspection mirror -- a mirror with a telescoping handle. To peer into, above and under hard to reach places. This has helped me find many caches I was unable to find without it. It's normally more useful for urban microcaches. (Note: I’ve recently decided a larger hand mirror is better and found one at the Dollar store that I use mostly now.)
  2. I recently bought a pair of super cheap (~$12) knee high wading boots at Academy for when I run into mud and standing water. They stay in the trunk until needed. [In wet areas, like here in Houston, caches sometimes require sloshing through mud and/or standing water.]

I leave a couple of bottles of water in the car. If I expect to be out in the heat for over an hour I carry a bottle in my hip pocket.

I don’t carry swag (stuff to trade) because I don’t trade. I go for the places I see and the fun of the hunt. I've only taken things from the cache when they were required to complete the cache instructions, or an occasional First to Find prize. The only rule is you must sign the log. Those who trade normally list what they took and what they left in both the written log at the cache and the web log when they get home. If you don't plan to trade you may still want to keep one nice trade item in your bag in case you discover something you really want. I carry two Sacagawea dollars for such situations. .

I’ve had a Leatherman type tool and a first aid kit in the trunk of the car for years. I carry a small Spyderco pocket knife and a tiny cell phone (fits in my watch pocket) at all times, so I didn’t put these on the list. I think a cell phone is essential if you cache in the woods or remote areas -- particularly if you cache alone.


If you have a Palm/PDA you can do Paperless Geocaching. This lets you save trees, and have more information with you on the hunt.

NOTE: I bought a PalmIIIxe on EBay for $12. I found it difficult to geocache without maps. Now I have a TomTom car navigator that solved this problem.

That's my list. Some caches require long hikes. I've never done any of those, but people who do use backpacks and of course carry plenty of water.

If you're interested in more extensive lists read this discussion and this one.

Tips For Green Cache Hunters?

A cardinal rule is, if you trade items, trade even or trade up. That is, leave an item of equal or greater desirability than the one you took. Please don't trade a broken McDonalds toy for a pocket watch.

Try to stay with regular caches in the beginning if you can. Micros are often hard for everyone, especially beginners. Probably the most common micro is a 35mm film container, but they can be a little larger. The official micro container is somewhat bigger around and half as long as your little finger. Micros can be as small as a marble. It's becoming more common to use these evil nano caches. (TIP: These tiny caches have rolled up pieces of paper for logs, when you put the log back, put it in the lid -- don't try to put it in the body and then replace the lid -- you'll just make a mess and become frustrated.) Even when micros say one star they're likely to be difficult and can be discouraging to a beginner. Near the top of the cache description page you'll find the "Size." Micros are often attached by magnets to metal objects. Common "small" containers are Lock-And-Lock and serving size Rubbermaid . "Small" caches I've found are typically about the size of a tennis ball or a stack of 7 Hershey bars, but small caches can be almost any size from somewhat larger than a 35mm film container to smaller than 2 quarts/liters. As you probably guessed, smalls are easier to find than micros, but harder than regular caches -- surprise!


Cache Sizes

Micro -- Smaller than a tennis ball
Small -- Up to a quart/liter
Regular -- A quart to 2 gallons/8 liters
Large -- Larger than a Regular

Groundspeak Definitions

Try to stay with the easier to find regular size caches to start. On the cache page it will rate the difficulty of caches from 1 to 5 stars. The first number is how hard it is to find. The second, how hard it is to get to it -- the terrain. A 1/5 will be easy to find when you get to it, but may require a boat and scuba gear to reach it. Try hunting caches in this order until you get some experience: 1/1, 1/2, 1/3 (1/4 if you’re athletic), then 2/1, 2/2, etc. [NOTE: Ordinary people (all sorts) assign those numbers, so there are 1's I've never found and 3's I found immediately. Typically, the terrain ratings are more accurate than the find difficulty ratings.]

Decrypt the hints and print the PDF file that you can generate near the top of the cache description page with as many logs as you can for at least the first 5-10 caches you try. Finding them gets easier with experience, but it can be challenging at first. Study all the logs left by others for clues to the cache location. They may also alert you to problems like -- "Watch out for the hornets nest in that tree north of the cache." Make handwritten notes of anything special like this on the pages you print out . If the latest logs have been DNFs (Did Not Finds) wait on that one until someone else finds it -- it may be missing. Tip: If you print cache pages days in advance be sure to check the website just before you leave in case the cache has gone missing. It can be very discouraging to spend a hour searching for a cache that's no longer there. Quickly scan all the logs for purple faces -- DNFs. These often signal difficult caches. One, or two out of 30 may or may not, but 5 out of 20 means it's almost sure to be difficult no matter how the owner rated it.

Be sure your GPSr's Map Datum is set to WGS84
Don't worry about what it means, just make sure it's set to this

Believe your GPSr, but don’t be slaved to it. When you get within 20-30 feet (6-10 meters), -- maybe a little more -- start looking around for where it might be hidden. Many beginners either depend too much on the GPSr, or don’t trust it enough. Either is a mistake. The satellites that the devices use are constantly moving, so some days, times and places you get better answers, and sometimes you get very bad results. Also, in heavy tree cover you can get bad results. I did a survey of experienced geocachers and the coordinates get them to within about 20 feet (6 meters) of the cache on average. Just remember, it's a combination of your unit's error and the error of the person who provided the coordinates. Some (particularly new) cachers aren't careful in determining the coordinates for their caches. GPSrs without WAAS may have an error of 30+ feet. If you or the cache owner has one of these models, well . . . My personal experience is the cache is typically nearer than 15 feet (5 meters) when I reach ground zero, but I've run into a few caches where the coordinates were off as much as 60 feet (20 meters), and a couple of rare cases where they were off about 175 feet (55 meters).

Try different displays/screens on your GPSr until you find the one(s) that works best for you. Most GPSrs have one or more screens that point toward the cache. You must be moving/walking for it to point to the cache. It knows where the cache is, but doesn't know which way you are facing and thus which way to point if you're not moving. Most units have a screen that looks like a compass, but instead of pointing north it points at the cache. Personally, I don't like them. If you stop walking they lose their mind. And, I find them confusing -- they start behaving erratically as you get near the cache, the place where you need them most. But, many very experienced geocachers rely on these pseudocompasses almost exclusively. Now that I've used both Magellan and lower priced Garmin units I think I know why. I think the Map method I use works better on Magellan units than on low end Garmin units like the popular eTrex Legend. I suggest you go to a nearby park and "waypoint" an object you can remember such as a stump, water fountain, etc. Then walk a hundred or so feet away and use the device to return to the location. Do this a few times then choose another object and do it again. Try using different screens. Save these coordinates and try to find the locations again another day. Repeat this until you get a feel for how the gadget responds and which displays work best for you.

If you're interested in how I setup my GPSr, and my technique for homing in on cache coordinates, I describe it Here.

Sometimes a cache will be in an area where you can't walk/move fast enough. (For the map screen pointer or the pseudocompass to work you must be moving about 2 mph/3 kph in a straight line.) In this case you may want to try compass-triangulation as illustrated Here.


Latitude/longitude coordinates are often called waypoints. Your unit will let you record a waypoint for your present location. There's usually a button you press that captures your present location. When I say "waypoint a location" I mean use this procedure to capture the location.

If you’re going into uncertain territory capture a waypoint at your car ("waypoint your car") as you leave it. Create another waypoint at a trailhead, and any point where you go off-trail in a wooded area, so you can find your way back out. You will get so preoccupied wandering around looking for the cache you may get completely disorientated/lost -- there are lots of stories of cachers who spent unpleasant nights in some godforsaken place because they got lost. You should also learn how to use your unit's backtrack feature, and be sure it's turned on. Backtrack is a feature on most units that, if active, shows you the path you took to get were you are. You can follow it to go back the way you came. Practice switching to and using this mode, so if you get lost you can get to it to retrace your steps. The commands to operate these gadgets are arcane and you aren't likely to remember how to do it when you need it if you haven't practiced.

Be sure to take your GPSr manual in the car (and maybe on the hunt) until you've learned and had experience using its features.

As long as we're on the topic of safety, tell someone where you will be and for how long. Add some to the time so people won't start worrying too soon.

I mention again the importance of a stick.

To some extent this is a game better suited to younger more agile people. I've had to give up on a couple of caches that would have required a mild form of acrobatics to reach it and get back.

When you can't find a cache you're tempted to try more and more unusual things/locations. Don't take risks. Almost certainly the cache isn't in that risky location anyway. There are many other caches, and you won't get demoted, lose money or be ridden out of town on a rail if you pass on this one, and on the next, and the next.

If the terrain is a 1, 2 or 3 you can usually assume it can be found without doing anything unusual (I've never done a terrain 4). In my limited experience they're rarely more than 60-80 feet off a trail and usually not that far. If it's farther, or it looks like you'll need a machete to get through the undergrowth look for another way to it. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to want to go straight toward where their gadget points. ALWAYS look around for easy paths before taking difficult ones. The trail may curve ahead, so you may fight a new path through a terrible jungle just to come out back on the same trail. Stories abound of the guy or gal who waded the creek or got cut up climbing through the fence, or bushwhacked their way through 500 feet of undergrowth just to find when they got there the cache was 20 feet off a main trail. Walk past the cache to see if there's not a better way to it. The person who placed the cache didn't want to bushwhack their way in anymore than you do. On a larger scale, when I first arrive near the general area I may drive around for 10-15 minutes looking for closest place to park for the easiest, or shortest way to begin.

When searching for the cache look for something unnatural -- piles of sticks, bark, rocks, leaves or other debris. Here's an example. Also check out tree stumps, logs, and hollow tree trunks. Small caches are sometimes off the ground and Micros almost always are. The crotch or V in trees where major members fork is a popular place for micros -- or maybe a knothole. Small caches are sometimes attached to the underside of things. They're often attached to metal objects with magnets.

Then there are the light pole caches that seem to cover the earth in our area. I'm not sure there's a parking lot without one. If you look at the bottom of parking lot light poles, they normally have a rectangular box-like cover/skirt at the base. This cover will lift. Today, many micros are attached to the inside of the skirt of this cover with magnets -- often using magnetic key holders you get at the dollar store. If you find yourself driving around on a paved parking lot looking for a micro, it's almost surely a light pole cache.

One of the secrets to successful geocaching is to become a tracker. People who've been to the cache often leave evidence of the path they took and where they found the cache -- footprints, broken limbs, crushed weeds, deformed shrubs, etc. This opening was a dead giveaway to what would have otherwise been a bear of a route in. Look for the route that has the least brush, thorns, vines and other fun stuff to plow through because a cacher before you has already thinned it out with his body. I forgot and left my GPSr in the car one day on a FTF (First to Find) hunt, but it was in an area of high weeds. I simply followed the trail the owner made when he placed the cache -- took me straight to it.

Don't beat your head against a wall trying to find a cache. Pass it by and come back to it later after you've gained more experience. My second cache was a very hard micro I couldn't find. When I finally went back I found it based largely on tricks I'd learned in the meantime. Also, it may be missing. In the upper right of the cache page you can click this icon to watch a cache listing to see if someone else finds it. You'll be sent an email if somebody logs it. I usually don't go back to a cache I failed to find until somebody finds it or the owner assures me it's still there.

Some trading don'ts: Don't leave food or items that smell (like scented candles or soap). Animals have keen smellers. They're known to destroy caches looking for food. Finally, nothing dangerous or inappropriate for children.

In selecting swag (trade items) keep in mind many caches aren't watertight. If you still want to leave things that'll ruin if they get damp, it's a good idea to seal them in ziplock freezer (heavy weight) bags.

Put the cache back the way you found it, and where you found it, unless you have very good reason to believe it wasn't in it's intended hiding place. In this case, send an email to the owner explaining what you did. Don't help the owner by moving the cache or hiding it in a better place -- they may want it to be very easy (or hard) to find. Don't move the cache to where your GPSr says the coordinates are.

Did I mention waypointing your car and taking water if it's a long hike?

And, don't forget to log your hunt on the website after you find (or don't find) the cache. Go back to the cache page. In the upper right click this icon to log your find. . On the page that comes up select Found It, Didn't find it, or Post a note. Change the date to whatever day you found the cache, then type in some comments about your experience. In the beginning, read some other people's logs for examples of what to say, and submit your log. Here's a discussion on why you should record your DNFs -- caches you Did Not Find.

Travel Bugs

Travel bugs (and coins) are a side aspect of the game. You can do them or not. Travel bugs are (usually) smallish objects with an identifying "dog tag" attached, that are moved from cache to cache. The dog tags are used to track/log their movements. To be technically correct the dog tag is the travel bug, and the attached object is the hitchhiker. But most people, refer to the combination of the two things as a travel bug. This is my Blow & Go travel bug. Travel bugs usually have a goal/mission/objective. Blow & Go's mission is to travel to every state in the U.S. following some simple rules. Travel bugs are not trade items -- you aren't expected to leave something in exchange when you take a travel bug, and conversely, you shouldn't take a trade item if you leave a bug. [Note: Some "travel bug hotels" require you leave a bug if you take a bug. Personally, I boycott this kind of arrangement because bugs can get trapped in them.] If you pick up a bug you're expected to move it to another cache somewhere that (hopefully) will help it towards it's goal -- at least not detract from the goal. For example, if it's goal is to go from California to New York don't move it from Texas to Arizona. On the other hand moving it around in a local area is okay even if it moves a few miles the wrong way. Don't hold a travel bug for a long time. If you can't put in in another cache within couple of weeks, don't take it.

Logging travel bugs can be quite confusing the first few times. They have their own independent tracking system and thus are logged in addition to and different than caches. Click here for my explanation of how to pick up and drop off travel bugs.

There are also geocoins. Coins work much like travel bugs but there's no hitchhiker, the coin is the entire thing that travels.

FTF -- First To Find

Some people compete to be the first-to-find (FTF) a new cache. This can be a little difficult to do in urban areas with many cachers rushing to get this honor (and sometimes a special FTF prize). If you decide to try this, and you are a premium member you can go here to and sign up to be notified of newly approved caches. Or you can download and set up my FTF program. At the time of this writing (4/06), it notifies of more types of caches and sometimes is faster than's "insta-notify" feature. I, of course, don't participate in this plebian practice.

Hiding Your Own Cache
What container? What do I put in it? Other considerations.

I'll add this later if I get requests

Tip: Most people agree it's better to find several caches
of the type you plan to hide before hiding one yourself.

Here's's article on hiding caches.

More Questions?

If you have more questions there are forums at On the main page, click the "Forums" link in the list on the upper left. I found the Getting Started forum very helpful. When I started out, I asked lots of questions and generous members of the Getting Started group patiently answered them. They're a friendly group. If you move on to the regular Geocaching Topics forum, maybe not so much.

I've written several utilities I use for various Geocaching tasks. They're free. You can Go Here to see if you're interested in any of them.


My article on setting up your GPSr and using it to home in on a cache

Planning a geocaching road trip

A geocaching glossary of terms -- a geolexicon
How to Add a Picture to Your Log
How to Add a Waypoint to Your GPSr Manually
My article explaining EPE (Estimated Position Error)
My article explaining why it's important to log your failures to find -- your DNFs
My geocachin
g utilities
My review/comparison of the 60CSx vs the SporTrak Pro

FizzyCalc (originally GeoCalc) -- very useful utility for working with coordinates
How a GPSr works
Wikipedia's Description of Geocaching
A better FAQ than the one at's FAQ
My Poll of Geocachers' Ages
A Video With Dave Ulmer (creator of geocaching) About the First "Stash"
Miscellaneous geocaching info
January 8, 2009 9:00 AM PST

TomTom reveals its first connected GPS

Posted by Bonnie Cha
TomTom GO 740 Live

TomTom GO 740 Live is TomTom's first GPS unit with a GPRS modem.

(Credit: TomTom)

On the first day of CES 2009, GPS manufacturer TomTom introduced its newest portable navigation device, the TomTom GO 740 Live. Like the Dash Express and TeleNav Shotgun, the GO 740 Live is a connected GPS using a built-in SIM card and GPRS modem, so you'll get more up-to-date information delivered to your PND right over the air.

What kind of information? Well, I'm glad you asked. With the purchase of the TomTom GO 740 Live, you'll get a complimentary year subscription to TomTom's Live services, which include Google Local Search, fuel-price information, weather data, and TomTom QuickGPSfix for faster satellite acquisition. The Google search capabilities allow you to look up local businesses and get such information as phone number and user reviews, if available.

Along with the Live services, you also get real-time traffic information, which is updated every two to five minutes. You'll be alerted to any delays via audio prompts, and if there are any incidents along your course, you can choose to continue on the same path with an updated time of arrival or reroute around the problem.To further aid with routing, the GO 740 Live employs TomTom's IQ Routes technology, which calculates directions based on historical traffic data.

The TomTom GO 740 Live comes preloaded with TeleAtlas maps of the United States and Canada and includes text-to-speech functionality, voice recognition and commands, and integrated Bluetooth. The unit features a 4.3-inch touch screen (supports 64,000 colors with a 480x272 pixel resolution) and measures 3.4 inches tall by 5 inches wide by 0.9 inch deep and weighs 7.9 ounces.

The TomTom GO 740 Live is expected to ship in Q2 2009 for $499 and will be available at major retailers.

Bonnie Cha is a senior editor for CNET, covering smartphones and GPS. When she's not testing the latest gadgets, you can find her chasing after her crazy lab or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California. E-mail Bonnie.