Smartphone Caching- Some thoughts…

So simple even a monkey could do it!

So simple even a monkey could do it!

Cecil would probably rant about this topic because as more experienced, aka “older,” cachers have discovered there is something about people using their smartphones to cache that has led to some grumpiness in geocaching community.  I hear it at events and in social media- Is it really the problem, or is the problem ignorance?

Let’s start off with “It’s a phone not a GPS.” Fine, it’s a GPS enabled device… still it isn’t designed to be a GPS, it’s designed to give you driving directions to Starbucks, and to play Angry Birds. Which means it isn’t as accurate.  You can easily find the Starbucks with it, but a nano might be a bit more difficult.  When I first started caching the advice given to me was when the GPS unit said you were around 20 feet away, start looking.  Better yet, turn off the GPS and start really looking.  This built up your “GeoSense,” but also GPS units weren’t very accurate.  If you are using a smartphone to cache, the same thing applies.  That also means don’t complain to the cache owner that the coordinates were off… Your phone triangulates its location partially by cell phone towers, so maybe it might be off by a few (dozen, hundred, thousand) feet.  So the device you are using, isn’t the best.  Like playing football with a Nerf Football.  You can do it, you can still have fun, but the experience is really different when you are throwing around a real pigskin.

There’s an app for that, and sometimes it doesn’t work too well.  There are a number of apps for geocaching out there, I’m not going to go into them now, each has their pros and cons.  I use the app (Yes, I have been known to cache with my phone- more on that later) and there are some big limitations especially for new cachers.  Here’s what you can do for the most part- find a nearby cache, log said nearby cache, pick up or place a travel bug.  Outside of that… not much else.  What more seasoned cache owners are finding is that new cachers are logging their caches more than once.  Not giving the app time to send all it’s information through the ether.  I have had this happen on a few of Cecil’s caches and he does get annoyed over it.

Cecil also gets annoyed that many phone cachers have really not had any experience with geocaching-  the app has opened our little hobby to some great people who just don’t know any better.  They look for nearby caches and go find them.  If it happens to show up on the map in a color other than green, oh well.  Sadly for Cecil, he has a couple caches that are challenges, or that have specific requirements to be able to log them… The caches are at the posted coordinates, so someone logs them happily, not having met the requirements.  Cecil’s Dr. Who Finale is one that tends to get this more than others.  You can set the app to only show traditionals, but if you don’t know how or even that there are different kinds of caches this would not pop into your mind.

It’s a phone, and yet many of these people have no idea how to communicate.  Since you can even create an account through the app many of these new smartphone cachers have no idea about messages and have probably think that any emails from are just spam trying to get them to upgrade their free account. Hence sending a note to them explaining “politely” how the game is played, and that you need to delete their log is like talking to a wall.

They’ve never seen so all they do is log caches… The app does not allow you (or at least I couldn’t find it) to delete your past logs or even edit them.  A limitation with the app, or the device… but still annoying.  If you only cache with a smartphone and never go to the site, you may not know about how the game is played.  On your smartphone you can see how many you’ve found, you can see your souvenirs so you can show off your “badges” and your numbers, outside of that… does it really matter?

Now I started off caching with an eTrex Legend, moved to an eTrex H and finally an Oregon 550.  For the most part now I do cache with my iPhone and iPad, it is easier for me to log caches and keep things paperless.  I know I can save field notes and log later, but I have moved to keeping the process as quick and simple as possible.  Does this make me a bad person?  I’m a bad person for many other things outside of my caching habits.  It does allow me to understand the process that new cachers who only use their smartphone are going through, plus guessing at what information they may be missing.  So as a teacher I offer this bit of advice for new Cachers who exclusively use their smartphone to cache with:

1. Learn about different cache types and set your app to display the ones you want to find (probably only traditional caches at the beginning)

2. Read the cache description every once in a while (not just the hint)

3. Check your email for friendly notes from other cachers through Groundspeak- You hopefully didn’t use your spam email address when you set up your account, if you did see #4.

4. Go to and look around, watch the intro video, set up your profile, change your email address to one you really use.

5. Go to an event and meet some other cachers.  They are nice and will talk to you for hours about the places they’ve been and the things they’ve seen.  You’ll learn first hand about the really great caches in the area- plus You’ll get a smiley for showing up.  Don’t feel bad about asking questions, we were all new to this at some point so we get it.

As members of the Geocaching community we need to understand that this is a new breed of cacher, and like dealing with a small child we need to show some patience.  While there are some wonderful groups on Facebook that could help out new cachers, I have found that sometimes people in these groups can be rather rude when hiding behind a keyboard and monitor, which is why I suggest to go to an event first.  Now all that said-Do I delete their logs? Yes. Do I send a note explaining why? Yes.  Do I suggest in my note that they attend an event and learn more? Most definitely.  Do I expect a response? No.

So did I miss anything?  If you are new to caching and have a question or two send us a message, or leave them in the comments.

About Bruce

I am cartoonist by night and public school teacher by day. After introducing caching to my wife in 2005 I was left in the dust and in decided to assist Cecil-Evil GeoCaching Monkey on his quest for world domination (in 2009 my wife requested I no longer log any caches under "our" name). I have taken Cecil caching around the country (& England) to many events and have even picked up the Triad (& have the coin to prove it). One of my favorite caches is "Get A Life" GCZJ5Z in the same vein I also enjoyed getting Batman's Batcave & The Gorn's Lair.
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4 Responses to Smartphone Caching- Some thoughts…

  1. algoan says:

    I honestly had NO idea that you could set up an account through the app! Since smartphones and apps came along well after we started this crazy hobby almost 10 years ago, I’m not as familiar with the newer technology… I tend to stick with my trusty Garmin handheld unit, only using apps when I find myself in an area without a PQ loaded (which is rare).

    So then I wonder if those who set up their account and “play” via an app even have a clue that there is a website in existence. I use a few non-GC-related apps and honestly have never even thought to check out whether or not they have a website to further expand my experience with whatever app I’m using… so it appears this lesson applies to more than just the Geocaching apps out there!

  2. stac3031 says:

    I am new to this and enjoyed reading this aritcle. Although it did make me feel dumb for using my phone. I thought I was being cool by downloading the app :) When you talk about deleted their logs are you talking about their logs that says they found the cache? If so, why would you delete it? Is it not logged correctly if it is not done from the actual site? I have only logged from my phone and I don’t want people to be bugged by me. I do get on the site often to look around and learn more but it is all done from my phone while I am out. I am learning though that phones are not as accurate and I am looking in to purchasing a gps. If you can give me any advice for being a newbie, I gladly take it! :)

  3. Bruce says:

    stac3031 – First of all welcome to the insanity! Using a smartphone is fine. Like I said, I now use my iPhone for the majority of my caching, and I tend to suggest to people to start off with the app since it is a lot cheaper than a GPS unit, and the free app even walks you through everything. But I wanted everyone to understand that like any software, you need to know how it works. We are actually having a polite discussion about this in a group on Facebook and some people had no idea that you could cache using the app and never have to go to

    As for the deleting logs, this is something a cache owner will rarely do unless they really need to, the reasons could be the cache was logged electronically but the physical log was never signed, there were requirements needed to log the cache that were not met, or the cache was logged multiple times by the same cacher. So when I talk about deleting logs, it would be for one of those reasons. In my case it tends to be because someone has not met the requirements needed for the cache- like finding 100 caches, or something like that. Basically the cacher did not read the description which includes this, usually at the very beginning, before logging the cache. I always send a note first and try to give them some time to delete the log on their own. This was how this discussion started, someone had logged one cache two or three times and when contacted about it, never replied. I decided I should probably check out the app a bit closer.

    Caching with a phone is like getting a Premium Membership to, there will come a time when you realize that there are some limitations that just can’t be overcome. You’ll be going on vacation to someplace with really bad cell phone reception, or you’ll want to create a list of caches for a trip. Then you make the decision to spend the money. As for type of GPS unit- Each has their supporters I use a Garmin, mostly because I always have so I’m used to how it works.

    As more questions come up keep asking them or drop by one of the many events and talk with some other cachers, we really are nice people.

  4. Bruce says:

    After writing this I decided I probably should check back on a few of Cecil’s challenges to see if I needed to contact anyone- 4 people received this note today from Cecil

    “While checking logs on my caches I noticed that you logged GC1TXYN Challenge of the Century: 1/1 This happens to be a non-traditional Challenge Cache (hence the ? icon or blue color on most phone apps) and therefore has alternate logging requirements. As stated in the description, to log this cache you need to have found 100 caches with a difficulty and terrain value of 1/1. I’m sorry but until you meet the logging requirements I will need to delete your log. I’m sure you’ll meet the logging requirements soon. There are some challenge caches in the area (Challenge of the Decade Series ) which you may qualify so I suggest you seek them out. I hope you are finding Geocaching as enjoyable as I do, and I am sorry that I need to delete your log- but rules are rules.

    May your logs always be dry.


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