Do I need a GPS to go Geocaching?

A question that pops up on a regular basis is the subject of a GPSr, and if one is necessary to be able to go geocaching. The simple and short answer is NO. In fact, a smartphone aside, you do not even need to spend any money to geocache! However, before you rush out of the door, lets see if the answer is as clear cut as that.

Groundspeak (the ‘owners’ of Geocaching) provide an app for owners of Apple, Android and Windows  phones which enable you to search you local area for geocaches close by and will show you the ones closest to you.

Should all be pretty self explanatory. It will show you your location, where the nearest caches to you are and will show you a compass to get you going in the right direction. The app is designed to show you non-premium member caches (caches where cache owners have chosen to make paid members only’ and will generally show you beginners caches. A great way to start.

Unless you are on unlimited data, you will want to take the opportunity to download the cache data using your home Wi-Fi before you leave, simply to save your data allowance and time when you are out searching. Simply click ‘Find Nearby Geocaches’ and when the list is created, hit the three dots in the top right of the screen. You then have the option to ‘Save to offline list’ – You can then save a whole batch of caches straight to your phone, including the map of the area you are planning to visit. Fantastic.

So that’s it, you have the App, you have an account and you have downloaded caches to your phone. The next question that generally arises is “what if there is no signal where I am heading” – a common problem, perhaps not so much in the city but certainly possible even these days in the wilds of the countryside. The good news if, you don’t need a phone signal! You have saved the caches already to your phone and your GPS will work independently from the phone signal meaning you can geocache without having to worry. You will not be able to log your finds until you have a signal again, but you can write up your found it logs quite nicely and they will all auto upload when a signal is available.

If this all sounds a little simple and you are looking for a catch, then stop! There really is nothing to getting out and finding your first few. One of the only things that you need to be wary of is the drain that this phone activity may have on your battery. You will already be aware of how quickly the battery can drain, so it may be best to switch to airplane mode (or whatever the Android equivalent is) to save what battery you do have. Many people will arm themselves with an external power supply for their smartphone and one of the well know names in this field is Anker which will allow you to top your phone battery up two or three times if needed for less than £20

So I don’t need a GPS right? Maybe….


I have been geocaching since Feb 2012 having lots of fun discovering new places that I may otherwise have missed.