Geocaching with Android: what is it and the best apps to use

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There are many uses for the GPS system in your Android phone. There are the obvious ones, like satnav and checking in at locations via social services such as Foursquare, and there are more obscure ones, too.

One is called geocaching, a popular pastime that can add a touch of adventure to your hikes and bike rides.

In essence geocahcing is a cross between a hike and a treasure hunt, in which players set up caches all around the world and share their locations for others to find. Caches might consist of valuable items or simply a logbook into which players can record the time they found it. To keep the game alive players encouraged to hide their own caches, in as obscure a place as they can.

If you are not familiar with the world of GPS you might be surprised to learn just how big geocaching actually is.

At the time of writing the home of the sport listed no fewer than 32000 caches running concurrently in the UK. All this just serves to increase the probability that that group of hikers you saw or that couple in the country pub had a GPS receiver in their pocket as they were tracking down some precious (or not so precious) artefact. Not that it is restricted to the countryside either.

Getting started with geocaching is as easy as you would expect for such an easygoing sport. There are no rules to speak of, you merely need to find a cache you wish to hunt for then make sure your phone is fully charged and head out.

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You’ll either need coordinates and a GPS app to enter them in, or there’s an official app from, the spiritual home of the hobby, which is priced at £6.99 plus an ongoing subscription to the service.

There’s a wide selection of geocaching apps for all levels of user. Geocache Hunter Free is a free tool that makes use of your subscription and will highlight nearby caches and guide you to them on a map. GPS Essentials enables you to enter coordinates for caches manually, and then proceed towards them via map.

And you shouldn’t forget the old standard, Google Maps. The app on Android may be a predominantly urban affair, but typing coordinates straight into Maps does work. If you turn on the Terrain view—open the sidebar from the left and select Terrain—you’ll get a view that is ideal for use off the beaten track. Naturally, some parts of the countryside might be lacking in network coverage, so download maps—and perform your coordinates search—before you set off.

Geocaching is a fun way to add extra interest to your trips into the country, especially if you’ve got gadget-addicted kids. The smartphone angle gives them their tech fix while getting them active and enjoying the fresh air.