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Do You Even Need A Gps These Days?


archvillain
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I've been interested in geocaching for a few years, but I haven't got a GPS. I've been relucatant to buy one because I've noticed I read maps much better than most people, (maybe because I used to be into orienteering) and in the past when I've used gadgets to surplant an oldskool skill, I've noticed that the skill gets rusty and I eventually end up with less than I had.

 

With the advent of Google Maps arial photos, it seems that in urban areas where the resolution is highest, you get a more precise location from Google Maps than what a basic GPS might offer. So I'm wondering if anyone has ditched the GPS altogether and gone orienteering for geocaches?

 

What is the margin of error for coordinates on GoogleMaps arial photos?

 

I haven't tried it yet. I expect it will be more challenging, as looking up some caches on GoogleMaps, trees or forested areas will often obscure any ground-level cues immediately around the cache, and you'll have to determine your exact location in these areas the oldschool way. I figure this could be a good way for me to get into geocaching without having my skills rust up, and was curious if anyone else is doing this, ie whether it works. (It wouldn't take much innacuracy in Google Maps to make it quite difficult, for example)

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We've made a couple of finds using USA Photomaps. Other cachers poopoo us for this saying 'Oooh, use a compass it's a lot harder.' Well we didn't even use a compass, and the compass users sure have a map with 'em. So, to answer your question, you could find caches no sweat without a GPS.

 

- T of TandS

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There are a lot of people who go caching without a GPS. One guy has even found over 1000 caches that way.

 

I don't know about google's maps being any more help than a topo for me, though. I'm not in an urban area, and the resolution is very poor here.

 

Bret

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Remember that Google is still in beta. In my area, some of the photos are in NAD-27, others in WGS-84. Google says that everything should be WGS-84, so I guess that's some of what they have to fix.

 

If you're not familiar with it, check out lostoutdoors.com's Map Maker. It's older USGS data, but it has both aerial photos and topo maps. It's consistent WGS-84, so no errors of that type. You can copy, paste, and scale their images into a document for printing. Unless an area has some new development, I prefer this site to the others.

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As near as I can tell, very few cachers hunt caches w/out using a GPSr. I suppose that if that is the way that you want to do it then go for it. To each his/her own. "a lot" is a matter of opinion and really should not be important to someone who has a burning desire to find caches in this manner. :( I'd lke to know what % of the total population of cache hunters actually hunt w/out using a GPSr. I wonder how that information would be gathered? :laughing: A lot of people don't geocache at all, but you are welcome to do it, I'm quite certain about that. :laughing:

Edited by Team Cotati
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To make it worse, Google Maps is in Tokyo datum here in Japan, so linked straight off web pages doesn't do me any good without conversion. Google Earth is not in Tokyo Datum, but if you're not in Tokyo, the resolution will do you no good for caching, unless you got super eagle eyes.

 

VW

 

Edited to say that Google Earth is not Tokyo Datum.

Edited by NomadVW
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I'm a professional geographer and a recreational geocacher. I use a GPSr a lot, in fact I'm rarely without it, and find that it complements rather than hinders my map skills. GPSrs are very convenient and, IMHO, much easier to navigate with, than paper maps. You can locate yourself and/or the object of your desires in seconds, change the map scale, see the vertical profile, create a permanent route, etc. in a small, portable unit. Maps require a compass and the visual clues need for orientation are often lacking (more often than signal loss by far). Use both, but don't shy away from the available technology. :rolleyes:

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I'm with Zen Cooker. Personally, I can't imagine trying to find a cache without my GPSr. Some of them are very hard to find even with a GPSr getting you within seven feet of its location. :rolleyes:

 

I suppose if you don't mind printing out maps of each cache location, it can be done, but I love being able to check for "nearest" in my GPSr, then checking its description in my Palm, and then heading off in that direction.

 

Sure saves on ink and paper that way. Besides, I love the gadgets. <_<

 

Oh . . . I also have a very slow dialup connection. By the time the maps load on my computer, I can be halfway down the hill on my way to the cache. :blink:

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I'm with Zen Cooker. Personally, I can't imagine trying to find a cache without my GPSr. Some of them are very hard to find even with a GPSr getting you within seven feet of its location.
Your example isn't a navigation problem, it's a camo problem. Someone with a map or aerial photo (photo in this case, a trail and trail bend and the shadow of the berm mentioned in the hint are very clear in the Google photo) could get to that same spot and wander around in circles just like some of those with a GPS have done.

 

I'd lke to know what % of the total population of cache hunters actually hunt w/out using a GPSr. I wonder how that information would be gathered.
I don't think I've seen more than a dozen cacher names bandied about in the forums as doing this consistently without GPS, and I tend to follow such threads closely since I'm one of them. Advance planning is a problem, since maps have to be printed. I have missed a couple of chances to cache for not having maps printed for an area where I have wound up while traveling. But every method has its tradeoffs.

 

If when you plant a cache you get rave reviews on your accuracy from the coords you pulled from a map then you are an ace.
Do I get a prize? :wacko:

 

Sure saves on ink and paper that way.
I've bought one pack of batteries in the past 2 years, and that was for a flashlight.
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. . .
Sure saves on ink and paper that way.

I've bought one pack of batteries in the past 2 years, and that was for a flashlight.

My 15-minute Energizer charger, that came with four 2300 mAmp NiMH batteries, cost about 2/3 the price of one black ink cartridge . . .

 

The batteries will last for a long, long time, compared to one ink cartridge. :wacko:

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Definite KUDOS go out to those cachers who find caches in the woods without the GPSr. Not my idea of fun.

 

However, in an urban setting it could be feasible to have a decent cache finding day without a GPSr if you know what you are looking for as far as what type of container. Still don't know if *I* would bother, and with low-end GPSr's becoming more affordable, why not use the technology?

 

Personally I like playing with the satellites while walking in the woods. :wacko:

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To make it worse, Google Maps is in Tokyo datum here in Japan, so linked straight off web pages doesn't do me any good without conversion. Google Earth is not in Tokyo Datum, but if you're not in Tokyo, the resolution will do you no good for caching, unless you got super eagle eyes.

 

VW

 

Edited to say that Google Earth is not Tokyo Datum.

There are tools available (including online) that will convert WGS84 to Tokyo Datum, and vice versa. Unfortunately, I left the URL on the computer I used in Japan.

 

Some GPSr (my eTrex Summit) can do the conversion, too, but in the context of this thread, I'm assuming it's not available. :lol:

 

For urban caches, using Yahoo! Japan or Mapion maps are quite sufficient in pinpointing hide locations.

 

You still have to synthesize and translate map information to what you see on the ground. For most of us, that's pretty easy but surprisingly, some people lack that skill, especially the video game generation- GPSr to the rescue!

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There are tools available (including online) that will convert WGS84 to Tokyo Datum, and vice versa. Unfortunately, I left the URL on the computer I used in Japan.

 

Some GPSr (my eTrex Summit) can do the conversion, too, but in the context of this thread, I'm assuming it's not available. :D

Indeed, the tools are definitely out there. The conversion isn't a particular mathematical difficulty, either. The Greasemonkey tools in my signature do the conversions for me here, and I have a similar greasemonkey tool for MW and Dash point maps. Everything else I do I use GTM or an excel spreadsheet I made to do the changes for Mapion points. I'm hoping Google Maps will soon add a "datum conversion" argument for URLs so I can just toss that on. Until then, the maps/sat images are on separate datums unless you get into using the API.

 

All that being said. If you're not in the states, I can't imagine being really good at caching without a GPSr unless it's a clearly defined location based of a clearly defined topographical feature. It's one thing to find a cache in a park or at the summit. It's another thing to do pace counts and bearings to a point in the middle of the woods on pure orienteering. Especially if you don't have a solid defined start point.

 

VW

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Between the maps and the force you can find a lot of caches without a GPS.  If when you plant a cache you get rave reviews on your accuracy from the coords you pulled from a map then you are an ace.

All the coordinates for caches I have hidden are from Lostoutdoors.com photos. Most of my finds are from the same source and I still don't own a GPS. Strange problem is that some of the toughest ones to find are those stupid shopping mall micros because the mall was built after the photo was taken. If you have orienteered before, this game is usually much easier.

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I'm with Zen Cooker. Personally, I can't imagine trying to find a cache without my GPSr. Some of them are very hard to find even with a GPSr getting you within seven feet of its location. :laughing:

 

I

Hummm checked out your link to the cache... There are two dark splotches which could be shrubs of some type .. whatever they are, if they are still there, just go across the path from them to the SE of the Southeastern one.. continue about 18 meters and look around. If they are gone the trail still gives away the location especially when compared with all the other tracks in the area.

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.... It's one thing to find a cache in a park or at the summit. It's another thing to do pace counts and bearings to a point in the middle of the woods on pure orienteering.  Especially if you don't have a solid defined start point.

 

VW

Yes a starting point (attack point) is essential. My best (luckiest) find to date was a half mile bearing through woods without a trail in mid-calf snow, coming to a rock field and being able to "hear" the cache from the unusual sound my ski pole made on the rock that covered it. Usually the photo gives me an attack point much closer the target.

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