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Frustrating first gps geocaching experience


mattro
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Sorry for a duplicate thread, but it i cannot see my original question on the first thread.

 

Here is the question:

I borrowed a friend's Garmin GPS 72 and tried my hand at geocaching. The problem is the gps will say I am 6 feet from object, then I take 2 steps and it says 40 feet from object. I go to where it says to go, then, 30 feet later I am back at my original location.

 

Today, I stood in 1 place and the gps readings 'moved around' while I was standing still. 5, 10, 30 feet movement witout me taking a step.

 

Very frustrating.

 

Is this the nature of gps? Is this because it is an older unit? Is it atmospheric (it was a beautiful clear day with a light tree canopy).

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Yes...At least it's the nature of consumer GPS...

 

Your location comes with a bubble; a bubble of varying radius...and your location is described as the center of that bubble, but it comes along with an accuracy, which is the radius of that bubble...and as far as the satellites are concerned, you could be anywhere within that bubble.

 

So, it's not at all unusual to have your displayed location shift around.

 

You may notice that the more satellites signal you have, the better your accuracy and the more stable your position.

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When you get within 50 feet of a cache, start looking for possible hiding places. I'll often set my GPS down on a rock or stump and start looking, sometimes checking the GPS. It will usually settle down if left sitting still for a while, but it can still jump around. Lots of variables can affect the reception/accuracy including trees, clouds/weather, and rock formations or buildings. Make sure you start by looking for regular size caches with a low difficulty rating. Good luck!

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Sorry for a duplicate thread, but it i cannot see my original question on the first thread.

 

Here is the question:

I borrowed a friend's Garmin GPS 72 and tried my hand at geocaching. The problem is the gps will say I am 6 feet from object, then I take 2 steps and it says 40 feet from object. I go to where it says to go, then, 30 feet later I am back at my original location.

 

Today, I stood in 1 place and the gps readings 'moved around' while I was standing still. 5, 10, 30 feet movement witout me taking a step.

 

Very frustrating.

 

Is this the nature of gps? Is this because it is an older unit? Is it atmospheric (it was a beautiful clear day with a light tree canopy).

That's how they work. They only get you "close" to the cache. When you get close to the right coordinates, you need to put the GPS in your pocket and look for likely hiding spots.
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GPS is pretty good at getting you to within about 50 feet of any surveyed location on earth. Within that 50 feet is where GPS get squirrelly.

To add more inaccuracy is the fact that the vast majority of geocaches are not surveyed. Their coordinates are usually recorded by GPS units. These coordinates will be off a bit.

All this being said, most geocaches I have found have been within 25 feet.

 

For me the fun is the hike to the geocache and secondarily, the hunt when I get within the the 50 foot radius of the cache.

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Yeah, it is a frustrating deal, but always remember to look around once you get to ground zero. My Garmin will usually lead me to a spot, but change its mind after I stop moving. Then I'll move over there, then way over there and now it's saying to go right back where I started? It is the nature of the beast. Often, if you just set the gps down, it will gather its senses and display a correct reading.

That said, maybe the cache hider didn't do that when they took the coordinates for the hide. There are many ways to obtain accurate coords, and averaging is what I do on a hide. Keep in mind that there can be a 30' radius from ground zero- especially if there are nearby buildings or trees or dramatic terrain changes like cliffs. That's when the hiders gps and yours combined might send you on a wild goose chase.

If I find myself in that situation, the hunt begins. Stop looking at the screen, set the gps down and look around.

My Garmin eTrex Legend has let me down many more times than I can count, but I don't let that slow me down for one second.

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When you get within 50 feet of a cache, start looking for possible hiding places. I'll often set my GPS down on a rock or stump and start looking, sometimes checking the GPS. It will usually settle down if left sitting still for a while, but it can still jump around. Lots of variables can affect the reception/accuracy including trees, clouds/weather, and rock formations or buildings. Make sure you start by looking for regular size caches with a low difficulty rating. Good luck!

 

Pretty much what I do. I can usually accurately get within 20-25 feet of the cache. Once there I start looking for good hiding places. Once you've found a few you can really start thinking, seeing and recognizing hiding places. I've found some pretty creative ways to hide these things. lol Once you realize this finding them is actually pretty easy. If I have a real difficult one I will set the gpsr down for a minute or two, step away and see if it settles into a specific direction and distance. Dependant on the sky-view this is helpful also.

 

The furthest off I've had the coordinates on a cache was about 40-ft and I really think that one was in the wrong place. As there was a similar perfect spot for it right next to the gpsr indicated coordinates. I only found this one as I found a similar one by the same hider right after this. Went back and looked again and found it. So far with a measly 30 finds (6 of those at night) under my belt, I've only not found 2. One of those I went back and found, haven't tried the other one yet.

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We had this problem when we first started. The coordinates often put is in the middle of blackberries, or on the other side of the stream and when we crossed over it pointed back to the other side. When we found out that the GPSr only got us close we looked at clues.

 

A big help for us was checking the logs. Our first four caches had been vandalized or removed for maintenance. (I just know how to pick 'em, I guess). We looked for some of those caches on our hands and knees for 4 hours -- very frustrating. Someone mentioned that we need go out with experienced cachers to help get the hang of things --- an excellent suggestion.

 

Once we started looking for real live caches and getting close with the GPSr we started finding them. The first find felt very good and we are getting better at scoping out hiding places. Don't give up.

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I rarely look at the "GPS accuracy" reading. I just get in the immediate vicinity and then look for the hiding spot. If I tried to "zero in" on coords, I would end up walking in circles before attempting the cache and the once I decided to attempt it, I would find it within 5 mins.

 

moral of the story: get to the site. then drop the GPS and start looking

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Great info! Thanks.

 

I guess being an IT guy and finially getting my hands on a gps for the first time, my expectations were a little high.

 

You say, set the gps down. I thought you had to be moving for the gps to get accurate data? Or is that just for compass, etc.

 

If sat still, it will get better stationary coordinates? thanks

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I have a 60CSx and went out on Sat. here in Middle Georgia. Something was definitely goin on with the satellites this past weekend. I have never seen mine act like it did this past wekend.

 

I noticed the same thing with my 60Csx. It seems like it is taking a very long time to acquire satellites even in a clear and unobstructed view. And when I would get close to the cache area, it was spinning around more than usual.

 

I have a friend who has just started caching with me and no matter how many times I say the gps will only be accurate within 30' or so, she keeps trying to get it to zero in exactly on the cache. I get close, start looking and find the cache while she is still going in circles. She then wants to know how I keep finding the caches! On the other hand, she has found some micros that I have logged DNFs on.

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I'm not familiar with that GPSr. If that is an older model, your experience might be much better with a newer GPS unit with a "high sensitivity" receiver.

 

All the advice given here is excellent, however I would add one more suggestion. Occasionally, if the cache is located in a rockpile, or other challenging location, where the arrow is turning one direction, then the other, and there is a 30' dropoff where the GPSr wants you to go, try the "match the numbers" technique. Change to the satellite page and match up the cache coordinate numbers. I found one cache like that in just a few minutes. Other cachers had lots of trouble with that one.

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Excellent tip, Miragee. I have used that method several times.

 

Also, don't attempt to walk directly to ground zero (GZ), but instead circle a bit. See where the arrow points to from several points of the compass, minimum of 2. Triangulate in this fashion, pick an object near there, or place a member of your party there, and use this point as the center of your search.

 

For example, a cache may be hidden just inside the tree line. Walk parallel to the tree line about 50 feet out, and see where the arrow points to. (Say, center about 10 feet behind that bush with the red berries).

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I'd add to that with this warning....Don't forget to retrieve the GPS after you've found the cache. Quite a few cachers have left the scene of a cache without their reciever and have been unable to find it again. Sometimes another cacher finds it and contacts the owner if they can and sometimes it just disappears for unknown reason(s),(muggles, no contact info on/in unit, "finders keepers rule")

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High sensitivity receivers are my new best friend. We're really happy with our new Summit HC.

 

Also keep in mind that around large rock formations, the signal can get really squirrely because it will reflect off the rocks. You'll have a much larger search area if the cache is hidden in a boulder field. In some cases like that, we'll find the cache more than fifty feet from the listed coordinates. Keep an eye on your track log and see if, while you're running around trying to get a firm reading, there's one location it keeps coming back to.

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