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mcqdorothy

phone's GPS probably not accurate enough?

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So, I was very excited to try and log my first two caches today at a park near my house. I remember about 10 years ago doing something called 'letterboxing' where you print out directions from the Internet and they walk you to the cache (go 50 ft down the trail till the big oak tree, go 20 paces towards the river, etc) and had fun and success with that. Unfortunately I had no success today attempting geocaching with the app. I'm reading in these forums that there are people who find caches with just their phone GPS, so I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong, or if I just have the wrong phone, or what?

 

My phone is an Samsung Galaxy 4 Mini, I rarely use the GPS but it's good enough for street navigation and was pretty good at finding me on the trails. I have the basic version of the geocaching app (boy am I glad I didn't pay for the full version if this problem is going to persist). For both caches, I got close enough that the phone popped up "congrats, you are close to the cache, now look at the cache description for more info," and the phone said I was within 50 feet of the cache. But 50 feet which way? It said 50 feet east, so I walked a few feet east, and then it said 30 feet west. Ok, walk west. Now 60 feet east. Wait, that's in the middle of the lake. Move the phone around to try and get better signal. Alright, 20 feet west. Okay, walk west. Now 180 feet south. What?! I put it in my pocket and just poked around for a while, couldn't find anything. Same with the second cache I tried. Neither of the hints were helpful- one was about a stump when there were dozens of stumps around, and I looked in more than a few of them (sigh)

 

So... is a GPSr really necessary, are the people who say they only use phone GPS lying, is my phone bad, what am I doing wrong? :(

 

Thanks in advance for reading and for any help or suggestions!

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Your phone GPS (in the S4) is very good. You can expect no worrs than 5m accuracy with reasonable conditions. Things that will reduce your accuracy are: Tree cover, nearby buildings (blocking the view of satellites and causing multi-path), atmospheric distortion etc.

 

More likely, you are just new, and need more practice.

 

First, make sure your first few caches are "Regular Size", or maybe "Small". Definatly not "Micro". Look for caches with 1, 1.5 or maybe 2 star difficulty rating. Don't search for any with a higher rating until you have found a few.

 

When your GPS shows you reached ground zero (GZ), put it away and start looking. Your GPS will rarely pin point exacly where a cache is. Look around about a 5m radius from your GZ.

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I find that my iPhone is more accurate than my Magellan eXplorist GPSr and my husband's Samsung is quicker to settle and more accurate than both. The Magellan can take a long time to settle and seems to be more affected by surrounding buildings, trees etc than the phones.

 

Again, it is a case of getting used to your device and working with it to get the best results.

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are the people who say they only use phone GPS lying

 

Here in the "Getting Started" forum, people are supposed to be polite and helpful. No controversy, no snark, no unpleasantness allowed.

 

Everywhere on the forum, and on pretty much any other forum, it's considered quite rude to accuse people of lying, I would think.

 

B.

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I find that my iPhone is more accurate than my Magellan eXplorist GPSr and my husband's Samsung is quicker to settle and more accurate than both. The Magellan can take a long time to settle and seems to be more affected by surrounding buildings, trees etc than the phones.

 

Again, it is a case of getting used to your device and working with it to get the best results.

I think what you will find is that cell phones can use A-GPS when in cell phone coverage, allowing them to lock very quickly.

 

Most cell phones are just as accuriate as handheld GPS, but not as sencitive. The result is poor performance under tree cover etc. That may or may not hav changed with the newer phones. My new Samsung S5 I haven't tried out in the trees yet.

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The simplest advice --

 

When your device (be it a phone or a dedicated unit) starts sending you this way, then that way, oops... over here, Nah... over there -- it's time to put it away and LOOK for the cache, rather than to study the device. Truth be known, you probably should've started looking for the cache at "congrats".

 

Being new to this, you are probably expecting the device will take you to the cache. Well, it won't! Close yes -- in most cases. Occasionally it MAY put you directly in front of the cache... just don't count on it.

 

You are using a consumer-grade device. It is incapable of delivering you to a specific point with any degree of consistency.

It's just the nature of the beast (the GPS system as a whole). You will learn (with more practice) what it will and won't do, upon which time your success will improve markedly.

 

Next -- realize that caches are (usually) hidden, sometimes in plain sight (those are the hardest to find). Many of them are hidden extremely well, either by hanging high in a tree or on a post, beneath leaves or sticks, under a bench (think magnetic). The smaller the cache, generally the more difficult to find. Then (yup, there's more...), consider HOW it may be hidden. It is not uncommon to have had the cache in-hand and not even recognize the fact that it is indeed what you seek. Camouflage at it's finest -- have it look to be what it is not!

 

A word worth noting -- when the hunt (remember, it is a hunt) stops being fun. Stop! Leave it. There are lots of caches out there... go after a different one. You can always return later, with a rested and fresh mind (it works!).

Edited by Gitchee-Gummee

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Unfortunately I had no success today attempting geocaching with the app. I'm reading in these forums that there are people who find caches with just their phone GPS, so I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong, or if I just have the wrong phone, or what?
The GPS antenna on a smartphone uses a lot of power, so some phones are shipped with the GPS antenna disabled by default. Location services then use other systems that are much less reliable (cell tower triangulation, wifi networks). These systems are fine for street navigation and the like, but they aren't really good enough for geocaching. So it's worth double-checking your configuration settings to make sure that the GPS antenna really is on.

 

Also, here are some other beginners tips that I've posted to these forums before:

 

A common recommendation for beginners is to stick with small small.gif size, regular regular.gif size, and large large.gif size caches. Until you're more experienced, avoid micro micro.gif size caches, some of which are smaller than most beginners can imagine (sometimes called "nanos"). Save those for later, after you have some experience.

 

Also, stick with caches that have a difficulty rating of no more than 2 stars stars2.gif. Save the more difficult ones for later. You may also want to choose caches with easy terrain ratings. (The difficulty rating tells you how hard it is to find the cache once you get there. The terrain rating tells you how hard it is to get there.) And it is often best to start with traditional 2.gif caches, which will be at the published coordinates. Multi-caches 3.gif or mystery/puzzle caches 8.gif or other cache types can require more work just to figure out where the container is located.

 

Under ideal conditions, a consumer GPSr will be accurate to about 3m (10ft). That applies both to your device, and to the cache owner’s device, so you may find the container 5-6m (16-20ft) from ground zero under ideal conditions. Under less than ideal conditions, both GPSr readings can be much less accurate. Once you get within that distance of ground zero, put your device away and look around for places where a container could be hidden.

 

Where would you hide something? Do you notice anything unusual? Is anything too new, too old, too organized (e.g., UPS: an Unnatural Pile of Sticks/Stones), too symmetrical, not quite the right color or shape, etc.? Don’t look only on the ground; the cache may be knee-level, waist-level, eye-level, or overhead. How might the container be secured in place? With magnets? With a hook? With string? With fishing line? With something else? Does anything move when you touch it? (Be careful when touching things though.)

 

Go ahead and read the cache's additional hints (if provided), and read the past logs and look at any photos in the cache's image gallery. They may help you understand what you're looking for, and how/where it may be hidden. It may also help to look at some of the cache containers available online. For example, check out the cache containers sold by Groundspeak. Also, take a look at the Pictures - Cool Cache Containers (CCC's) thread in the forums, and check out some geocaching videos on YouTube.

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Go into your settings, Then Location, Then under mode select High Accuracy. I think that might help. It is probably set to power saving or something. Then you have to read the description. Some stuff has changed after letterboxing and you might be looking for something the size of a pencil eraser that is well camouflaged.

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7 replies so far, and no one has attacked the OP, even after their calling some of us liars. Well done to those who have tried to help the new cacher! As others have stated, when the beginner app says 'congrats....' you should start looking for the cache. If your phone can get 30' (10 meter) accuracy in optimal conditions like most GPSr can obtain (which is on the BEST end of the spectrum of accuracy for consumer-grade GPS units), and the cache placer has the same accuracy, you can be 60' (20 meters) away from the cache. This game is not an exact science, it requires you to search for the hidden container somewhere at or near the point your device says you have arrived at the posted coordinates.

 

Good luck and welcome to the hobby.

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So, I was very excited to try and log my first two caches today at a park near my house. I remember about 10 years ago doing something called 'letterboxing' where you print out directions from the Internet and they walk you to the cache (go 50 ft down the trail till the big oak tree, go 20 paces towards the river, etc) and had fun and success with that. Unfortunately I had no success today attempting geocaching with the app. I'm reading in these forums that there are people who find caches with just their phone GPS, so I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong, or if I just have the wrong phone, or what?

 

My phone is an Samsung Galaxy 4 Mini, I rarely use the GPS but it's good enough for street navigation and was pretty good at finding me on the trails. I have the basic version of the geocaching app (boy am I glad I didn't pay for the full version if this problem is going to persist). For both caches, I got close enough that the phone popped up "congrats, you are close to the cache, now look at the cache description for more info," and the phone said I was within 50 feet of the cache. But 50 feet which way? It said 50 feet east, so I walked a few feet east, and then it said 30 feet west. Ok, walk west. Now 60 feet east. Wait, that's in the middle of the lake. Move the phone around to try and get better signal. Alright, 20 feet west. Okay, walk west. Now 180 feet south. What?! I put it in my pocket and just poked around for a while, couldn't find anything. Same with the second cache I tried. Neither of the hints were helpful- one was about a stump when there were dozens of stumps around, and I looked in more than a few of them (sigh)

 

So... is a GPSr really necessary, are the people who say they only use phone GPS lying, is my phone bad, what am I doing wrong? :(

 

Thanks in advance for reading and for any help or suggestions!

 

I only use a dedicated GPSr to cache! I have tried my Galaxy, but never have any luck with it, but I know others that only use their smart phone, and find caches as easily as I do! I've tried many times with my phone, and several different geocaching apps, but have finally given up trying to do it with my phone, and use it for online mapping when in the field. Many times it comes down to what you are used to, and knowing how your unit works. When I'm with someone that finds caches with their phone, I just shake my head with wonder, because for me it just doesn't happen, but no lying involved, because they are obviously doing it right there in front of me, and sometimes zeroing in on GZ quicker!

 

The characteristics you describe above happen all the time ... with either hand-held GPSr or smart phone! Other times, you will be within 10 feet or less, and be able to pick out the hiding spot easily. That's the nature of the game. There are a lot of variables ... whatever antenna you might have on whatever unit you're using, the atmospheric conditions, the tree cover, etc. etc. Also, all of these variables are there for whoever hid the cache, which can greatly increase the error factor. As you find more caches, you will be able to more easily see the hiding spot during the times your unit isn't getting you very close. That's referred to as Geosense .... which comes with experience. Always ... when my unit tells me I'm at GZ (Ground Zero), or close, I stop looking at it (because it will often jump around as you describe) and just look for the most likely hiding spot. On really bad bounce days, I find the best is to move away some distance, and walk again toward GZ, and once it tells me I'm close, don't keep looking at it and following the jumps. That will just confuse you more. Put it away at that point and start looking. And sometimes, even with the best developed geosense, and caching experience, you just can't find it!

If it was always easy, there would be no challenge, and stop being fun.

 

So ... keep trying. Start with easier difficulty/terrain levels and maybe more open areas until you get used to your phone's characteristics. Maybe you'll become one of those strange (to me) creatures that cache only with their cell phones. :)

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I use a GPS for caching - started with the Magellan GC, but have graduated to the Garmin 62s. As I am too cheap to spring for a data plan for my phone - my internet provider has loads of WiFi hotspots, so I'm lucky - I have only used it to find a few caches. Each to their own, find what suits you.

I do have to say that I prefer the battery life and ruggedness of my Garmin.

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Unfortunately I had no success today attempting geocaching with the app. I'm reading in these forums that there are people who find caches with just their phone GPS, so I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong, or if I just have the wrong phone, or what?
The GPS antenna on a smartphone uses a lot of power, so some phones are shipped with the GPS antenna disabled by default. Location services then use other systems that are much less reliable (cell tower triangulation, wifi networks). These systems are fine for street navigation and the like, but they aren't really good enough for geocaching. So it's worth double-checking your configuration settings to make sure that the GPS antenna really is on.

 

Also, here are some other beginners tips that I've posted to these forums before:

 

A common recommendation for beginners is to stick with small small.gif size, regular regular.gif size, and large large.gif size caches. Until you're more experienced, avoid micro micro.gif size caches, some of which are smaller than most beginners can imagine (sometimes called "nanos"). Save those for later, after you have some experience.

 

Also, stick with caches that have a difficulty rating of no more than 2 stars stars2.gif. Save the more difficult ones for later. You may also want to choose caches with easy terrain ratings. (The difficulty rating tells you how hard it is to find the cache once you get there. The terrain rating tells you how hard it is to get there.) And it is often best to start with traditional 2.gif caches, which will be at the published coordinates. Multi-caches 3.gif or mystery/puzzle caches 8.gif or other cache types can require more work just to figure out where the container is located.

 

Under ideal conditions, a consumer GPSr will be accurate to about 3m (10ft). That applies both to your device, and to the cache owner’s device, so you may find the container 5-6m (16-20ft) from ground zero under ideal conditions. Under less than ideal conditions, both GPSr readings can be much less accurate. Once you get within that distance of ground zero, put your device away and look around for places where a container could be hidden.

 

Where would you hide something? Do you notice anything unusual? Is anything too new, too old, too organized (e.g., UPS: an Unnatural Pile of Sticks/Stones), too symmetrical, not quite the right color or shape, etc.? Don’t look only on the ground; the cache may be knee-level, waist-level, eye-level, or overhead. How might the container be secured in place? With magnets? With a hook? With string? With fishing line? With something else? Does anything move when you touch it? (Be careful when touching things though.)

 

Go ahead and read the cache's additional hints (if provided), and read the past logs and look at any photos in the cache's image gallery. They may help you understand what you're looking for, and how/where it may be hidden. It may also help to look at some of the cache containers available online. For example, check out the cache containers sold by Groundspeak. Also, take a look at the Pictures - Cool Cache Containers (CCC's) thread in the forums, and check out some geocaching videos on YouTube.

 

Great tips, thank you! I'm going to try and find my first cache today. Very helpful advice. Of course, my directions are all in German so there's that added challenge. ;)

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I'd be one of those people that almost exclusively uses their cell phone when on the hunt for a geocache - if anything, it's the ease of use and the ability to have the app right at hand is what makes using my cell phone my preferred method. This is mostly because most of the locations I seek out have good cell phone coverage and I always have a charging method available when proceeding to the next find and I can log my find almost right when I've located the geocache.

 

Now when placing geocaches, I resort to two dedicated handheld GPS devices as well as my cell phone so as to get a good average between the three devices. I also fall back to dedicating GPS devices when geocaching in more remote areas but in the city (Calgary), it always my Samsung S3 that I use and it's never failed me in getting me almost on top of a geocache that I'm looking for.

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Duplicate post, sorry.

Edited by speedog

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I have just started hunting Cache's, that was one of the questions I had. I used the App that I d/l on my Samsung S5. The app brought me to within 3 feet of the Cache. this was in more of an urban area. Now I did find one in a more a of a rural area which brought me to the cache with 10 feet.

 

Is there a good GPS type app to download on to the phone, where I can enter the coordinates??

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It will certainly get you close enough for a proper search, though you may find that you need to keep it plugged in in the car if you plan an extended day. With the gps running and screen lit for longer than normal periods, you'll find the battery won't last as long as you would normally experience.

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I have just started hunting Cache's, that was one of the questions I had. I used the App that I d/l on my Samsung S5. The app brought me to within 3 feet of the Cache. this was in more of an urban area. Now I did find one in a more a of a rural area which brought me to the cache with 10 feet.

 

Is there a good GPS type app to download on to the phone, where I can enter the coordinates??

 

The geocaching app is as accurate as any other app you might download-- an app won't make the hardware more accurate. But... the Android app is missing the option to input puzzle solutions, and next legs for multi's. I use Backpacker GPS Pro for that. Backpacker also has a free version, but I haven't tried it. I assume it also allows you to enter coordinates, but I don't know for sure.

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Unless something has changed, the 'official' app also omits the option for waypoint averaging when placing caches. As anyone who has walked to a position and observed coordinate 'drift' knows, a 'snapshot' of the current location isn't always the most accurate way of recording position.

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I've used a smartphone for all 58 of my finds. When I can't find a cache it's always because it's something I'm doing wrong. I'm really guilty of thinking the phone is going to take me right to the cache. I can't tell you the number of times I fumble around looking forever and found the cache the second I stopped looking at my phone.

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I am a newbie too. I need to read the book. It is like Minecraft. I did not know I could use a bed to move my re-spawn point. Which made me into a hardcore

Miner. I like to discover on my own, but can it be frustration walking in circles for awhile. Asking myself how veterans cachers could get lots of cache in one day. I have been looking in all the wrong places.

 

When I found a cache the compass said I was 20m away.

I believe the GPS on Samsung Galaxy 3 did not work

with tree cover, and in the creek valley.

When I used it on the top off the cliff the GPS worked better.

 

Hunting is a Ninja skill and Sherlock Holmes skills are required.

I am learning with each find and did not find. I have so many cool places to take friends when we need an adventure. Plus I can stop by a did not find, and maybe get someone else into it. I think I might have converted someone today. She said she was going to get her sons to do it. When the cache is near a creek and the GPS does not work properly it is difficult to do it alone. I always find something cool though. @dumachael

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