Jump to content

Classic Newbie Error


teamh3
Followers 2

Recommended Posts

Well guys my GPS arrived (a day early I might add) and I wasted no time heading off to a park 2 miles down the road that held the closest cache to me. I took my Pastor (who is a friend of mine and just as excited about geocaching) well 45 min later and 2.8 miles of walking around in circles we had to give up (it was getting dark) I double checked the coords 5 times before starting off and the directions at first seemed to make sence however, it was long before I started getting strange readings from the GPS when I got down to about 150 feet away the arrow would suddenly flip to a new heading and a new distance. It would say north 95ft i would take two steps and it would say west 135 ft, a few more steps and it was east 65 ft.

 

I realize that this way my first time usign a GPS and I dont know much about them so i hope that some of you more experienced cachers can help me out. is there a certaint way you have to hold them? I have the Garmin Etrex. i do like it and even if I didnt find the cache I had a blast.

 

P.s. the other classic mistake I made is that for my first cache i picked one that was rated as a 3/4! I picked it cause it was the closest one to my home. I will pay much more attention to the ratings in the future.

Link to comment

As for the erratic readings on your GPSr, that can be fairly common depending on how good of a lock you have on the sats. The way to over come this is when you get within 100 feet or so look at where the arrow is pointing and take a bearing.

 

Also you might want to stick with caches rated a difficulty level 1 and work your way up.

 

El Diablo

Link to comment

The GPS senses your direction of travel, or heading, by noting your movement and then aligning the pointer accordingly. If you are starting and stopping a lot, as is the case for newbies especially, the arrow has no idea where to point. Walking at a steady pace for a fair distance usually straightens things out. I then keep track of the direction of the arrow the next time I need to stop (veterans get confused, too, and everyone has to step over dead trees or figure out how to get across the stream). I will use my compass to be sure I stay on the correct bearing.

 

We call this phenomenon "chasing the arrow" and it is quite common. Once you learn to just let the GPS guide you into the general area, and then IGNORE it while you ask yourself, "where would I hide something?", you will do just fine.

Link to comment

Your compass is your friend.

 

As KA says, most GPS receivers have a 'compass arrow' that shows your direction of travel, but it is not a *real* compass, and it seems to really confuse people at first. It calculates your direction based on the last few positions, and attempts to show you direction and bearing to the waypoint. It works a lot better when you are in motion.

 

You should teach yourself how to triangulate. Stop a ways away (about 100 feet is good), read the bearing (not heading) on the GPS, and shoot that bearing with a compass. Then move to the side a ways, and repeat. Note where the two bearings cross, and begin your search there. This is good practice for the harder caches, and you'll get a good feel for how your GPS behaves.

Link to comment
<snip>

 

We call this phenomenon "chasing the arrow" and it is quite common. Once you learn to just let the GPS guide you into the general area, and then IGNORE it while you ask yourself, "where would I hide something?", you will do just fine.

Things like

 

fallen tree limbs that just happend to fall in a nice neat pile.

 

a large pine cone and the only trees around are Oak

 

These are examples of things that geocachers learn to notice, but "most" of the casual passer by will not even notice.

Link to comment
I started getting strange readings from the GPS when I got down to about 150 feet away the arrow would suddenly flip to a new heading and a new distance. It would say north 95ft i would take two steps and it would say west 135 ft, a few more steps and it was east 65 ft.

 

I realize that this way my first time usign a GPS and I dont know much about them so i hope that some of you more experienced cachers can help me out. is there a certaint way you have to hold them?

As Keystone Approver says your heading (the direction you are moving) requires you be moving so there are a number of factors that can cause it to appear to jump around. However the distance is based on your location and the location of the cache, both of which the GPSr should know. Early on I had an experience somewhat like yours but it wasn't that extreme. Jumping from 135' to 65' is more than I've seen. I can imagine this in an area with a lot of inteference that is somehow jamming the gadget, but I've never seen it. I've seen it wander, but not jump like that.

 

Soon after I started, blindleader & EScout suggested I find a stable benchmark near me and go to it a few times to see how the gadget behaves when you know you have accurate coordinates.

 

Here are EScout's comments:

 

"[T]here are super accurate benchmarks that are listed to one-hundred thousandths of a second. They are called adjusted (they are GPS adjusted.) This is an excellent way to test your GPSr and get confidence on its accuracy. (The stated "accuracy" on some GPSrs is really an "estimated position error." I think you may be pleasantly surprised when you go to one of these marks, like I have been when testing my GPSrs.

 

Datasheets are here..

 

Go to this website, choose your state, county, GPS sites only. Sort by Lat or Long and then choose a disk or rod (not a CORS.) Lots of these are on public streets and other easily accessible areas ( Remember, if you enter the coords of the benchmark into your GPSr, you need to round off, so you will be within about a 3 foot diameter of the mark. Simple geometry will let you find the position of your rounded coords (one thousandth of a minute is about 6 feet in latitude.)"

 

I think this is good advice. Lower accuracy benchmarks can be way off. I looked for benchmarks that were stability class A, if you don't find any try B. Hoping it is near you, go to it a few times so you see how things vary from time to time.

 

I was surprised how close my unit came to the real coordinates. A friend with an identical unit went with me once and got almost the same reading as I did.

 

This exercise gave me a feeling of confidence about how to use the gadget.

 

Then, when on a hunt you must remember the person who placed the cache may not have been careful in measuring the location.

Edited by Thot
Link to comment

Another reason could be, you were at "ground zero" and kept passing the waypoint. If that was the case, you were right where you were suppose to be! This has happened to me on several occasions, using two gpsr's, with several other cachers gpsr's doing the same thing. I/we just kept walking by it. It's normal :huh: , don't think it just you/your gpsr.

 

Keep in mind, as KA stated, once you get on top of it, slow down your walking. Sometimes, wait 30-60 sec. for the gps to get better lock. And if your 60 ft from "ground zero" start looking for hiding spots. Ex: If i place a cache with my gps and I have a 30ft error, you come by and have a 30ft error, we have 60ft differences.

And "never, never, chase the arrow" as KA stated, it will drive you in circles and nuts. It's not just a newbie thing, sometimes vets do it to.

Congrads on getting the gps and bringing your pastor with you! You should warn him about this addiction, is just polite. :huh:

Hope this helps explain a few things. SF1

Link to comment
You should teach yourself how to triangulate.  Stop a ways away (about 100 feet is good), read the bearing (not heading) on the GPS, and shoot that bearing with a compass.  Then move to the side a ways, and repeat.  Note where the two bearings cross, and begin your search there.  This is good practice for the harder caches, and you'll get a good feel for how your GPS behaves.

Markwell has visual instructions for getting there by triangulation.

Link to comment

You need to familiaraize yourself with how your particular GPSr behaves. Go to a large open field, like at a park or highschool. Mark a waypoint that has an obvious visual ID(Say a pole). Then move a few hundred yards away and let your GPS take you to it. Do this a couple of times, observing what your GPSr is telling you in relation to where the waypoint is ..Do this a number of times until you become confident :huh: ....

Link to comment
Soon after I started, blindleader & EScout suggested I find a stable benchmark near me and go to it a few times to see how the gadget behaves when you know you have accurate coordinates.

 

Here are EScout's comments:

Datasheets are here..

 

This exercise gave me a feeling of confidence about how to use the gadget.

 

Thot, very cool and interesting!

I'll be going and try it out! Thanks for the tip! :huh: SF1

Link to comment

Marking the pole as a waypoint and going to it repeatedly is a very good idea. Once someone has some confidence in the unit and in their skills, they can tackle something a little harder.

 

Sometimes when I am helping a newbie learn to use the GPSr, I will lay something on the ground (a quarter half way between two trees for example), mark the waypoint, then give the GPSr with instructions to the newbie.

Link to comment

One thing that I didn't see addressed here. Did you let the unit sit long enough to gather a complete "almanac" of sat data? If not, you may have been searching even though your GPS only knew where 3-4 satelittes were and accuracy could suffer. If you were searching under trees, your unit may have never had a complete amlanac.

 

One way to make sure your unit has all the sats is to take it out to an open field, turn it on and let it sit about 15 minutes. Its only necessary to do this when you first get the unit, or if you ever do a full reset of the unit.

 

If thats not the case, then I think your biggest mistake was trying a 3 star difficulty cache for your first attempt. By definition, 3 star difficulty could take an experienced geocacher several hours to find.

Link to comment

Sounds like the classic default setting in the GPSr........on the map page, go to the menu and turn off "lock on road".

 

I had this very same thing happen to me early in my caching experience. Was 63 ft away from the cache, and then suddenly turned into 250 ft in the opposite direction.

 

Ever since turning the "lock on road" off, I have never had this problem.

 

Good luck in the future,

JayBee

Link to comment

I have been doing what several of you have said, today when I walked down the 7-11 for my water and twinkies (I know it sounds gross but they go together) I took the gps with me and marked my apt building and then walked the 1/8 of a mile to the 7-11 and when I got there I marked it as a waypoint as well. when I came out of the place I told the GPSr to goto the apt waypoint. by the time I got back and was standing in front of the door the gps told me I was only about 20 feet away. I actually dont feel to bad about that with all the buildings around me. I am hoping to go out to a park where I have more open space and do just what you were saying. and I have already realized that I need a compass. I was fooled by the compass on the GPS untill I realized how it worked. (i.e. you have to be moving) So I am still very much excited about the whole thing and i am sure that I will eventually find that Cache

 

you can read about my adventure on my blog at

http://jt222.blogspot.com/2004/09/my-first-hunt-sort-of.html

Link to comment

Pick off a few 1/1s. It'll make you feel better, and you'll learn about using your dingus at the same time. And don't be surprised if the easy ones sometimes aren't all that easy.

 

Another way of looking at the heading/bearing issue -- a way of looking at it that I was finally able to wrap my head around -- if the GPS is telling you the cache is 150' to the West of where you're standing, it's telling you the truth (more or less). It just doesn't have any idea where West is.

Link to comment

As a brand new "out of the box" newbie, I went forth without thoroughly reading the owner's manual, and didn't altogether "get" what my "Getting Started" pamphlet told me.

 

For example: My Etrex Vista required calibrating the compass :lol:

I didn't know the difference between "Heading" and "Bearing".

I was not in the "WASS Enabled" mode.

I didn't know how to use the Satelite page to "Zero Out"

I didn't know if I wanted "Default" settings or not.

I was afraid of "messing up" by clicking around the menus :)

 

In other words, when all else fails, read the destructions! Do simple search tasks first, get familiar with the gizmo, and if at all possible, go out with an experienced cacher a time or two.

 

Hope that you have as much fun with this as I have had!

 

Mr Smiles :)

Link to comment

Welcome to the obsession.

 

I would also make sure that the bearing is showing and see how that relates to the arrow. I would bet that the bearing does not change much during the time the arrow is swinging around. That would indicate that the GPSr does not have a good heading for you. I assume that this is an etrex Yellow and therefore the lock on road feature does not exist. I started with one of those and usually had the bearing showing at the bottom. I then used my compass to get a good direction.

Link to comment
I was fooled by the compass on the GPS untill I realized how it worked. (i.e. you have to be moving)

To clarify, you should know that some models (e.g. the eTrex Vista) have a built in electronic compass which takes over when you're below a certain speed for a certain period of time (and the GPS can no longer give you a good heading).

 

In other words, although the display on the navigation screen may always look like a compass, sometimes you're using the GPS system (and the heading becomes unstable when you stop moving) and other times you may be using an electronic compass (if your unit has one), which does not depend on movement (but does depend on holding the unit level - i.e. horizontal!).

 

If you have the Vista, you can set the speed and time delay threshold when it switches from GPS to the electronic compass by going to Main Page, Setup, Heading. I have my speed showing at the bottom of the navigation screen so I have a rough idea of when the unit is switching from GPS to the electronic compass for heading information. Then I know when it's important to hold my unit level (actually, the Vista nags you with a "hold level" prompt when you're using the electronic compass).

Link to comment
I have been doing what several of you have said, today when I walked down the 7-11 for my water and twinkies (I know it sounds gross but they go together) I took the gps with me and marked my apt building and then walked the 1/8 of a mile to the 7-11 and when I got there I marked it as a waypoint as well. when I came out of the place I told the GPSr to goto the apt waypoint. by the time I got back and was standing in front of the door the gps told me I was only about 20 feet away. I actually dont feel to bad about that with all the buildings around me. I am hoping to go out to a park where I have more open space and do just what you were saying. and I have already realized that I need a compass. I was fooled by the compass on the GPS untill I realized how it worked. (i.e. you have to be moving) So I am still very much excited about the whole thing and i am sure that I will eventually find that Cache

 

you can read about my adventure on my blog at

http://jt222.blogspot.com/2004/09/my-first-hunt-sort-of.html

A 20 ft accuracy is normal. It is actually what most of us come to except.

 

El Diablo

Link to comment
We call this phenomenon "chasing the arrow" and it is quite common.

Maybe KA calls this chasing the arrow, obviously a term he coined and is trying to spread, but the traditional word for this phenomenon is the "drunken bee dance."

 

Jamie

5 points to the old-timer for proper use of the term drunken bee dance

 

w00t! :lol:

Link to comment

We have a Garmin Etrex Vista and have noticed many times where the arrow suddenly swings around and points the opposite direction from where we want to go. So we pretty much ignore the pointer end of it at that point and go by which way makes the distance numbers continue dropping. Any idea why it does that? My Father-in-law gave us his etrex (he had bought a better model) and introduced us to geocaching in Aug. We have found 18 caches since then with only one DNF, and we think that one was muggled.

Link to comment

As someone said, I read through teh instructions and can find no mention of lock on road. I have the garmin etrex A little yellow thing. I have been practicing useing it as i have been walking around town and the like and i Have gotten better at reading it and better at understanding what i looking at. I now feel a little more hopeful for the next cache. (and I will go back and find that other one)

Link to comment

Night Stalker, it depends on the Garmin model and what you have in it. With my Legend, with only the base map loaded, no Mapsource maps, the lock on road has no effect at all. It just is ignored unless you have detail maps loaded. This is explained in the manual, P14. It should be the same for other mapping units, but I don't know for sure about other models, except that non-mapping models don't have that feature at all.

Link to comment
We have a Garmin Etrex Vista and have noticed many times where the arrow suddenly swings around and points the opposite direction from where we want to go.  Any idea why it does that? 

It does it because the GPSr depends on movement to calculate the direction you're heading (i.e. if you're standing still or moving slowly, there is no change in position relative to the satellite signals, and the GPSr has no way of knowing which way you're facing).

 

To avoid this "drunken bee dance" with the eTrex Vista, which has a built in compass, do this:

 

On the GPSr, use the click stick to go to the "Main Menu", click on "System" and make sure the compass is set to "On".

 

Go back to the Main Menu and click on "Setup", then "Heading". Set "Auto Compass Swith: Use GPS Heading when exceeding..." to 2 mph. Set the "Use Compass Heading When Below 2mh for more than..." to 5 seconds.

 

Now go to the "Navigation" screen and click on the drop down menu at the top of the page (immediately to the left of the icon that changes the page). Choose "Calibrate Compass" and follow the onscreen directions (this is best done outdoors, in an open area without any large metal objects close by).

 

This should reduce the drunken bee dance considerably, because when you slow or stop for 5 seconds or more, the Vista will automatically switch to the internal compass and maintain a steady heading on the navigation screen. Five seconds is about the time it takes the GPSr to realize you've stopped moving, so using that time interval pretty much eliminates the flipping arrow problem!

 

Edit: PS - when you're using the compass, you have to hold the eTrex Vista level (horizontal) for the compass to work correctly. If you're not, "Hold Level" will appear on the display until you hold it level.

Edited by Kai Team
Link to comment
We have a Garmin Etrex Vista and have noticed many times where the arrow suddenly swings around and points the opposite direction from where we want to go. So we pretty much ignore the pointer end of it at that point and go by which way makes the distance numbers continue dropping. Any idea why it does that? My Father-in-law gave us his etrex (he had bought a better model) and introduced us to geocaching in Aug. We have found 18 caches since then with only one DNF, and we think that one was muggled.

I have the yellow e-Trex as well (Wal-Mart Super Special!). Bought the thing, slipped new batteries in it, let it do its warm-up thing as I was driving and half an hour later found my first cache.

 

As you suggested, I ignore the arrow once I'm within, oh, 90' of destination, and just watch which way the "distance to go" numbers are incrementing. If they're gainnig I'm moving away, if they're falling I'm approaching, and if they stay about the same (it has happened!) I must be moving at 90° to the waypoint, so I pick a direction 90° from my previous heading and try again.

 

I also find that keeping moving at a steady pace improves its accuracy by a surprising margin.

 

And trees decrease it............. but that's another story altogether :blink:

 

(Check my stats - brand newbie, but only one DNF and that because it got dark and I was too deep in unfamiliar backwoods to feel confident continuing the search, not to mention I had no light with me........)

Link to comment

Another reason for the compass to jump around is under low sat signal conditions (it happens to me a lot under trees with heavy canopy). The unit itself thinks you are jumping around even when you stand still. Ergo, since you are "jumping" around it is trying to keep up and point the way.

 

At that point it is better to back off a bit to where the signals settle down and get a bearing. Find another spot with open sky and get another bearing. Go look where the bearings cross and search out from that point.

 

Also that's a good time to peek at the hint -- maybe it will really mean something as you look around. The last time the "drunken bee dance" happened to me I was standing still next to a "6 inch stump 2 feet high" but it didn't have the "moss covered log that knows the way" next to it. But 50 feet away there was such a combo. When I finally did find the cache the GPS said I was 18 feet away.

Link to comment

Gee, guys, looks like with all the set up the current GPSR's on the market require, I must say that I am happy I have a 'neearly' obsolete Maggie 310 :laughing:

What I do when I find myself about to do the drunken bee dance, I will take out my PAPER copy of the posted coords and start moving about a few steps at a time until 'the numbers match up' that is , when the display showing my current coords match the posted cache coords. THEN I start looking about. Does me good, especially with UTM format coords.. Worst I have been off yet was 25 feet, and that was due to the cache being it's owner's first cache and he rushed the coords.

Link to comment

1. The GPS calculates coordinates using the 4 birds it can hear 'best'. Under tree cover, which ones can be heard 'best' changes repeatedly, so the result can change. Slow down and let it think. Try moving slightly so you get better sky visibility and then do a 'perp walk' - walk through the area of visibility watching where the arrow seems to want to go.

 

2. Really, when you get within around 30-40 feet, you should be looking at your surroundings rather than the GPS. The more experienced cachers I go out with sometimes don't even look at the GPS after they've left the car - they just search the cache site.

 

3. Look for events in your area and try to hook up with more experienced cachers, who are usually happy to take along a noob. You'll learn a lot just by watching.

Link to comment

I have overcome the "Drunk Bee Dance," by looking for the coordinates. When the needle starts spinning on my eTrex Legend or my wife's SportTrak Map, I just let the coords zero out. I have never been more than 15 feet off. This is the way I find confluences and it has worked just fine for caches...for me. Of course, if your GPSr is not set up properly this may not be a solution for you. :blink:

Link to comment

My classic newbie error was using the wrong datum. I had my GPS set to AUS66, uploaded the UTM coordinates of a cache, noticed they had mysteriously changed, then manually set then to the coords on the cache website.

 

D'oh! We did not find the cache - of course.

 

I realize now that my GPS had automatically translated the coordinates from WGS84 to AUS66 when I uploaded them. I think it's better if I switch to WGS84 when geochanging, and back to AUS66 when bushwalking.

Link to comment

I got my Magellan Sportrac Color GPS last month for a vacation trip. And now I'm using it to find GPS caches! Like virgo91967 said,

What I do when I find myself about to do the drunken bee dance, I will take out my PAPER copy of the posted coords and start moving about a few steps at a time until 'the numbers match up' that is , when the display showing my current coords match the posted cache coords.

I went looking for a virtual cache in a cemetary (spooky :blink: ) this week. First time I went there, I committed the "chasing the arrow" or "drunken bee dance" mistake. I moved around until my arrow was right on top of my waypoint. What I didn't realize was the arrow is placed a bit to the right of my actual position on the map. I remember when I was driving down a highway with my GPS. I looked down and I saw the arrow tracing a breadcrumb route a bit to the right of the highway in a parallel fashion. Once I was driving by a lake and my GPS said I was in ten feet of water. ;)

 

After checking with the virtual cache owner, who told me I had picked the wrong marker, I went back the second time. This time when I got my arrow centered over the waypoint, I changed the screen on my GPS to the LAT LON coordinate screen. I had a paper copy of the cache coords with me. Still did the DBD, but I was moving purposely from grave marker to grave marker. When I finally got my LAT LON coords to match with the paper copy, I stood still for a few minutes. There were a few tall pine trees in the area (one was right next to the VC marker that I found) and that was causing interference with my GPS readings. I let my GPS do its WAAS averaging thing. When it finally settled down on the LAT LON coords, it matched the paper copy coords. And I found the right grave marker!!

 

I used that lesson on that same day to find a regular cache in a city park. I followed the arrow to my waypoint. Then I switched over to the LAT LON screen and matched up the numbers. When I did that, then it was time to look around and find the cache's hiding place. I was rewarded with a keychain ring from Nine West.

 

Hope this help another Newbie get rid of the "drunken bee dance" syndrome. Thanks.

 

LJK :D

Link to comment

I was up in the NC mtn's a week or so ago and while under dense cover my Map60CS jumped to New Orleans. No I found it amusing that I could travel that far and fast but after walking for another hour it finally put me back where I was. It had worked fine up until that day but as a new bee I figured that I didn't do anything wrong that it was the tree's! That's right the tree's, the tree's!

 

It was a little aggravating because I could not start my hunt since I started all wrong and I could not figure how to get the GPSr to show the cache and not where it thought I was...

 

I will go back and follow a few of these suggestions to see if can improve!

 

Thanks all!!!! :P

Edited by mlail
Link to comment

in my case, my etrex venture went mad! it would lock on a 'goto' and stay there indefinetly....even as i walked right on past the cache! screen would just freeze. i'd turn it off and back on, and it would say , basically ' you dummy , you walked right past it!" so after fighting it for 2 days and conversations with Garmin, their advice was to go exchange it for a new one....which i did, and have found 300+ caches with it in the last year. i must have just gotten a 'bad one' the first time.

Link to comment

There wasnt anything wrong with my etrex, unfortunately it was a severe case of operator error. after spending a few days reading the manual and actually going out and using it I got the hang of it, I also picked up a compass as well. so then when it says 100 ft east I can actually know im heading east.

Link to comment
I was up in the NC mtn's a week or so ago and while under dense cover my Map60CS jumped to New Orleans.  No I found it amusing that I could travel that far and fast but after walking for another hour it finally put me back where I was.  It had worked fine up until that day but as a new bee I figured that I didn't do anything wrong that it was the tree's!  That's right the tree's, the tree's!

[snip]

If your receiver generates coordinates that are clearly wrong for a few minutes it might help to stop the receiver by putting the unit into simulate mode and then back on again so it will re-search for satellites. If that doesn't get it back to the correct location then try turning it off and back on again.

 

It might be best to leave it alone, like you did, if you have a heavy enough canopy and/or a poor satellite constellation because the receiver might not be able to regain a lock.

 

On five occasions last year I had a Garmin GPSmap 76 start generating weird position values. At worst I got it back to normal by turning it off and back on. One of the times may have been caused by multipath off of high mineral content rocks above timberline in the Colorado Rockies - trees aren't the only things that can cause trouble.

Link to comment

I've never used the compass screen to navigate to a cache. And so far I haven't used my real compass either. I use the map screen and just keep going until "my location icon" is on top of the cache icon or I can see that the cache is say "25 ft. ahead of me" if the terrain is not walkable. Then I have the approximate center of the "search circle".

 

How easy it is to use the map screen depends on the size of the icons used to indicate your position and the location of the cache and how far you can zoom in. I usually have the map screen set to track up and track log on. Showing the track log on the screen as I approach the cache helps with the orientation of the map. Then I've sometimes left the track logging on so I can see where I've walked in relation to the cache indication but not for long. The pack and GPSR is soon set down and the real search started.

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Followers 2
×
×
  • Create New...