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Why Not Utm?

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Just wondering why geocachers have decided to use coordinates other than UTM. As a hiker using maps with a metric grid I have always found UTM to be very intuitive to use.

Should I reset my GPS to another grid system?

Use whatever works best for you; there are no set rules for what system you choose to use. :o

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use whatever you like. GC.com uses UTM as well as lat/lon. I use lat/lon because it works well enough and most times I find coords for something somewhere they are in lat/lon and not UTM.


But use whatever you are comfortable with. They all lead to the same place :o

Edited by DaveA
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You're welcome to use UTM if you prefer. The cache pages have the UTM coords right below the DDMM format. Either way, make sure your GPS is set to use the WGS-84 datum.


If you do stick with UTM, you'll probably need to switch temporarily when entering the coords for multi-stage caches.

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I also find UTM much easier to use. With a grid reader you can pinpoint your location or find the coordinates of features quickly and easily.


However, there is one important point to remember. Most topo maps use NAD 27 datum, as opposed to Geocaching's WSG 84. So if you're using the topo and GPS to navigate through the woods, set the datum to NAD 27. If you're using it to find a cache, set it to WSG 84.

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As one of the many former military cachers, I too started caching using UTM, which I used exclusively in the army. I liked that with UTM I could tell, in an easy method, how far off the posted coordinates were from those that I was experiencing. Now with several finds behind me, I find that I no longer use UTM. Why? Because as Hemlock said, there area times when doing a multi or a mystery cache that I have to enter locations. These are invariably in lat/long and although I know how to do this on my GPSr, I find it to be time comsuming. As for my original reason of determining the deltas between my findings and those of the cache poster, I've decided that for me, it's just not worth the effort. Using the search screen of my GPSr, I can see how far I am from the posted coordinates. A second reason I started with UTM was ease of plotting on a map. I now export the caches from my current PQ, using GSAK and then import them to TOPO USA. The result is that I usually print out an area of map, using TOPO USA, with the caches plotted. I don't bother with a coordinate system. There are normally sufficient landmarks on the printed maps, such as roads or if in remote areas terrain features, so that I can determine where I am on the map. I've never gotten comfortable using the maps on my Vista, but do occasionally try them. I am also experimenting with using Streets and Atlas, but I'm having trouble managing waypoints on the PDA.


BOTTOM LINE: As almost everyone else has said, if you like UTM, then go forth and be happy. It works just fine.

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Just wondering why geocachers have decided to use coordinates other than UTM. As a hiker using maps with a metric grid I have always found UTM to be very intuitive to use.

Should I reset my GPS to another grid system?

The site was designed for GPS users. The default setting for GPS is lat/lon.


I'm sure if the GPS units were in decimal-based latitude/longitude in 2000, we'd be showing coordinates in that format.


I was going to compare it to the origin to the width of railroad tracks, and corrected my view, but the idea still applies. The standard becomes the standard because it becomes widely used.

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There's also a couple of other reasons for using Lat./Lon. rather that UTM. Most printed maps don't have UTM grids on them, they DDMMSS markings. And you need to carry one of the little locator things for each map scale you're using if the grids were printed on maps.

If I really don't know where I'm at and have a map with Lat./Lon. and a gps I can locate myself quite easly.


Check the corners. The coords for each corner are printed there. Set a corner as a waypoint then goto. You'll get distance and bearing. Now take your orientieering compass and place it on the map with the bearing tunned in. Draw a line from the corner on that bearing line. You're somewher along that line. Now you either measure with the markings on your compass or do the same thing with another corner.


But like it's been said. we're more comfortable with the method we first learned.





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I work exclusively in UTM. It's not much of a bother, especially since I can just download GPX files and let my software worry about converting between coordinates and UTM, or between different map datums.


I use UTM on the GPS because I do map and compass work. It just makes everything a lot easier.


If you aren't using printed maps, it makes no difference at all which system you use. Whatever you like.




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