A big part of geocaching for us, is planning. In fact, it’s so big that I’ve made my own web based, API-enabled, tool for planning geocaching trips. But we also use a lot of other tools, and we want to share some of them with you here.
What we make
Depending on the length of the trip, and the amount of caches and other things we plan, we either make a booklet (either thermal or comb binding) or a binder (we really like Staples’ Better Binder).
It may look like this:
Or like this:
Whenever we travel together with other geocachers (which we love to do), they each get one – with their own (caching) name on it.
What we include
We try to include as much information as possible, both about the caches we plan to visit, and other relevant things. Flight tickets, rental car reservations, hotel reservations, tickets, maps etc.
For the caches, and other points of interest, we use Cachetur.no (see below).
Some people might wonder why we don’t go paperless. That might make sense for a lot of people, but for us, this is the best way to do it. We like to cache a lot, and as often as we can. So we often end up not logging our finds before up to 2-3 months (or more) after we found the cache. Every year (until now), we go on a 3-4 week long vacation, and even before getting home, it’s 3-4 weeks since we found the first cache on that trip (we don’t start logging the finds until we get home).
So notes, especially for earthcaches and virtuals, which we enjoy doing, are really important to us.
That’s why we also have a log sheet per day. And there we write about the day, the weather, things that happened, people we met, the route we took, which hotel room we stayed in (since we think it’s fun to see if we stay in the same hotel room the next time we visit) etc.
Things that we find really useful to add, either as a separate thing, or as a part of comments and notes in between caches, are:
- Information about time zone changes (when crossing borders etc)
- Information about sunrise and sunset (unless caching during midnight sun season, like we did last weekend)
- Information about poisonous plants and animals when traveling to new places (we don’t have that much poisonous in Norway)
- Maps showing counties, if necessary
- Maps of national parks etc
How we prioritize caches
This part is really individual, what type of caches you want to prioritize depend a lot on what you like to find.
We tend to prioritize (in no particular order) virtual caches, webcam caches, earthcaches, new countries, states, regions and counties, old caches, caches with many favorite points, large caches and letterbox hybrid caches.
When traveling abroad, we usually always prioritize webcam and virtual caches, since we don’t have many of those in Norway (1 webcam and 5 virtual caches). When traveling in the US, we prioritize states and counties. I believe we have collected most US counties (383, currently – we have a lot more planned for this year) out of all Norwegians that’s found caches over there. Yes, there are statistics for everything!.
We usually always prioritize states/regions when traveling new places.
Caches we read about, see or hear about somewhere, and caches that people we know recommend, are often put on the top of the list. We also like to find “Geocache of the Week”-caches whenever we can. And we are very proud to own one ourselves!
The tools we use
We use a lot of different tools when planning our trip, here are some of them.
Our main trip planning tool is cachetur.no. It’s our own tool, used by a couple thousand Norwegian geocachers. It’s connected to the geocaching.com API, and can create both GPX-files and nice lists (like the one shown above).
We usually create a trip as soon as we know we’re going somewhere. Then we use comments, links etc. to gather useful information up to a year in advance.
When we actually start planning, we add all the caches, useful comments, information about distance/time, parking coordinates etc.
For planning caches, the map on geocaching.com (at least the times when it’s not extremely slow) is very useful.
It’s simple, yet powerful. But before using the map, we usually have already added special caches to the list. So we use the map to trace the route, and find caches along it.
Project-GC is not just for statistics. It’s also very useful for finding caches to put on our plan. There are a couple tools we use, and it’s easiest to just make a short list:
- Map Compare : This is the most powerful tool on Project-GC in my opinion. We use it to filter out all large-caches, all webcam caches, all virtual caches etc.
- Map counties : We use this to both see which counties we’re missing, and which caches we can find in them. We make sure to find a cache a bit away from the border, to avoid problems minor coordinate adjustments or inaccurate borders.
- Map hidden month : We use this tool to find caches we can use to complete the Jasmer grid (we’re only missing one, and we plan to find it in August).
- Map DT matrix : Our D/T matrix isn’t that important to us, and that’s why I still have a spot open after more than five years… But we sometimes use this tool to help us, slowly, fill in the missing combinations.
- Coming Events : Very useful when going somewhere, easy to see if there are any events in the area while we are there. For longer trips, we even sometimes use the event notifiers.
- Top favorites : We don’t use this tool very much, but sometimes it’s nice to see if we can manage to find some highly favorited caches
We sometimes use other tools on Project-GC as well, but these are the most important ones – in our opinion.
For all tools on Project-GC, we use the filters to find caches in the correct country, state/region and county.
GSAK is our main cache database, GPX generator and logging tool. It’s where we make fuel for our GPSrs, and where we do all our logging.
Google Maps is one of the most useful tools, and we use it for everything from checking where a cache is in relation to our already planned route, to finding parking and checking road conditions. Satellite view and Street View is what makes it possible. At least in most parts of the world. Some counties, like Germany, have very limited Street View coverage, making it a bit harder.
We also use Street View a lot when logging caches, to help us recognize the cache and the area. So logging German caches is actually a lot harder, and it’s not because of the language.
In fact, we use Street View so much (we call it “driving the Google car”), that we sometimes come to a new area, and it feels like we’ve been there before! We know exactly where to turn, and where to park. Using time on that at home, saves us for a lot of frustration (I hate not finding parking) when actually on the road. Giving us more time to actually enjoy being out, and more time to find caches.
Google Maps is also useful for checking distances and travel times, when looking at how many extra counties we can manage to squeeze in. Just one more! After this one…
You would think that Google Maps should be enough, and it used to be. But Google have restricted the maximum amount of via points, making longer routes impossible. That’s where Bing Maps come in. Bing allows us to create a much longer route, like this one:
RoadsideAmerica.com and Atlas Obscura
RoadsideAmerica.com and Atlas Obscura are two great tools for finding cool and interesting things and places along the road. And when we find something both on RoadSideAmerica/Atlas Obscura and on geocaching.com, we know it’s a place worth stopping at!
What do you use?
How do you plan your caching trips? And what tools do you use?