Opencaching Review – Part 5

This is part 5 of a series of posts planned as a review of the Opencaching website. Readers are encouraged to contribute their thoughts. After over a year to develop the site, this is an attempt to see how they have progressed, including benefits and faults. If you want to see a previous post, you can start here.

It has been a busy week lately.  Last week was my last full week of school, and Monday was our last day with students.  So this review has been a bit overdue.  Today’s review will be about finding and logging a cache.

Now we have already reviewed how the map works in a previous post.  So for those of you following along, go ahead and load up the map, positioning it over your normal caching search area.  Make sure there are some caches on the map.  Then, plug in your GPSr and let’s get it loaded up with caches.

There are two ways to load up your GPSr with caches.  Both are located using the download button on the bottom left side of the map, under the list of caches.  Like you see in this image.  Once you have your map ready, hover over the download button.  You’ll see two options: “Directly to GPS” and “as a GPX file”.  I tried Directly to GPS first, but I wasn’t sure if I was missing a step as I never saw a file loaded onto my GPSr.  When I selected GPX file, it opened the popup to save the file where I wanted.  I saved it to the location on my GPSr where the file goes and Voila…my GPSr was loaded with Opencaches.

There is one thing to note.  Not all devices support Opencaching, particularly older devices.  I don’t know if being supported affects how the device views Opencaches.  On my device, all opencaches were listed under the Geocache menu.  As a test, I also loaded up caches from Geocaching.com and found that any crosslisted caches showed up twice.  Once for OC and once for GC.  There was no way to distinguish which one was which without looking at the unique cache ID within the description.

I loaded up my device with caches that would be near the two events I was attending this weekend.  I was attending a CITO event at Tiffany Springs Park, followed by a SITO (aka…food) event afterwords.  I wouldn’t be near any Opencaches at the CITO without taking a hike, but there was one right next to the SITO.  Perfect.  I went through my day, had fun at both events and went out with some friends to grab a few along some trails in between the events.  I ate lunch, chatted with other cachers, then went out to find the Opencache.  I happened to select Home Of the Big Game by doug_hollyNKC.  Doug was the host of both events and this cache happened to be the very first cache they ever placed.  As I left the venue, Doug challenged me to try to find this one without using a GPS device, either by phone or GPSr.  I was up to the challenge.

You might be thinking that this would affect how I can review the process of finding a cache.  In reality, this process is the same no matter which site you use.  My device, a Garmin Oregon 400T, doesn’t care which site I use so there isn’t really anything to review in regards to using the Opencaching site.

The only hint I received was to go to the tree by the trailer.  There were two spots that matched this, though I hadn’t seen one of them when Doug corrected me.  I arrived at ground zero to find a tree with rocks around it.  I reached for some rocks first, looking to see if any were fake.  I was later told that they originally used a fake rock, but that it went missing.  So here is what I was looking at:

If you look carefully, you might actually spot the cache.  It is an easy cache to find.  So let’s go back and look at the cache page itself.  While on the map, I clicked on the icon for this cache.  There is the option to log the cache from the map, but I am going to click on the name and visit the cache page itself.  Here is what you will see:

Remember that this serves as a description page so it contains a lot of information.  You can see a few familiar elements including a map showing where the cache is located (notice the ability to control the map too) with the coordinates for the cache above the map.  Below the map is a “Tags” feature, which works much like the “Attributes” used on Geocaching.com.  The description obviously takes up the bulk of the space.  The hint, as can be seen in this image, is hidden from view until you choose otherwise.  Buttons exist for logging and downloading the cache, with some space set aside for the ratings wheel.  I’m going to go ahead and click on “Log this Cache”.  Here we see a nice feature.

When you click on “Log this Cache” you will notice that the site doesn’t take you to a new page.  It pushes the description down and opens a form of dialogue box on the page that looks like this:

I cropped this so that you could see the elements of the cache page around the logging menu.  Most of this is pretty standard cache logging elements.  The ability to choose what time of log you are submitting (Find, DNF, or Comment), the date of the find/DNF (if you click on the box, a mini calender opens up), and the area to write your thoughts.  If the cache needs maintenance, there is a checkbox for that.  The different part is the ratings wheel.   Here is where you can select how you would rate the Difficulty, Terrain, Size, and Awesomeness of the cache.  Your ratings are displayed on the listing for others to view.  One thing I have wondered is if this ever gets averaged into the cache listing’s official rating?  Doing so would mean that the more people find the cache, the more the ratings of the cache will average out to produce a more accurate rating.  You can see how I rated this and notice that that I rated it a bit differently.  Particularly with the Awesomeness rating.  I felt it was a pretty basic hide, but gave it a half rating bump because it was cool to find their very first hide.  I also rated the terrain a bit higher as I am used to a 1.0 being wheelchair accessible, with a 1.5 meaning easy terrain, but not wheelchair accessible.  I’ll admit that since I am still getting used to the system, I referred back to the “Rating system” section of the on-site guide.

When I hit submit, the cache page is updated with my log, turning this:

Into this:

PRO’s: Logging a cache is rather simple.  I can log the cache without leaving the cache page, allowing you to view the description and previous logs.  I can also contribute my own ratings for other users to see (unknown if it affects the owner’s original ratings).

CON’s: There doesn’t appear to be a way to upload photos…yet.  The ratings wheel is open to bias, though this could be negligible over time as more users submit ratings. The ability to download directly to the GPS didn’t work for me, though I only tried it once and it could be my computer causing the problem, not the site.  Further testing would be needed.

Overall, the act of finding a cache online and then coming back and logging it is rather smooth.  No real hiccups.  I also like how you can log a cache without leaving the cache page.  That can be real helpful sometimes.

Does anyone have a choice for something they would like me to look at next? Any Opencaching.com users out there have thoughts on the logging process?

I am almost finished preparing for the summer at work so next week I can start spitting out posts a bit more frequently.  I wish I could be going to Geowoodstock this year so to all who are going…have fun.

TripCyclone

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One Response to Opencaching Review – Part 5

  1. The biggest problem with Opencaching is a lack of caches on the site. It’s a conundrum: how do you get people to hide caches for the site, if there aren’t many users; and how do you get more users, if there aren’t many caches? That said, I just visited and it looks like there are a couple more caches in my area than there have been in the past. At least one is also on Geocaching.com. Garmin has put so much effort into the site (and my GPSr is a Garmin, so should be easy to use) that I’ll give it a shot. Heh, I just wrote a book on geocaching that focuses on Geocaching.com; if Opencaching takes off, I’ll have to write a new edition before the end of the year. Crazy.

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