Everyone loves a treasure hunt, and with millions of hidden caches around the world, geocaching is the ultimate treasure-hunting game. These geocaching apps make it easy for kids and adults alike to track down and find caches.
What Is Geocaching?
Geocaching has been a popular game for 20 years. Originally known as “GPS Stash Hunt,” it was later renamed geocaching. To play, you use your smartphone’s GPS and one of these apps to see vague locations of physical geocaches near you. Tapping on one shows you more details about it—but not its exact location—and you’ll use your GPS and the given details to narrow down its location until you find it.
Geocaches are usually small, like the size of a film canister or small Tupperware container. They usually contain a paper log in which players (known as geocachers) sign their names, thus proving they successfully found the cache, but they can also include trinkets, notes, and other sentimental goodies that you can take one of (or replace with one of your own), just for fun. Generally, the geocaching community doesn’t allow weapons, food, drugs, and alcohol to be put in caches, in order to keep the players safe (and to deter curious animals and bugs).
Caches are often disguised with leaves or set in a nook so they aren’t easily spotted by the casual passerby, but they’ll never be buried. Most caches are easy enough to access to find with a short walk, but many require longer walks or even full-on hikes to access, so remember to wear good walking shoes and bring along sunscreen and water if you’re planning on spending the day geocaching. Remember to respect surroundings (and not trespass) when you’re exploring, and don’t forget to bring a pen to sign the logs.
What to Look for in Geocaching Apps
Geocaching apps are all pretty similar in what they do and how they do it. However, some have more features than others, many of which can make your geocaching experience run more smoothly. Here are a few things to expect from these apps:
- Live Maps: Having an accurate map to work off of is a must for geocaching so, you know, you don’t end up wandering into the woods searching for a geocache that no longer exists. Live maps also reveal if others have visited a geocache recently, and if new ones have been added or if there are new tips and hints for hard-to-find locations.
- Multiple Map Sources: These apps usually let you choose the map source you’re most comfortable with, like Google Maps, for example. This doesn’t impact your geocaching experience, it just makes it easier for you by letting you use an app you’re already familiar with.
- Offline Support: Some geocaches are way off the map … literally. If you have your eye on a particularly rural geocache, make sure your app has offline support so you can still navigate to the cache (and back to your car) once Wi-Fi and cell service drop off.
- Saved Searches: If you know there are caches you’ll want to visit again but aren’t sure you’ll remember exactly where they are, don’t worry. Most of these apps save your searches or let you favorite them so that they’re easier to find in the future.
Best Geocaching App: Geocaching
Geocaching.com (Free) is made by the grandfather of geocaching, Jeremy Irish, who has been running it since September 2000. The website is the best place to learn about geocaching and the app is the best source for finding every cache near you, as well as new caches and local geocaching events. The website is host to information about geocaching basics, like how to find caches, geocaching etiquette, and the fascinating history of geocaching.
The free plan gets you access to messaging and basic caches around the world, but it’s the Premium plan ($29.99/year) that has all the features and tools. It’s absolutely worth paying for if you get serious about geocaching, as it gives you access to more caches, offline maps, advanced searches and pocket queries, new geocache notifications, the ability to see multiple geocache waypoints on a single path, and a few other smaller features.
Aside from all of its features, Geocaching also has a nice interface. When you open it, all nearby caches are automatically displayed, and tapping on one shows you all of the information you’ll need to find it. The app also has a menu at the bottom of the screen where you can find your profile, messages, lists, and other features. It works on the web and with Android and iOS devices, plus it lets you use other apps for navigating to caches. Despite the steep cost of its premium plan, Geocaching is the best resource for new and veteran geocachers alike.
Best for Android Users: c:geo
If you’re an Android user and you’re looking for an open source, full-featured geocaching app, definitely take a look at c:geo (Free). The app is great for using offline, as it lets you save maps and caches for offline viewing and log caches offline (everything will automatically sync once the connection is restored). Although it doesn’t have as sleek of an interface as Geocaching does, its robust features more than make up for it’s easy to use.
c:geo makes it easy to create a custom local list with just the caches you are interested in (which you can also interact with if you’re offline). And whether you’re searching for geocaches within your list or just in general, c:geo offers a good variety of filters (like by difficulty, keyword, distance, terrain, longitude and latitude, etc.) so you can weed out caches you’re not interested in pursuing. You can also choose which map source you want to work with and set both a primary and secondary navigation method.
Pulling up a cache in c:geo is easy as well—just tap one on the “Live Map” button and all of its details will pop up. You’ll see the type and size of the cache, how far you are from it, the difficulty of the terrain you’ll have to cross to get to it, when it was created, its GPS coordinates, and whether or not anyone else has ever found it since it was placed. Once you’re there, you can easily log your name, create a personal note for that cache, and share its location with your friends. The app is immensely powerful for being a free application, and it’s a great resource for serious enthusiasts and new players.
Best for iOS Users: Cachly
If you’re an iOS user looking for a geocaching app that’s similar to Geocaching but skips the pricey annual subscription, Cachly ($4.99) is the perfect match. It runs on iPhones, iPads, and even an Apple Watch (which is great if you’re planning on a big day of geocaching but don’t want to drain your phone’s battery).
Cachly lets you search for geocaches worldwide, and you can download vectors and caches to your device to use if you go offline. You can set your default map source from options like Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Ordinance Survey for navigation. You can also search for caches through filters like size, type, trackables, or other options. Cachly also has a cool feature that lets you add other users as friends, making it a great app for geocaching with friends.
The app’s interface is beautiful and modern, so it won’t get in your way while you’re on the hunt. You can see caches on the live map or in a custom list, and clicking on a geocache shows you all of its details, like its GPS coordinates, images, hints, logs, and more. The bar at the bottom of the app lets you switch between viewing the live map, your lists, recent logs, and trackables. Cachly is good-looking, powerful, and easy to use.