By Patty Winter
In Part 1
of our Holiday Gift Guide, we gave you some ideas on choosing a new GPS receiver (GPSr). Now it’s time to help you put your new toy to good use! Here are some suggestions for items to enhance your GPS receiver, and to help you find—or create your own—geocaches. Some of them will make great stocking stuffers for the geocachers or benchmark hunters in your family.
Most of the items listed here come in different styles to match specific GPS units, so be sure to check the website of the manufacturer or a knowledgeable retailer before you purchase them.
● Car or bike-mount
● Memory card
● Maps: topographic, terrain, etc.
● Protection: carrying case, lanyard, belt clip
● External antenna
● Power: cable with cigarette lighter plug; AA battery charger that runs off either 12VDC or 120VAC
There are several types of software related to GPS receivers. As we mentioned in Part 1 of this guide, be sure to select a unit whose map-downloading program is compatible with your computer. In that article, we also discussed geocaching applications for smartphones. This time, we’re going to discuss software that makes your GPSr useful for geocaching or benchmark hunting.
Geocaching Swiss Army Knife is a must-have for geocachers who use Windows PCs. It lets you organize your geocaches and benchmarks into categories, perform a wide range of searches and sorts on them, and exchange them with your GPSr or PDA (running Cachemate).
· MacGPS Pro.
This powerful Mac software lets you overlay geocaches and benchmarks onto a wide range of maps (including topos, street maps, and ones that you calibrate yourself), transfer data to and from GPS receivers, and display your location on a portable computer in real time. An iPhone version of MacGPS Pro is scheduled soon.
Displays geocache information on your Mac; shows caches on Google Maps; and transfers cache information to and from GPS receivers, iPods, and PDAs (with Cachemate). Smart Cachelists help you quickly organize your geocaches.
· Benchmarking utilities. Several benchmark hunters have developed programs to convert and manipulate data for use by geocaching programs. For example, NGS>>GPX, and BMGPX are Windows utilities that convert NGS text files to GPX files for use in GSAK and other mapping programs. A Mac version of BMGPX is also available. And a script called dat2kml provides the basic functions of NGSread on any computer that has awk, including Macs and other UNIX systems. Be sure to check out Groundspeak’s Benchmark Hunting forum for the latest discussions of benchmarking utilities.
Cache Containers, Logbooks and Swag
Does your favorite geocacher own any geocaches? If so, they’ll need replacement logbooks and containers at some point. If they haven’t hidden any geocaches yet, maybe you can get them interested by giving them some fun containers!
Geocaches can easily be made from various sizes of kitchen food-storage containers. A friend and I have one that originally held two pounds of peanuts. Just make sure you select ones that are sturdy and waterproof—and of course, be sure to clean all the food smell out of them. You may want to camouflage the container, such as with dark-green paint if it’s going in a leafy area. However, cautious geocachers are more and more these days using transparent containers so that maintenance workers and law enforcement officials can see what’s in side any “suspicious” container they run across or that’s reported to them.
Other popular containers include plastic 35mm film canisters, pill bottles, ammunition boxes, and magnetic key holders. If you want to get more creative, the sky’s the limit! I’ve seen geocaches that looked like lawn sprinklers, pieces of dead wood, and rocks, just to name a few. As the geocaching market grows, some companies are offering these clever camouflages for sale, so they’d make fun holiday presents. Check out the offerings from Groundspeak
and the other sellers listed on their official distributors
Those same sites also have geocache essentials
such as logbooks (some of them waterproof), geocache stickers, and small pens and pencils to fit in smaller geocaches.
Want to do a public service while you’re out geocaching? Take along a “Cache In Trash Out” (CITO) bag on your next expedition—or put a few in your own geocaches for other cachers to use. You can find out more about CITO
and order the bags
on the Groundspeak website.
Travel Bugs and Tags
Travel bugs are small items that are moved from geocache to geocache. They usually have a goal, such as visiting national parks or going to Europe and back. Each travel bug needs a unique ID tag; you can buy tags from Groundspeak’s online store Think about what small item might mean something special to your family, and give it as a stocking stuffer along with or attached to a travel bug tag. See the Travel Bug section of Geocaching.com for ideas.
If you really run out of ideas, there’s always a gift certificate. It’ll fit great into a Christmas stocking, too! Groundspeak offers its own gift certificates, or you could give a gift card from a geocaching-friendly retailer such as REI. Whatever your price range and your favorite geocacher’s interests, there’s bound to be a geocaching-related item that you can give this Christmas or Hanukkah.
Patty Winter is the contributing editor of Caching Now. A freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she writes marketing materials for high-tech companies, and magazine articles about science and technology. An avid benchmark hunter, she is especially interested in Disney benchmarks and the survey marks in Yosemite National Park.
Originally Published December, 2009.