As a general rule I don’t like Multi-caches. These are the class of geocaches that have you visiting a number of locations, collecting clues along the way which you then pump into a final formula to give you the location of the actual cache. I must stress that my dislike is entirely personal. Why go for a three mile walk to find one geocache when that same walk could be made as a circular series of 5 – 10 caches? It always seems like a waste of space and time to me.
There are exceptions though. Here in the UK, there are very strict rules concerning placement of geocaches on church property and so we’ve seen the rise of the “Church Micro” series. Rather than follow any route, this is a series of over 1000 independent multi-caches set at churches across the UK. These tend to be off-set geocaches, and by that I mean a multi-cache with just one location to visit before being able to derive the location of the actual physical geocache. Ordinarily, the first set of co-ordinates will take you into the church grounds to get information from a headstone or from the church itself, with the final location existing a short distance from the church. Because these usually take only about 15 minutes to complete and were derived as a way to take geocachers to fantastic old churches without breaking the local guidelines, I enjoy many of these multi-caches.
However, even these fall foul of my other major bugbear with multi-caches: the wealth of data. Most geocachers carry a pen as a matter of course, but not all carry a notebook. Suddenly a multi-cache presents you with a multitude of questions resulting in a load of different values, some formulas of previous values, and you need to write them all down.
Inevitably, one of two things happens: You can’t read your own scrawlings on the back of your hand or stood in the pouring rain with your friends telling you to hurry up as they are getting wet and want to get back to the car, you make a miscalculation.
I’ve got to the stage where I can do a visual sanity check of my solution by looking at its location on my GPS map. If the location is not next to a right of way, or for example, more than several miles away, I know to recheck my notes and calculations. But who wants to walk back 2 miles just to check whether your scrawl for clue B was a 6 or a zero?
Geocaching Buddy to the rescue
It was a friend of mine who told me to try out GeoCaching Buddy (iOS App Store link; also available for Android). There are many iOS Geocaching apps but what’s unique about GCbuddy is that it was built with multi-caches very much in mind.
With GCbuddy you are able to enter final location formulas into the app, and let it do all the calculations for you. There is a screen allowing you to enter the values you uncover, and it’s even possible to set these to formulas themselves (i.e. c = b – 2).
It’s all very handy, except in practise, loading up the formulas is a little tricky and as a result can be frustrating.
In this day and age of hi-tech apps, able to overlay complex data over your camera view, I would think being able to scan a geocache page and make an intelligent guess at what the final formula was would be possible. As it is, you need to copy and paste in the northings and westings separately. And when compared to everything else on an iOS device, I don’t find that particularly easy. Out in the field with my fellow geocachers telling me to hurry up, I find it slightly infuriating.
And given that initial hassle, it’s just as easy to type A = 1, B=3, etc into the notes app of my iPhone as it is to type into the apps dedicated section.
To be fair, though, I think if you planned ahead, and loaded all the geocaches along with the needed formulas before heading out for the day then most of the frustration factor of this app goes away, leaving you with something that is actually quite handy.
Currently priced at the same $9.99 that the official Groundspeak App is, GCBuddy packs a few extra features that might be useful to Geocachers, such as geotagged photos and pre-downloading of images in cache descriptions. However, it is likely that regular puzzle and multi-cachers will get the most use out of this app.
You can find out more details at http://www.btstsoft.nl/apps/gcbuddy/