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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Alternatives to Geocaching.com

Geocaching alternatives

Typically if someone was to ask where to go to find Geocache listings, they would be pointed towards the original listing site, Geocaching.com. But that is not the only one, and this month we take a look at some of the alternative listing sites available for geocachers and some of the differences in terms of the features they offer.

Navicaching

One of the more noticeable differences on Navicaching (Navicache.com) is that each geocacher is assigned a score. This is derived from adding the terrain rating and difficulty of every geocache placed and found. It gives Navicaching something a little more in the way of competition than sites like Geocaching.com. Unfortunately whereas Geocaching.com has evolved over the years into something sleek, corporate and modern, the Navicaching website looks like it hasn’t been updated in ten years. It lacks a lot of the nice features that Geocaching.com has and whilst it is without any form of premium membership it could desperately do with money to develop the site.

Navicaching geocaching alternative navicache

Navicache’s geocacher score

It is also not seeing anything like the number of new geocaches of its bigger cousin. I counted just four new geocaches worldwide in the last two months, and of the ones listed, some have not seen a log for close to five years.

There’s nothing to say that given a little publicity the site couldn’t seeing an abundance of new listings but to really attract new users the site desperately needs updating.

Terracaching

Terracaching (Terracaching.com) tries to vet new users by ensuring each new member has two sponsors. It can seem a little elitist but even if you do not know anyone in the Terracaching community it’s possible to gain sponsorship by asking in the forums… which in some ways defeats the point of sponsorship in the first place. Your sponsors will also act as your peer reviewers for geocaches you submit to the site.

Like Navicaching each geocacher (as well as each geocache) is assigned a score. However, the algorithms are a lot more complex, to the stage where even hardened terracachers are not exactly sure how they are calculated. It does allow for leaderboards and achievements meaning that this is a good choice for more competitive geocachers looking for an alternative.

Terracaching central Florida map

Terracaches in central Florida

Terracaching is a little more active than Navicaching, averaging a new traditional geocache every day or so worldwide. They also have an interactive map similar to Geocaching.com making it easy to plan areas to go for a day’s caching but be aware they do not have anywhere near the geocache saturation of Geocaching.com.

Opencaching

Just to confuse matters there are two different sets of listing sites called Opencaching. The first was an attempt at a truly open, non-commercial listing service. This was done through a loose network of country specific sites (such as opencaching.org.uk, opencaching.us, opencaching.pl). Unfortunately when Garmin wanted to release their own commercial listing site they also named it Opencaching (Opencaching.com) causing some confusion amongst geocachers.

OpenCaching

An OpenCaching North America listing

Whilst you might think that the independent Opencaching sites would be a little basic, in reality they seem the most active in trying to develop geocaching and the website is surprisingly advanced when compared to sites like Terracaching.com and Navicaching.com. Like other alternative listing sites, they support older grandfathered geocache types such as locationless and virtual but they’ve added new types such as Podcaches (where you listen for clues on an MP3 player to help you) and Dead Drops (USB sticks mounted in walls). As a result there seems a willingness to develop the game. Unlike their Garmin doppelganger they discourage cross-listing but their viewpoint isn’t so much to be seen as a rival for Geocaching.com but rather as an open alternative.

New geocachers have their first three geocaches reviewed by a central team but after that I presume they are able to place geocaches without peer review.

Opencaching (Garmin)

Garmin introduced their own competitor to Geocaching.com (opencaching.com ) a few years back and tried to tempt over geocachers with a number of tools, such as importing your finds and hides. Whilst importing your hides will add them as geocaches for other users of Opencaching to find, importing your finds will not, ensuring that control of whether geocaches are listed on Opencaching or not is down to the geocache owner.

Visually, Opencaching is the closest to Geocaching.com in terms of polish. There’s an interactive map and the ability to log in from various social media accounts.

One of the biggest differences from geocaching.com is that they are peer reviewed. Instead of submitting a geocache to a central review team, they are published to the community, allowing a twelve hour window for anyone to raise an objection.

OpenCaching geocaching alternative

An OpenCaching.com listing

Another big difference is the ability to place virtual geocaches. These were grandfathered by Geocaching.com some time ago so the ability to place them in locations physical geocaches would be impossible through opencaching.com might appeal to old time geocachers.

Obviously being owned by Garmin ensures that it is quick and easy to upload geocaches onto your Garmin GPS device but the problem still remains that Opencaching, for all its visibility through Garmin, still has nothing like the number of geocaches as Geocaching.com. In reality you will usually find those geocaches listed on Opencaching.com also listed on Geocaching.com.

Maybe the balance of power will shift over the years as Garmin users first experience of geocaching is through Opencaching.com but at the moment there are no signs this will happen any time soon.

Conclusion

You are never going to get the volume of listings you find on Geocaching.com but if you are determined to look elsewhere there are a number of good alternatives available, particularly the Opencaching sites. If for no other reason it’s worth checking them out to register your caching name should the need ever arise.

About Adrian Faulkner

Adrian Faulkner is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He is an active geocacher with over 9000 finds to his name. You can find more by Adrian at AdrianFaulkner.com and on his Google Plus page.

Comments

  1. Funny to see the screengrab of a Robin Lovelock cache – anyone remember the great Lovelock controversy? He outraged the community by placing copies of his GPS software on CD with business cards in his caches some of which were geotrashed as a result.

    • I wondered if anyone would pick up on that “Easter Egg”. It was a bit before my time in caching but whilst archived some of his old caches are still in place or moved to other listing sites

  2. Very informative review
    I use various sites to feed my caching activity (geocaching.com, opencaching.us & terracaching.com) and each for somewhat unique reasons.

    IMHO, there is a difference in philosophy between the sites whereby gc & oc tend to be more towards the ‘find,’ whereas tc is oriented toward the ‘hunt’ and this affects the way one approached the seek.

    Each to their own, this caching “sport” should meet various needs and enjoyment.

  3. Nice post, thanks for writing it! I’m an Admin for Opencaching North America (opencaching.us/.ca/.mx) I’m a little late to the party, but it only took me 2 months to notice the post. Not to nitpick, but I am obligated to, I guess. The world wide opencaching network does not list Locationless caches, and the “your first 3 geocaches get reviewed” policy is not universal throughout the network. All caches at OCNA are reviewed. But I very much liked the article, and we appreciate it.

    • Thanks for the clarification, Jim. Much appreciated.

      • No problem, Adrian! Terracaching.com lists locationless caches, and there are almost 1,300 of them. Geocaching.com only had about 300 when they enacted a moratorium, and eventually killed them forever. We appreciate the post, and the link to our website. Webmasters love links to their websites, helps with search engine rankings. :-)

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