If you’ve been geocaching for a little while, you’ve probably heard cachers talk about being premium members of the geocaching.com website. Some people will swear by it whilst others will feel that it adds nothing to their caching experience. As a result it can sometimes be difficult to fully understand what benefits premium membership actually confers. So this month, I thought I would look at some of the main reasons you might want to become a premium member.
1. Pocket Queries
If you are looking to do a series of caches then you are probably accustomed to individually downloading each cache you want to your GPSr device. Premium membership offers the feature of pocket queries.
These are customised searches to pull back a list of up to 1000 geocaches at a time. You can actually be quite specific with what you pull back. Want every unfound traditional cache with a difficulty rating of less than 2 and a terrain rating of 1 in a three mile radius of you home co-ordinates? You can do this with a pocket query (PQ). It’s as simple as filling in the online form and clicking submit.
When it comes to planning days out, PQs are vital to ensure you’ve downloaded every cache you could possibly need. You’ll download a file from Geocaching.com, transfer it onto your GPSr device and be good to go. And if you use tools like GSAK, you can use some of the API features to do this all within applications without having to even visit the Geocaching.com website.
2. Premium Caches
The problem with having publically accessible co-ordinates is that it means that anyone can find them. In many cases this can be a good thing. But in the case of areas where you have incidents of cache trashing or have carefully constructed hides that require the cacher to be careful, a cache owner might want to filter who their caches are available to. A cache setter can set their cache so that it is only available to those with a premium account. It could possibly be argued as a bit elitist, but most cache owners only do it as a way to increase the longevity of a cache hide. They can sometimes cause a few administrative hassles if you are a family with only one member with a premium account, but it does open even more geocaches up to you.
3. Premium Stats
Love them or hate them, Geocachers love to talk about their numbers. With so many statistics available, geocachers have created all manners of challenges. From completing difficulty / terrain grids to doing consecutive days caching, advanced stats will take your numbers and give you not only greater insight into your accomplishments but also more opportunities to brag to your fellow geocachers.
You can also record all your milestone caches for all to see when you pass your 100th, 1000th or even 10,000th find.
4. Instant Notifications
Whilst not an official part of the geocaching game, some cachers love to be the first to find new geocaches after they’ve been published. You’ve probably heard some cachers referred to as FTF sharks or seen logs on new caches refer to FTF (First To Find).
It’s just another way to play the game and some people really enjoy going out and trying to be the first to find a cache. In order to do this, the premium feature of instant notifications is a great asset. You can easily set it up so that as soon as any new cache goes live you’re sent an email. It’s then just a case of hoping you’re close enough to get to it before your other local geocachers.
5. Going Paperless
I’ve been geocaching long enough to remember the times when a day out caching meant carrying half a ream of paper with you, but modern GPSr devices are capable of storing far more cache details than we ever hoped possible some seven or eight years back.
Couple this with the PQ feature, and it’s like having the whole of Geocaching.com on your device during a day out. You’ve got access to hints, descriptions and log files without the worry of whether you’ve got a data signal or not on your cell phone.
Being old enough to remember the days when if you lost your print out of the cache details you might as well DNF and go home, I now couldn’t live without this feature.
If there is one point of discussion that is second only to numbers amongst cachers it’s cache quality. Many cachers will moan about the quality of geocaches, about how it’s all micros shoved in hedges rather than nice large caches in nice locations. With so many geocaches available, trying to find these can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack (or a micro in an ivy covered tree).
Thankfully, premium members get the ability to favourite caches they think to be of a high quality. Operating a bit like a Facebook like, premium geocachers can click on the icon on the cache detail page to award the cache a favourite point.
Use them sparingly though as you will only get one favourite point to assign for every 10 caches that you find.
Like many other features, this can be assigned via third-party apps, like GSAK through the geocaching.com API feature.
7. Advanced Maps
I personally love to be able to search an area for caches and then go into map mode to get an idea of saturation, possible locations for a trip out, and an idea of caches I’ve still yet to find in the area. Premium members get additional features.
Instead of having to use Leaflet maps, cachers can elect to use Google Maps as their map backdrop. If an area is looking a little saturated, it’s also possible to filter the map, turning off certain cache types to get a clearer view. Groundspeak is developing this feature further so expect this to have the flexibility of the PQ system in the not too distant future.
With other features such as being able to create a PQ along a route or create bookmark lists there’s a whole host of reasons to elect to go for a premium membership. Priced at around $30 (depending on your location, some territories are more expensive comparatively than others), it’s not going to break the bank, will give you a host of new features that will aid you in your caching expeditions and open up new options to you as to how you play the game.