Explore the outdoors: Part 3 – Geocaching.com alternatives


In my previous “Explore the Outdoors” posts I have looked at Waymarking and Benchmarking/Trigpointing. In this installment I take a look at alternative cache listings websites.

It’s not just all about Groundspeak Geocaching. There is also NaviCache, Opencaching, TerraCaching and also just recently OpenCaching.com. I thought as I’d already blogged about the new OpenCaching.com site that it’d only be fair to give the other sites a bit of the spotlight

NaviCache

http://navicache.com came about early 2001. It offered a less restrictive service to what was available. The site offers nearly any type of geocache and there is no charge for anything on the site.

I signed up for an account to give it a test and immediately loved the site due to it’s choice of Captcha word to verify my sign up.

Which is worse: a captcha which asks for a colloquial term for an erection or the gods-awful colloquial term it selected?

However, that’s probably the only thing that I loved. I searched for caches in the United Kingdom and returned 2 results. Both showed strange coords and one put me out in the sea near Africa! Neither have maps and showed a message saying that maps weren’t available outside of the USA. I then attempted to find some caches in New York city and came up with 4 results. I selected 1 and the maps were nowhere near as detailed as what we’re used to with Geocaching.com. This was where my navicache user experience ended. It certainly isn’t anywhere near a Geocaching.com replacement for us UK users and the US listings are limited too. On the whole the site looks very dated, and isn’t something that I will be revisiting, although I’m sure it does have its selected set of dedicated followers.

Navicache Example

TerraCaching

The goal of terracaching.com is to provide high-quality caches. Membership is managed through a sponsorship system and all submissions are constantly reviewed by other members. There are virtual, locationless and traditional/multi-stage caches in its database. I’ve heard that some users who have published caches on Geocaching.com with links to their caches on Terracaching get warned that unless they remove the link their listing will get disabled.

To me TerraCaching sounded like quite a good idea. We went on quite a few caching trips last year and finding quality caches in areas you are totally unfamiliar with was a real nightmare. The recent Geocaching.com favorites feature however is a lot more helpful now for this sort of thing.

So I signed up to TerraCaching, knowing that I might not get anywhere with it, but it’s worth a try. You need to enter your home coords for a chance of getting a sponsor, so I did just that and had one within an hour. I was half way there. To try and get another I posted a message in the forum asking for one. I explained what the purpose of hiding caches means to me, and my goals with the hides. From reading the site a bit more I also found that my genuine beliefs about what makes a good cache hide shared by TerraCaching.com. That evening I got another sponsorship offer so I was able to check out what the site was all about. Getting sponsorship is very easy, so if you fancy checking out the site then do sign up.

I took a look at the world map of Terracaches and it’s clear that the majority are in North America, the UK and Europe (Belgium/Germany area). It doesn’t look like it’s caught on in Australia yet, for example. There aren’t that many around us, but I had a quick lookie at 10 or so of the closest ones. Unfortunately the majority were virtuals and of the few that weren’t they were long multi-caches. I continued my search further afield and found again that the majority were virtuals. There were a couple of standard caches here and there though.

Terracaches worldwide

Terracaches near me

My initial perception of what Terracaching might be about was wrong, however as I hadn’t been able to access the site without a sponsor I was limited. I had hoped that Terracaching would be a site with extra really good caches, as well as double posts of those particularly good ones at Geocaching.com that have met their approval, however from their Wiki: “You should be aware though, that you should not ‘cross post’ (duplicate cache listings here from other listing sites, or visa versa). The TerraCaching community generally prefers that caches listed here be unique to this site. However, since every cache is judged on it’s own merits, exceptions are always possible. For instance, the community actually encourages cross posting event caches.”

Although it has a slightly better feel than Navicache, the Terracaching site also has a dated feel to it. The cache listings are nowhere near as user-friendly and professional looking as the Geocaching.com ones, although this is no fault of the cache owner, they can only work with what they have got.

A terracaching listing

My Terracaching Conclusion

After having a good snout around the Terracaching website, I don’t think that this is not a website that I will use. I’m not interested in creating a cache that only a couple of finders will bother visiting because quite frankly I do take a lot of time to research and plan my hides already to ensure that they are of top quality and going to all of that effort for just 2 visitors just isn’t worth it. I am also not interested in visiting virtuals or long multi-caches. On first glances it doesn’t look like there is anything special about the caches listed, however I guess the overall look of the site doesn’t really help “sell” the caches that are truely unique and special. I guess Terracaching just isn’t for me. It obviously does appeal to a select few,and there will always be people who don’t want to follow the crowds and, for example, won’t use Microsoft products simply because they are Microsoft products. Unless I’m going to an area where there are quite a few Terracaches that I may pass, I’m unlikely to spend much time even thinking about Terracaches.

Opencaching

Opencaching is a completely independent, non-commercial caching site. Each Opencaching site is country-dependent and there is indeed an Opencaching UK site. There was a recent mention of the US Open Caching site on the GC Podcast which encouraged me to join their UK twitter feed. A new webcam opencache was tweeted in London’s Leicester Square the evening before we went to London so I joined up and downloaded the GPX file. We however didn’t venture to that part of London. It was however enough to tempt me.

The Opencaching UK site does have quite a slick feel to it, however of course doesn’t match the professional standard of Geocaching.com. The idea of something being “Open” however does mean that there is no financial gain by anyone. This means no adverts and no charge for services such as pocket queries. The site is run by volunteers. This is one of the main “selling points” for Opencaching. Although I am a supporter of open source (I’m a big fan of PHP, MySQL, Firefox, Linux, etc.) when you consider the amount of caches that are on Opencaching vs Geocaching.com the cost to use the more exciting parts of Geocaching.com are in my mind completely justified. To run and maintain server power costs, license costs, and developer wages for a site with over a million caches and as many users as it has is by no means cheap. To me, paying a few quid each year and having to view adverts on some of the pages is completely justified. The adverts are also very well selected, and things that I’m glad they advertised about as I have benefitted from them. Fair enough the big boys are making a profit from the site, but good on them. It was a good idea!

For Opencaching to grow and really stand a chance at being a popular caching site it needs people to start using it, like people started using Geocaching.com. Once there are enough people using it to hide caches, the finders will follow. This is a big leap and can mean the difference between the site failing, or rapidly growing into something big. As I write this Opencaching UK has 439 active caches and 1296 finds, making it a very small fish in comparison to Geocaching.com.

An example of a Opencaching UK listing

Something that does attract me to OpenCaching is the different cache types that you are allowed to submit. There are:
Virtual caches – Just like there used to be
Educache – A virtual cache that teaches something, perhaps historical about a site.
Webcam – Like the existing ones on Geocaching
Podcache – An mp3 file. Your coords take the finder to a location and instructions in the file tell them where to go. I guess just like those museum tours where you walk around with a head set!

I do love the idea of a podcache and have a great idea for one that I could hide, but would I go to the effort of creating one to publish on a website that no-one really uses? Erm, well, no… Not yet, not until (if ever) the site gets big. But that’s not really the spirit if I think like that. If everyone has this opinion then nothing will happen, if everyone has the contrasting opinion then the site will flourish. My attitude on most things like this however is that I’m not going to make a difference. If me becoming vegetarian would cause the whole world to become vegetarian and stop animals getting slaughtered then I would do so, however by not eating meat I’m not making much of a difference so I’m going to carry on eating my bacon sarnies! ;) I have countless fun arguments about this with my vegetarian brother. Groundspeak definitely haven’t upset me enough to boycott them!

On Opencaching UK there are quite a few caches listed in South Devon, and around London. There are 2 close to where I cache, however I have already found them on Geocaching.com. I guess this does show that for it to take off it does only take a couple of people in one area. If it does get quite big and some cachers are listing on OpenCaching and not Geocaching.com would reviewers need to start checking the proximity of opencaches to ensure that Geocaches aren’t too close?

Opencaching UK map

I’m not saying don’t use Opencaching. I’m just questioning its usefulness. I think that me and all of the other premium members are unlikely to give up all of our caches and migrate to Open Caching just because we don’t have to pay. We can however list our caches on both sites, however it took me a whole afternoon to list Rowney Wood Ramble to get my descriptions perfect so I’m not going to do it again. And why log caches in two places? Opencaching for me offers needless, limited duplication and the 4 exciting additional cache listings don’t tempt me enough to start using it as a Geocaching.com replacement.

Overall…

I’ve tested out Opencaching.com, Opencaching.org.uk, navicache.com, and terracaching.com and unfortunately can’t say that I will regularly visit the sites although I might peek at Opencaching.com every now and then to see what’s going on and what all of the fuss is about! I think the thing I’ve always wanted with geocaching is a way to find stand out caches that will make my trip to somewhere worthwhile. I think the recent favorites feature is enough for now to keep me satisfied in that region though. I hope I’ve provided enough in this post to give an insight of the alternatives out there and I encourage anyone who likes what they’ve seen to sign up to the sites and have a play! I however, am still a slave to the frog! ;)

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6 Responses to “Explore the outdoors: Part 3 – Geocaching.com alternatives”

  1. buzzy_cacher Says:

    I think that after 10+ years of constant development, geocaching.com will remain the top site for caching. The only thing that I am slightly worried about is opencaching.com (not .us/.uk because the country-dependent ones are completely different from the .com one) buying out geocahing.com. Garmin, who owns opencaching.com, could probably accomplish that. However, I don’t think that that occurrence is in the near future.

    Also, the closest alternative to Podcache that we have is Wherigo, in my opinion. Although I guess you could turn it in to a puzzle cache, with the mp3.

  2. Annemarie Says:

    Thanks Cass for a great blog about other caching sites. I have been interested in looking at what else is available and this has helped enormously. I’m sticking to geocaching.com.

    • geocass Says:

      Glad it’s helped. I would have loved to have been able to say that I found some great sites that I’m going to start using, however they haven’t persuaded me to leave my froggy friend! I liked the trigpoint hunting idea that I looked into though and whenever were out caching I collect them if we go past one :)

  3. Melanee Says:

    My mother bought me a garmin-nuvi for Christmas (I think because it was simply on sale…) because I use my android market phone for everything. She mentioned it had geo-chaching on it and I got so excited. Well, it only has open-caching and after using geo-caching I was interested in differences. I love your review and think I am sticking with my premium membership with Geo-caching since it shows over 50 caches within 25 miles of my house, but open-caching only shows 6. Crazy! Thanks! What devices use geo-caching…my cell phone battery just does not last long enough.

  4. Sandvika Says:

    I stumbled across your blog whilst trying to see if there was any clue why OpenCaching.org.uk’s web servers have shut down on Boxing day! Thanks for taking the time to look at and write about the other listing sites – it’s more than 98% of cachers probably ever do. I was tickled to see a couple of references to my caches in your article. Although you’ve already found over 4x as many caches as I have in 1/3 the time (I think that means you’re finding 12 for every 1 that I find) if you are interested in your stats (and I definitely get that impression) then you’re in the right place on the lily pad.

    If you prefer quality over quantity I think you’d give the alternative listing sites more consideration because it’s the caches, not the web site kerb appeal, that matter. Whichever sites the caches come from, they all go into GSAK and any cacher capable of using GSAK is capable of enjoying the caches hidden on the alternative sites. Let’s be frank, the alternatives are for discerning cachers by discerning cachers because they want to stand out from the crowd. Groundspeak may have 98% or more of the cache listings, but you have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, which is hard work, or you don’t bother and end up seeking some pretty awful caches. In the 4 years I’ve been caching, the quality has gone down the tubes, which was the reason Groundspeak stopped virtuals in the first place.

    Opencaching.org.uk is the main alternative, Navicache is a ghost site (but there are amazing caches in there, if they are still in place). Terracaching has too high a barrier for entry – first impressions are off-putting – sponsorship should wait until you are ready to place caches. The scoring scheme is brilliant, but only works if there’s a critical mass of caches – which we have never achieved.

    Don’t take my word about quality. My friend Amberel was originally not interested in the other sites, but when he dipped his toe in the water, he was pleasantly surprised. He now makes personal geocoins for the setters of the very best geocaches he finds. Groundspeak caches do feature prominently of course, but nowhere near the 98% you’d expect if all sites offered caches of equal quality. http://www.amberel.com/topcache.htm

    I’d suggest you try a few!

  5. Grahame Cookie Says:

    I’d come across a Geocaching Australia cache (in South Australia) that was testing out which alternatives to Groundspeak cachers were using, and came across there the ones you listed. So, Geocaching Australia is another locally based site that also allows virtuals, webcams, and locationless caches. I’ve recently placed some caches with those other sites, and only had two ‘hits’ with an OpenCaching cache so far, and that is because it is 3m below a challenging Groundspeak one!! (Mind you, the First-to-Find on Opencaching was actually before the Groundspeak one was even published!) Terra- and Navi-caches are quiet at moment.
    On Groundspeak I’ve removed any reference to alternate caches, with exception of GCA caches. (As that seems to be allowed)


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