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Geocaching 105: Using Geocaching Premium membership features

by Carolyn K. director, Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

New to Geocaching?  Start with Geocaching 101: Finding Your First Cache.  Need a refresher on the acronyms and terms of Geocaching?  Visit Geocaching Acronyms

I'm hooked, and now I'm a Geocaching.com Premium member.  What new things can I do?

Geocaching.com Premium Membership gives you a variety of additional benefits.  You can seek and log "premium members only" caches.  You can generate statistics and reports, schedule queries to run on the Geocaching.com cache database.  And you can find caches along a route, making road trips much more interesting and rest stops more than just a break from the monotony of the road.  And Premium Membership supports the ongoing work of the Geocaching.com website, and the game of Geocaching all over the world.

Get Instant Notifications!

Being first-to-find (FTF) a new cache is fun, and in some areas, there's a great competition to be FTF when a new cache is placed.  How do those folks all know when a new cache is published so quickly?  Simple!  There's a premium member feature that allows you to find out instantly when a new cache is published in your area. 

Visit the Add Instant Notification page from your profile page (click on your name in the upper right), and set up your first notification.  Give it a name, and select the type of caches you'd like to be notified of first; most geocachers start with Traditional caches, but you might also set up a notification for Multi-caches, Event caches, or other cache types.  Next check off the conditions you'd like to be notified of: Publish listing will notify you when a new cache is placed, while Enable Listing will notify you when temporarily disabled caches become available again.

By default, the notification will center around your home latitude and longitude, but if you prefer you can center the search somewhere else.  Set up a notification for somewhere you travel regularly, or somewhere you're planning to visit next summer!  Specify the distance that your notifications should cover, and the address you'd like the e-mail notifications delivered to.  Voila!  You're on your way to getting instant e-mail notifications of exciting new caches in your area!

Recently added feature, you can have your notifications delivered to a different e-mail than your main geocaching e-mail.  This is great if you want your FTF notifications delivered to your phone, but the rest of your geocaching e-mail sent to your regular e-mail account.  Be sure to add your second e-mail address and confirm it (click on the link in the e-mail) before you try to use it here.

Finding caches along a route.

When you're traveling, it's often useful to find the closest caches to your route.  This is easily accomplished when you're a Premium member.  Simply go to your Profile page (click on your name in the upper right) and scroll down to Premium Features in the right column.  Select Build Pocket Queries, and near the top of the page, click on Find Caches Along a Route.  Click on the tab to Create New Route.  Enter a name for your route, for example Route to Gramma's House, and click Create Route.  Fill in the From: and To: fields for your route, including as much detail as you have available.  Routes can be house to house, or town to town, or whatever you'd like.  Click Search. 

Now is your chance to fine-tune your route.  Don't like the default route?  Perhaps you prefer a more rural path, or to avoid a certain bridge when you travel.  Use drag-and-drop to pick up and move the blue line of your route to the route you prefer.  Once you are satisfied, move below the map and select your Search Radius Hint.  For a direct route with few side trips, select 0.1 miles radius; for more variety, select a higher radius.  Then Save Route Changes, and on the next screen enter any description and keywords you want to add, choose if you want your route to be available in the public directory of routes, and click Save.

Now you're ready to use your route.  Click on Your Created Routes and click the Create Pocket Query beside the route you need now.  This time you can make many more selections and clarifications to your query:

bulletDays to generate - would you like to generate this route weekly?  If so, select your days; if not, leave this section blank.
bulletSearch radius - again, select the distance off your route to include caches.
bulletShow me - limit the number of caches included along the route
bulletCache type - select Any Cache Type, or be more specific.  Are you only looking for Earth Caches?  Letterbox Hybrids?  You decide...
bulletContainer Type - pick your types here; Any Container Type or specific sizes or types.
bulletFilter Options - would you only like to list caches you haven't found yet? Caches that have travel bugs in them?  Members only caches?  Only caches that you own, so that you can check them for maintenance?  You can be specific here.  For travel, I like to filter by caches I Don't Own, I Haven't Found, and those that Are Enabled.
bulletTerrain, and...
bulletDifficulty - Are you looking for high difficulty caches with easy terrain?  Choose Terrain less than or equal to 3 and Difficulty greater than or equal to 2.  Looking for really simple caches to do along a trip?  Choose both Terrain and Difficulty less than or equal to 2.  This is a great way to fill out your table of Terrain / Difficulty caches in your My Finds statistics.
bulletAttributes to Include / Exclude - click once to for the attribute, twice for not the attribute, and really get specific about the types of caches you're looking for.  Remember, though, that not everyone records their attributes, so you may be missing great caches by excluding attributes.
bulletSelect your e-mail for delivery notice, and the type of query file your device supports.  If you're not sure, try the default GPS format first.  If you're only going to go on to the next step (and not download the query to your device) then GPS is a good choice.

Submit Information, and your query will be scheduled.  When the results are available, you'll receive an e-mail telling you where to download the results. Or stop here, without generating the query...  This is where you can use the query right away, right on your computer screen!

Click Preview the Search and you'll get a list of the caches that match your query.  And click on the Map It icon, and you can see the map of all the caches!  Use the map to move around, zoom in, and find caches that are most convenient for your trip!  If you're traveling on highways, be sure to note if the caches are on or off the highway, and if they're available only in one direction (northbound but not southbound, for example).

Getting statistics with your My Finds query

Statistics is a built-in tab on your profile if you are a Premium member of Geocaching.com. But for many of us, we'd like more charts, more graphs, and more statistics, plus we'd like to see how we're doing on the various challenges we're pursuing. For statistics-hounds, there are three great ways to generate tons more statistics, as well as have lots more power at your fingertips. Geocaching Swiss Army Knife is a stand-alone PC program, free for three weeks then a nag screen until you pay.  MyGeocachingProfile is a free website; GCStatistics is a free PC, Mac or Linux program.  Project Geocaching is another website, originally free but now advanced features have a small charge. Unlike the others, Project Geocaching is a seamless process, completing both the download of your stats from Geocaching.com and the upload of your HTML statistics back to your Geocaching.com profile automagically.

Next we'll learn how to create a Pocket Query (PQ), a database query on the Geocaching.com database, that you can then download into your GPS before you travel.  First you should know about the best tool to manipulate that data, combine multiple PQs, and more.  That tool is...

Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK)

Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK) offers all sorts of benefits, including macros to create neat personal statistics, the ability to combine various geocaching site statistics and searches (not just Geocaching.com), and the abilty to download, manipulate, and upload data to and from your geocaching accounts and your GPSr device.  And it's free for 21 days, so you can try it out.

To use GSAK, you must first download and install it on your PC, then download a few associated add-in-macros.  For statistics, FindStatGen3 will create complex, configurable statistics for your pleasure, as well as to share on your public Profile page on the Geocaching.com website.  How many caches do you have in each county in your state?  Each state in the U.S. or each country in the world?  How many caches have you averaged on your caching days?  Overall days since you started caching?  What's the furthest north-east-south-west you've cached?  Learn these answers and more with the FindStatGen3 macro for GSAK.  Once you've loaded your *My Finds query into GSAK, run FindStatGen3 macro to collate and calculate all your caching statistics. Then share the HTML created by FindStatGen3 with your geocaching friends by copying it from your browser (View, Source to get the HTML code from your browser) into your Profile on Geocaching.com.

This process sounds more complicated than it is... just try it.  And if you like and use Geocaching Swiss Army Knife, be sure to pay their modest fee to avoid the "nag screens" after 21 days. You can do much more GSAK than just calculate statistics!

Also read Pocket Queries & GSAK 101, a great introduction to the power of PQs and GSAK.

Project Geocaching... Free for now

Project Geocaching (Project-GC) is the latest entry in the geocachers' statistics options. And Project-GC has one big advantage.  Instead of creating and downloading your *My Finds file from Geocaching.com, and instead of copying and pasting your Profile as HTML back up to Geocaching.com, Project-GC can take care of one or both of these operations for you.  And if you choose to have Project-GC take care of both operations, it will keep your statistics up-to-date with no intervention from you!

Project-GC also offers lots more than just personal statistics.  Wondering who the top geocachers are in your country, state, or county?  Project-GC can tell you.  Looking for the geocaches with the most Finds or Favorite points, in your country,  state, or county? Project-GC can show you those, too.  Project-GC also offers interesting infographics like, Cache Types in one day... how many cache types have you logged in a single day?  Almost 650,000 geocachers have logged two types of caches in a day, but only 2700 have logged 8 types in a day (my personal record) and only 39 geocachers have logged 12 types in a day, including a couple of my local caching buddies (data: before September 2013). Wow!

Free statistics... GCStatistics and MyGeocachingProfile

There are several other free ways to get just statistics, without all the extra features of GSAK.  GCStatistics, the Geocaching Statistics Tool, is a free program you download and run on your computer (PC, Mac or Linux) to generate detailed statistics.  Click on GCStatistics (don't let the German scare you - it's a good program), download, and run it, giving it access to your Geocaching.com account. GCStatistics will generate the statistics, and then automatically or manually allow you to upload these statistics to your Geocaching.com profile. 

MyGeocachingProfile is a website.  Like GSAK, you must first download your *My Finds from Geocaching.com, then upload it into MyGeocachingProfile. Visit "Step 3" to Build Your Profile... decide which statistics to include in your report, add your FTF list, and other personalization.  With a few changes you may need to backtrack and reload your My Finds.  Once you have everything displayed the way you want, visit "Step 4" to  Preview Your Profile.  From here, you can copy the HTML for your profile, and paste it into your Profile in Geocaching.com or on your personal geocaching website.  MyGeocachingProfile includes the most popular geocaching statistics in a single, easy-to-use program, and occasionally adds new statistics, like the Well-Rounded Cacher Challenge.

*My Finds is a standard query (included on the Pocket Queries page, near the bottom) that Premium Members on Geocaching.com can run every few days. Once you run and download your My Finds query, you can then upload it to GSAK or other web tools to create your caching statistics report. 

Why all the statistics?

While many enjoy statistics for their own sake, or for the graphs and charts they provide, all these Geocaching statistics serve a higher purpose: to complete Challenge Caches.  What are Challenge Caches?  They are caches that in order to log, in addition to finding the container and signing the log, you must meet the challenge set forth by the Cache Owner (CO).  For example,  PA - Challenge of the Day: Century (GC19H86) requires you to find 100 caches in 1 day.  PA - ChocolateTown Challenge South: One Iconic Day requires you to find 8 different types of caches in a single day (Traditional, Multi-, Virtual, Letterbox Hybrid, Event, CITO Event, Mega-Event, Unknown, Groundspeak HQ, Project APE, Webcam, Earthcache, GPS Adventures Exhibit, Wherigo, Lost and Found Event, Groundspeak Lost and Found Celebration). Some of those cache types are retired, but caches of that type still exist (Project APE, Webcam, Virtual, etc.). 

Some of the most common challenges are the One Iconic Day challenges, Fizzy Challenge (log one of each possible difficulty and terrain, 81 combinations), have more than a specific% of your finds be of non-Traditional cache type, Alphanumber challenges (find cache names or cache owner names with each letter and number, A-Z and 0-9). Challenge caches exist in every state and many countries; once met, you can use your challenge statistics to meet any Challange Cache that requires that particular challenge.

And more...

There are many more things you can do in with Geocaching.com queries... download them to your Garmin Oregon or better GPS units for offline caching, create advanced queries to use in GSAK, and more.  Be sure to explore  Groundspeak 1.1. Benefits of Geocaching Premium for even more!

 

Updated July 01, 2016


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