geocaching with no gps

How to do Geocaching Without a GPS? (Explained & Solved!)

geocaching without a gps

Geocaching is almost always associated with the use of a GPS to be able to locate places where you can potentially find caches …

… However, some people might find a proper GPS a bit higher than their budget or they just don’t want to use one!

In this case, it is a great idea to learn how you can do geocaching with this device.

This article addresses just that, so stay tuned!

Is it possible to do geocaching without a handheld GPS?

The simple answer is yes. Yes, you can find geocaches without a handheld GPS. When trying to find a geocache without a handheld GPS, you are entering expert mode of geocaching.

The game revolves around using coordinates to locate a cache. However, that does not necessarily mean a handheld GPS device is required. Although, finding a cache with one is a lot easier than finding one without.

It’s not impossible, in fact it’s very doable. It takes a certain level of skills involving map reading. People have been using maps with longitude and latitude way before GPS became widely available.

Is it realistic to go without a handheld GPS? Probably not. If you are up for a challenge then leave the handheld at home.

Ideas & Tips to do geocaching without a GPS?

Let’s say you want to increase the difficulty of geocaching by navigating the wild without one. Good for you! Or, alternatively for whatever reason you do not have access to a handheld GPS but still want to hunt then you are in luck.

What you will want to do is to:

  • Choose the cache, or caches, you are after
  • Get all the details you can about the cache.
  • You’ll obviously need the coordinates, but equally important you’ll need the title. Sometimes the title offers a huge clue as to where you might find the cache. Whether it’s a clever name or a hint at a nearby landmark, always pay attention to the name.

Since you’ll be without a GPS, you’ll have to do things the old fashion way. Use online maps before you head out the door. There was a time when people would print out directions before heading somewhere. As dark as those times may have been, people still managed to get around.

You can do the same.

Fortunately, with today’s technology you can zoom in with greater detail than ever before. You can either commit these images to your memory or print them out.

A good idea would be to utilize street view. Google Maps is perfect for those types of views. All you have to do is to try to place yourself in the real world the same as in the online photo.

Be sure to print out a map of the location you are hunting. When you arrive, you can give yourself an idea of the distance you are away from where the cache is.

Even better, place an X on where you think the cache with given coordinates. Make your own treasure map. You can plan out the trail and mark it down to follow. With online maps, plugging in coordinates will pinpoint you more accurately than a typical handheld GPS will out in the wild.

Let’s say you don’t have a printer, well you can always do everything above on your phone. In fact, it might be better than printing everything out. Definitely a lot less wasteful since you are not using ink or paper.

What you would want to do is use Google Maps and put in the coordinates, then switch to Satellite view and zoom in as far as you can. Does the photo on your phone match your surroundings? Keep wandering around till they do.

You’ll have to pay closer attention to your surroundings than you would with a GPS. Rather than listening for the beep as you get closer as you use the official app, you are instead looking around till you spot something familiar to what’s on your phone..

What most people don’t realize is that a typical handheld GPS is only accurate up to a certain point. Objects such as trees decrease their accuracy even more. At least with an online map there are less variables to affect the accuracy.

Rather than relying heavily on GPS, you are relying on your own ability to scout the area you are exploring.

In this sense, you are better able to take in the view. This is something often missing in geocaching. Players get  caught up in looking for a cache that they forget the reason another player chose to hide a cache there.

Forcing yourself to be more mindful of where you are hunting brings a new aspect to the game. When you are hunting for caches without a GPS, take the time to look around and take in the scenery because that may be a clue in itself as to where the cache may be.

You get the opportunity to look through the eyes of a player trying to hide a cache.

Is a Compass enough of a tool?

Is it a enough? Probably. The problem with using a compass is the fact that when a player hides a cache the coordinates they give for where to find it is only so accurate.

With a compass, and map in hand you are able to navigate to a location but unless you can truly navigate with a map on compass, you won’t have much luck getting close without triangulating landmarks to your location.

At that point, you were better off using the satellite images you found to triangulate to instead lead you to the cache using the provided coordinates for the cache.

The only catch here is if you are looking for a cache with great details. In that case, you may be able to triangulate yourself within a close vicinity of the cache.

There are plenty of players who utilize only a compass. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth the investment of time to learn how.

Final Thoughts: There are cases where you need GPS …

Let’s talk about what if scenarios for a second because these are the most common reasons when you would need a GPS, especially a dedicated handheld GPS.

What if the battery on your phone died, but before that happened you wrote down all the coordinates for all the caches you saved? You’re in luck if you have a separate GPS.

Having a backup plan is important for things in life. A long day of geocaching is one of those times you’ll want a backup plan.

It’s easy to run through your phone’s battery. A long day of geocaching will eat it up quick. If you plan on spending time out hunting, then you might want to consider a handheld GPS. Printing out maps is another option.

Another case where you need GPS is when you are out hiding a cache. You could use Google Maps and Satellite view to get only so far. It’s possible the coordinates you found online might not work out the way you planned.

In this case, you’ll have to come up with a new spot on the fly. In order to do that you’ll need new coordinates. Without GPS you won’t be able to pull these new coordinates.



About the Author

Carissa Harmer

Carissa is the huge metal detecting enthusiast that loves collecting coins. She is also highly interested in other treasure hunting activities like magnet fishing and gold prospecting/panning.