CacheCrazy.Com: Geo-Tips: Favourite Points For Fun And Profit

Monday, December 19, 2011

Geo-Tips: Favourite Points For Fun And Profit

Favourite cache near Amarillo TX
 Often when I travel I only have a few hours to check out an area and, not surprisingly, my preferred method of exploration is by geocaching.  The trick is finding the best caches in the area so you can make the most of your time.  This post will delve into the methods to my madness and equip you with the tools you will need to accomplish this mission: finding the best caches in your area.

As inspiration: the pictures contained in this post are from caches I found using the methods described below.

On a mountain top in northern CA
Note:  There are many listing services for geocaches. The tips here are specific to geocaching.com.  They also assume that you have a premium membership, and are familiar with making pocket queries (if enough people need a tutorial on this, let me know and I'll whip one up for you - leave a comment to request this).  There are also other ways to get these sorts of lists, namely the Windows program GSAK - however GSAK costs money, and it doesn't run on every computer, so it is not available to everyone (me, for example). The following technique will run on any computer, and doesn't cost any more than the premium membership for geocaching.com

Worlds oldest active cache.
So, lets talk about favourite points.  A while ago Groundspeak released a nice little feature that allows cachers to mark a cache that they think is special in some way with a favourite point.  As time passes the better caches collect a large number of favourite points.  In general, the more points a cache has, the better the cache will be. We can use this information to sort a list of caches, and we can generate this list by making a simple pocket query.

Hanging in tree near Raleigh NC
So start by running a pocket query for your area.  It doesn't matter what parameters you use to create the PQ - anything will do.  If I am in an area I make a normal one, but I have made PQs based on routes to find the best caches when I am on a road trip.  Other things to consider is how much time you have.  If you only have a few hours, you probably want to limit the difficulty/terrain rating, and the area to something reasonable (10 miles is my rule of thumb).  You may also want to limit on cache type - puzzles can take a lot longer to find than a traditional cache, for example.  Use your best judgement when constructing your PQ for your own particular situation and caching preferences.

Found near Morehead City NC
Once you have your PQ created, run it and look at the cache list in your browser. This list may be initially sorted in many ways, but from a favourite points perspective the list is random.  So we need a way to sort it by favourites.  If you look closely at the third column you will see an icon that looks like a blue ribbon.  This blue ribbon stands for Favourites. Click on this ribbon and your list will magically be sorted by favourite points.  Handy, eh?

( ^-- your screen should look something like this --^)
So now you have a list of the best caches in your area.  You'd like to grab this list and hit the trails... but there is a problem. It is not possible to just grab the list of favourite caches.  If you download this PQ it will include all of the caches, not just the favourites.  So now we need a way to filter this list down to just the caches we care about.  We can't run a PQ limited by favourite points, but we can make a list of favourite caches, and we can make PQs from lists... I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Near Phoenix AZ
So the steps are:

  • Create a list (click on Your Profile and Lists).  The list must be created before you can add anything to it (annoyingly you can't create a list the first time you try to add something to it)
  • Bring your PQ back up. and sort it by favourites as outlined above.
  • Start at the first cache, and look at the details.  I use this step to check for issue with the cache (lots of recent DNFs etc.).  If it seems like something you want to hunt, add it to the list you created in the first step (link is on the top right).
  • Repeat until you have more caches than you have time to find.
  • Go to the list, and create a pocket query from it.
  • Download the pocket query
  • Load onto your GPS
No reason, just cute.
At this stage you have a GPS full of the best caches in the area.  

So why are you still here?  Go hit the road and have the best adventure you can!

Happy caching!

5 comments:

Kim@Snug Harbor said...

I never knew you could click on the ribbon and sort the favorites on the PQ. I learned something new today. Thanks!

smithie23 said...

Great tutorial, Dave! For me, I usually take the "less is more" approach. I'll typically scope out the map prior to a trip, and pick a select handful of caches near where I'll be staying, or working. If I have six or seven caches loaded up in my GPSr, I'm usually good to go. This way, at least in my crazy mind, I'm not disappointed when I don't go out and find a dozen caches on my two-day trip to Florida. If I'm there, and realized I'll have the time to do so, is when I utilize the pocket queries, in a manner similar to yours.

Thanks for sharing!

BLOODHOUNDED said...

Awesome post Dave!
This is an excellent way to weed out the trash and get the most out of you experience while in unknown territory. Great minds think alike. When GC came out with the favorite points I thought that over time you could sort by favorable caches and see the best of the best in any given area. One real bummer but, maybe it's a cool little hidden secret,is one of my best caches has only been found 15 times with 2 favs. It would get overlooked in this strategy. But, like I said, your odds of getting good caches increases greatly with favorite points considered. Great job Dave and thanks for the awesome tutorial. I love tutorials!

rhr_nl said...

You can skip the pq part. You can simply create a list of caches with a max distance around your town from the search a cache page.

Ryan Duffy said...

It's even easier (& cheaper) with the mobile app. Do an advanced search for the location you plan to visit, filter out the stuff you don't have time for (events, puzzles, multis, high terrain difficulty).

The search shows the 20 closest caches. Scroll to the bottom and load another 20 a few more times.

The mobile app has a double arrow icon that lets you sort by many things (like fav pts).

You can then add individual caches to a saved list or save the whole list.

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