As with lots of websites where you have to sign up, on geocaching.com you have the option to use the site for free as a ‘basic’ member or to pay for a ‘premium’ membership. I have seen quite a few posts on social media lately asking about whether or not people should fork out for premium. The big question is: is it worth it? Here’s a lowdown on the features of premium membership and how you can use them to enhance your geocaching experience. I’ve listed them in order of how useful I find them, starting with the most helpful.
1. Pocket queries
Once you get your head around them, it will be hard to imagine geocaching without pocket queries. PQs are customised searches that you can download to a GPSr or smartphone for offline use.
Not only are they an invaluable tool when you’re planning a day of geocaching fun or a whole vacation of caching, but they are also very useful to search for specific caches. PQs are not just for GPSr users either – you can download PQs for offline use on most geocaching apps. You can learn how to create pocket queries here.
2. New cache notifications
If you ever wondered how people know when a new cache is published, instant notifications is the answer. They are easy to set up and you’ll get an email every time a new cache is published, giving you a better shot at FTF (provided you’ve checked your emails and you’re the first one there 😉 ).
Oh and don’t forget that you need to set up separate notifications for each cache type!
3. Bookmark lists
I use bookmark lists to keep a list of my FTFs, of the challenge caches I’ve qualified for but not yet found, of the puzzle caches I’ve solved but not yet found, a list of all caches in one of my cache series…. and many, many other things.
You can keep lists private or make them public and share them with others. I often refer to a very handy public list of challenge caches in Ireland created by Irish cacher Fjon. You too can create public lists that others might find useful, such as the caches you recommend in your town, which can be useful for geotourists.
4. Advanced Filtering
With basic membership, you can only filter your search to change the cache type. When you’re a premium member, you can filter your search results by difficulty and/or terrain rating, by container size, by caches you own (or don’t own), by caches hidden by a specific person… there are various filters you can use and you’d be surprised how very useful this is! I use it almost every time I search on the website, if even simply to eliminate both caches I’ve already found and caches I own from the search result.
5. Sort search results
Another handy tool when viewing search results is the ability to sort them by distance, favourite points, container size, difficulty, terrain, date last found and date placed on. I find this particularly useful when visiting somewhere new with limited time and I wanted to find the caches that have been favourited most, since these are likely to be most worth finding.
6. Favourite points
Favourite points are virtual blue ribbons that you award to a memorable cache. You can ‘favourite’ caches for a variety of reasons, typically it will be for a particularly creative or cool cache, or for an interesting/beautiful/unexpected location.
Being able to see how many favourite points a cache has is, in theory, a reflection of how a cache stands above the rest. It is also good to consider the percentage of favourite points, and not just the number. For example, a cache with 5 favourite points could have 100% favourite points if it’s only been found 5 times, whereas another cache could have 200 favourite points but 2,000 finds, thus having only 10% favourite points.
The percentage is calculated on the number of premium member visits, not the number of overall visits. It would be great to have the ability to sort by favourite point percentage but unfortunately it’s not possible at present.
I never knew I liked statistics until I started geocaching, but I really do! Statistics add another element to caching, whereby you can set personal goals for various things, like increasing the percentage of multi caches that you find, or even filling in your Difficulty/Terrain grid (also known as the DT or Fizzy grid).
Note that basic members can access various statistics on Project-GC without paying for membership.
8. Premium member only caches
Premium members have the option to make their caches visible to premium members only. From my experience, one reason for making caches ‘premium member only’ is to limit activity at GZ because of a container that cost a lot of money to create or cannot easily be replaced if destroyed/stolen/muggled. If a cache goes missing many times, a cache owner may consider making the cache ‘premium member only’. The cache owner can switch the cache from premium to non-premium as often as they like.
This is one feature I don’t pay much attention to, simply because I’ve been a premium member since 3 weeks after I started caching, and I don’t differentiate between premium and non-premium caches when searching.
For cache owners, if you make a cache premium member only, you can view an ‘audit log’, which tells you who has viewed your cache and how many times.
9. Caches along a route
To date, I have used the Trip Planner feature twice. The first time was when heading for the UK Mega 2015 in Essex – a five hour drive from Holyhead in Wales to Essex. The second occasion was a drive from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, Canada. If you’re planning a long journey, it’s a handy tool to use. The search result will return caches within a certain radius of your route, so you can see which caches you can search for without deviating too much from your planned course.
10. Map provider
There are a variety of maps you can choose from when you’re a premium member. This is not something I look at too often as I tend to use the standard map combined with Google Earth when planning a trip.
Now you know what you get with premium membership and how the premium features might help you, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it for you.
There is an option to try out premium membership for 3 months so you can see if you like it.
Are you a premium member? What do you find most useful or what additions/changes would you like to see? Let me know in the comments.
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