Putting My iPad’s Geocaching App to the Test, on a Vlog in the Woods

Today’s column is in video form, which is a first for me. I was out hiking with my dog Rhody in the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston last weekend when a few realizations hit me at once.

1) I had my 3G iPad with me

2) I had my camera with me

3) I wanted to do a column about geocaching with the iPad

4) I wanted to practice video blogging, also known as vlogging.

So, in the spirit of killing several figurative birds with one virtual stone, I fired up a geocaching app on the iPad, put my camera into video mode, and shot some footage, which you can watch below. (If you’re reading this via an Xconomy RSS feed or e-mail newsletter, you can easily view the video over on YouTube.)

Groundspeak's geocaching app on the iPadThe video is a sequel of sorts to my September 2008 column, “GPS Treasure Hunting with your iPhone 3G.” In that piece I gave a quick overview of geocaching. For those new to the concept, it’s the sport of seeking out hidden “caches” using only the latitude and longitude data published at the website Geocaching.com. My big question at the time was whether the iPhone 3G was a decent tool for geocaching, compared to the dedicated (and very expensive) handheld GPS devices I’d used in the past. It was a relevant question because the iPhone 3G had been released only a couple of months before, and was the first iPhone with built-in GPS capability.

My verdict was that the iPhone performed very well, although I had to pull together data from a couple of different apps to accomplish the task. Just a month after I published that first column, Groundspeak, the organization that runs the Geocaching.com site, came out with its own soup-to-nuts geocaching app. Groundspeak has continued to improve the $9.99 app over time, and to my mind it’s the single best tool for geocaching, beating even the dedicated GPS receivers. That’s because it combines wireless access to Groundspeak’s database of more than 1 million geocaches around the world (assuming you’re within range of a data network, of course) with beautiful map and compass interfaces that guide you to each individual cache.

Groundspeak hasn’t released an iPad version of its geocaching app, although there’s word that one is in development. But the iPhone version works just fine on the iPad. In fact, it may work even better—and that’s what I wanted to test in the woods last weekend. You can click the play button below to see how my adventure turned out. A special shout-out to my friend Graham Gordon Ramsay for his help editing this 6-minute video. Apologies in advance for the Blair Witch-style bouncy camera work about two minutes in. (For geocachers only: the cache shown here is GCZMZE.)

For a full list of my columns, check out the World Wide Wade Archive. You can also subscribe to the column via RSS or e-mail, and you can download Pixel Nation, an e-book version of the first 80 columns, as a free PDF file or a $4.99 Kindle edition.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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