How Much Data Does Geocaching Use?

How Much Data Does Geocaching Use?

If you Geocache with a handheld GPS, data isn’t an issue. However, if you’re using a smartphone and don’t have unlimited data, data is something that you need to keep in mind. So, how much data does geocaching use?

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Data usage in your smartphone varies depending on your geocaching style. The GPS function of your phone uses no data. Data is used mostly for maps and cache information. Planning ahead can reduce or eliminate data usage.

If you like to geocache spontaneously, checking around for nearby caches when you are in a new place and have some time to kill, you’re going to be using some data. However, if you prepare before you go, you can set things up to minimize data usage. You can even limit data use in spontaneous cache hunting.

What Causes Your Phone to Use Data When Geocaching?

Since the GPS function doesn’t use data, what is responsible for data usage during a day of geocaching? It essentially comes down to two things: maps and cache information.

Online maps eat data (and power). The amount of data they use depends on the detail of the map, the complexity of the features, and how much territory you’re covering with the map continuing to refresh and reload.

Cache information can be an even bigger user of data if you’re downloading it in the field. This can include the hints, descriptions of the cache, or anything else that is included in the cache information. Some have large amounts of text and even photos. The more there is, the more data you will be using.

How Can I Tell How Much Data I Need

There is no easy answer to this. Data usage can be affected by the type of smartphone you are using and a number of other factors.

Geocaching data usage is highly affected by your geocaching style. It is also important to account for how much data you use for non-geocaching applications when deciding on a data plan.

How much time you spend geocaching is also a huge factor. If you are going out every day you are going to have a much bigger data requirement than someone who does it once or twice a month.

A good way to get an idea of your own data needs for geocaching is to go into the settings for your phone.

How Much Data Does Geocaching Use?

Virtually every smartphone allows you to look at data usage by app. You can use this information, combined with your non-geocaching data usage when deciding on the right data plan for you.

Another thing you can do to determine your required data usage is to conduct an experiment. Go out and find a few geocaches, and log the total time you use the phone. Use it exactly as you normally would.

Once you are done, go into your phone’s settings > app usage and see how much data was used during that time period (you can always clear your cache to start from zero).

If for example, you used the app and data for a period of 3 hours, and it used a total of 250MB, that should give you a general idea of the required data usage.

The more times you conduct this type of experiment, the more accurate your data use predictions will be.

Is There a Way I Can Limit My Data Usage When Geocaching?

There are a couple of good ways you can either limit your data usage or nearly eliminate it entirely.

Plan Ahead

The best way to limit data usage is to download maps and cache data ahead of time, using wifi. You need to plan where you are going to go and download the maps of the area you intend to hunt and the data for the caches that you want to find.

Offline maps are easy to load and use. Make sure your phone is set to wifi so that you don’t accidentally use cellular data and download the information.

Once you get to the area that you intend to search, put your phone in airplane mode and the phone will use the downloaded maps and cache data just like a handheld GPS, with no data usage whatsoever.

You can even log your caches as you find them for any cache that you downloaded. The log will simply be pending until you get back to an area that has wifi, at which point the phone will automatically post it.

Use the App Wisely

Even if you decide to do a spontaneous cache hunt, you can limit your data by closing the app when you don’t need it.

For instance, if you look at the map and see that the cache appears to be at the other end of a trail, close the app while you walk most of the way down the trail.

When you think you are getting close, open the app again and use it briefly to navigate to the cache, Find the cache, log it, close the app again and walk out. You’ve had a successful hunt and used almost no data.

Go Premium

The premium geocaching account has a handful of features that make it a bit more efficient in terms of data usage. The main ones being offline maps and advanced caches.

Consider using a GPS

If you are anything like me, sometimes you get sick of your phone and want to chuck it into the woods. Well, the good news is you can easily geocache with a handheld GPS unit, that does not use any data.

In fact, that’s how geocaching got its start, well before the time of smartphones!

See Also: Geocaching GPS vs Smartphone (Pros and Cons)

Final Thoughts

Nowadays, using smartphones is the preferred tool to go geocaching. With a bit of planning, you can limit your data usage, or eliminate altogether with the use of a handheld GPS unit.

But don’t forget to look up! Use your eyes and ears to look and observe the environment. After all, that is part of the intention when it comes to geocaching. Get out there and explore! Thanks for reading.