Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Premium Membership....

Well, I got signed up at geocaching.com for a premium membership. I have to say, even if there were no benefits to the premium membership, I would recommend signing up just to support the site and ensure it's availability for the years to come. I have had many hobbies through the years, but I truly love geocaching. The basic services that are provided to the free membership alone are worth the $30 dollar a year fee. I've not been anywhere on the web that provides this level of service for free.

I enjoy Navicache and Terracache, but the participation levels just won't ever equal that of geocaching.com. I mean, GC.com has over 230,000 caches listed and more than 24,000 cachers have logged more than 145,000 caches in the last 7 days !! That is just nearly impossible to top. The forums alone are worth the fee. I've learned more about geocaching reading the post on the geocaching.com forums than I've learned reading 100 other websites. The people their really know there stuff.

Now that I have made it clear that the free membership is well worth the $30 dollars, let's talk a little about the benefits that you receive when you sign up for the premium membership. I am a new premium member, so I have just scratched the surface of what is available to premium members. First and foremost, having a Pocket PC or Palm device will truly allow you to take full advantage of the premium membership.

The first benefit to having a premium membership is pocket queries. This allows you to download caches to your PC from GC.com based on numerous parameters that you chose. These queries can be sent to you up to five times a day, every day of the week, although, you would have to be a pretty hardcore cacher to need them that often. This feature is aimed at cachers that want to do paperless caching using a Palm Pilot or Pocket PC. I assume that there might be other uses for queries, but that is what I will use them for. I will probably set up a query to run every Friday for my weekend caching followed by a query the evening after I cache to update my finds.To take full advantage of these queries, you obviously need software to get them on to your handheld device. I will discuss some of those options in a later post. You can go with free software or shareware to accomplish this. Hint: you get what you pay for on this deal. It is doable with free software, but there is some very inexpensive shareware out there that makes a world of difference (GSAK).

The second benefit of being a premium member is the geocaching maps available on the GC.com website. These are really cool and well worth the money. They show the caches on a good quality map and you can zoom, pan, and print. Very nice !

Third is an unlimited number of watchlist. I really like adding caches to my watchlist if I DNF (do not find) the cache. When you have a cache on your watchlist, you receive an email evertime someone logs to the cache. This has resulted in me finding a cache that I DNF'd twice. I kept reading the logs of people that were finding the cache and once day someone said something that made something click in my mind as to where to locate the cache. Sure enough, I went out the next day and walked right up to the cache. Another advantage is seeing that others are unable to find the cache. This may clue you into the fact that the cache may be missing. That can prevent frustration and unneeded trips out to find something that is not there. With fuel prices as high as they are, this can be a money saver! Something else I enjoy is reading the logs of people that find the cache behind me if I placed something cool in the cache. It is really nice to read the response of a fellow cacher when they trade for a nice item I left in the cache.

Next is the Bookmark List and Ignore Feature. I have yet to try this out but it looks useful. I will report on it once I give it a shot.

Instant Notification Feature. If you like being the FTF (first to find), this is a must have! You can set up notifications based on a number of qualifications. You will receive notifications based on your selections instantly to your selected email address. If you use a cellphone email address, you can know immediately when a new cache has been placed in your area. Too cool.

The sixth benefit to a premium membership is members only caches. There have been some discussion on the forums lately concerning the merits of member only caches, but honestly, I like the idea. Some cachers want to reward those that support the site and place caches that are only visible to premium members. The plus side to this is that the caches "should" be of better quality and are less suseptable to being trashed out. Additionally, if a cacher is going to put an expensive FTF prize in the cache, they may initially set the cache to member only and open it up to the general public once the FTF has been claimed. I intend to do this with my next cache. I feel it is important to support the geocaching community and I will place a nice FTF prize to reward those that support the community. Once it is claimed, I will open it up to everyone.

There are a few remaining features, but you will just have to join to see them : ) Basically, I wanted to cover the most important features, and I think I have accomplished it here. $30 a year is not much to support a sport that we all love. Think about it, cut down on one soda a day for a month, and you have payed for your membership. Cut out one trip to McDonald's one day a month for 8 months, and you have payed for your membership. It may seem like a lot of money at the moment, but it is worth far more than $30 a year in my opinion.

Support the geocaching community and sign up for a premium membership soon !



Anonymous said...

Very cool. I think my boyfriend should sign up because he loves geocaching. Plus he has a pocket pc and it would be so cool for him to unlock those features.

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