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4.1. How to get accurate coordinates

Why are accurate coordinates important?

Accurate coordinates make the difference between a happy find and a frustrating DNF. They prevent geocachers from damaging the environment by searching at the wrong location.

When hiding a cache, record accurate coordinates by following the steps below.

Record accurate coordinates

Follow these steps to record coordinates:

  1. Hold your GPS or smartphone so that it has a clear view of the sky– with few or no obstructions.
  2. Wait until the accuracy figure has stopped and drops no more.
  3. Record these coordinates by writing them down or marking them as a waypoint.

Calculate average coordinates

Record even more accurate coordinates by averaging them:

  1. Record coordinates by following the steps above.
  2. Walk away and approach the location from a different direction.
  3. Record coordinates a second time.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 at least once more.
  5. Average the last 3 digits of the N and W coordinates.

Example:
N51° 42.634' W4°19.915'
N51° 42.636' W4°19.917'
N51° 42.635' W4°19.916'
(634+636+635)/3 = 635
(915+917+916)/3 = 916
Averaged coordinates are N51° 42.635' W4°19.916'

Obstructions influence accuracy

Nearby obstructions affect GPS signals and decrease position accuracy. Obstructions may include

Changes to the air in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere can also affect accuracy. Neither a GPS or smartphone will give you an exact position. At best, you'll get an accuracy of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters). Obstructions can lead to an accuracy of 5 to 30 feet (6 to 10 meters) or worse.

Time influences accuracy

Allow plenty of time for your GPS or smartphone to get an accurate reading. This can take 5 to 10 minutes, and sometimes longer. More satellites being received leads to better accuracy.

The screenshots below are from a handheld GPS (Garmin Oregon). They show how the following information changes over time:

After 1 minute
after one minute
After 2 minutes
after two minutes
After 3 minutes
after three minutes

 

Geocaching® App 

Record coordinates

  1. Choose any cache on your app and start navigation
  2. From navigation screen, tap compass icon
  3. Wait until accuracy settles and record current coordinates

choose any cache  select compass icon  wait until accuracy figure has dropped

Screenshots are from the Geocaching® mobile app on iPhone. It will look slightly different on Android devices.

Record current coordinates by saving a new waypoint

  1. Choose any cache on your app and tap Waypoints
  2. Tap the + icon to add new waypoint
  3. Choose current coordinates to save as a waypoint

select waypoints from any cachetap + iconsave current coordinates as waypoints

Screenshots are from the Geocaching® mobile app on iPhone. It will look slightly different on Android devices.

Want to learn more? A volunteer reviewer created this detailed tutorial for the UK geocaching community.

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