A Geocaching Newb’s Guide to Pocket Queries

Posted: April 24, 2013 in Geocaching, Tutorials
Tags: , ,

So you got your first GPS, GREAT!  Now what?

The instructions on getting started with Geocaching are somewhat vague and despite all the video’s on youtube and word of mouth from friends, I people still get lost on where to start.. So here it is…

This assumes that you have a membership with Groundspeak (http://geocaching.com). If you don’t, do so. Its 30 bucks a year and well worth the investment.

If you don’t have a membership, you can stop here because you won’t be able to follow these steps without one. Namely the best feature you will get from a full membership is the ability to generate pocket queries, which I will explain below in brevity.

  1. Go to the geocaching.com website, and in the ‘Your Profile’ pulldown, go to Pocket Queries

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  2. You will get to the Pocket Query screen, click on the hyperlink called Create a new Query

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  3. Now is the guts of query:
    From this screen you want to put in a descriptive “Query Name” and check the box for the day of the week (today). I will talk more about this later. Lastly change the 500 to 1000 (the max you can generate)NOTE: If you leave this value at 500, when the system mails you notification that a PQ has finished, it will also mail you the PQ. Anything above 500 does not allow this feature to kick in. I personally like the bigger PQ’s and am willing to do a couple extra steps.

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  4. Because this is a beginners guide, I don’t expect you to know your home coordinates, or a local GC code (but you will soon enough) but you should know your postal zip code. In the Postal Zip code box put your mailing zip code, which will basically tell the site to generate 1000 (from before we changed it from 500) geocaches around this code. Also make sure the radio button next to Postal code is selected. This is the easiest way to get started.4
  5. Lastly, since you will be generating a lot of these in your geocaching exploits you will want to give this a name. Make sure BOTH of these check boxes are checked. One to compress the file(s) and the other to name the files according to where the caches are. This is important because at some point you will fill up your GPS’s capacity and you will be able to delete an entire location at once to make room.

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  6. Hit Submit Information and you are good to go, you will be sent back to the following page.I have a couple of gpx’s already stored and as you can see with the green check boxes, the query runs on those days. You can click and unclick them when you are ready to go on an outing and have the latest stuff generated on the fly. I automatically generate gpx’s on certain days where i tend to cache a lot.

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    NOTE: It is not advised that you select the checkboxes until you have the query set up perfectly.  You are have a daily allotment of PQ’s that can be generated in the day, and if you use them all up you might be left without a PQ to work with.

    What we are looking for is the last column (Last Generated PST). When you submit a geocache, or click a day checkbox, it will take a minute or two to actually generate the cache… Keep refreshing your browser (manually) until the Last Generated Column updates to the current time.

    When it does complete you will notice the 2nd tab on top named Pocket Queries Ready to Download (x) has a number in the parenthesis (the x). That means we are ready to grab our results and load it on the GPS.

  7. Click on the Pocket Queries Ready to Download tabIn my case, I have two queries ready to download and I am planning to go to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to see the caches there.. Click on the name of the GPX you want to download (in my case its PCH Hikes)

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  8. A dialog box pops up (note the file name).. You want to OPEN this. In my case I have winzip but if you don’t, Windows will open it up as a compressed folder.8
  9. Once you open the file, you will see its contents one is the actual gpx file you need (the big one) the other is a set of waypoints, which you may or may not use.. I don’t use it personally. Its usually extraneous locations like parking lots and things like that. Keep this window open for now, we will return to this.

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  10. If you haven’t done so already, plug in your GPS to your computer using the usb cable, and its internal storage should come up as a drive on your computer. Each GPS vendor is different, for this demo I use the Garmin 450T and the 550T. If you don’t have one of these, you just need to know where your gpx files are kept on your GPS. This should be in the instructions.

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  11. Double click (open) your GPS storage and navigate to the GPX directory. On the Garmin its under Garmin Oregon (F:)->Garmin->GPX

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  12. You should now see the GPX directory and it should have some gpx’s already in there as samples or maybe its empty. Go back to your gpx file that you downloaded from geocaching.com and drag those 2 files to this directory12
  13. Believe it or not.. You are DONE! All you have to do now is unplug your gps from the computer, it will probably reboot, and now you should have 1000 caches loaded, centered around the zip code you entered.
    Ill soon make a lesson on how to use it but your gps instruction manual will have specifics on how to select a site and navigate to it.
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Comments
  1. Jim Carleton says:

    Very nicely done. Very clear and straight-forward. Naturally, if one uses GSAK, some things would be done differently in the last few steps, but that’s not going to be for total newbs, anyway.

    A couple of points, however, need clarification or correction.

    A) Premium Membership is $30, not $20. Still a bargain, any way you look at it.

    B) I would never advise anyone to select the “days to generate” until *after* everything has been set up. The reason for this is a bit complex. Groundspeak runs all PQs on a separate system. They run them in the order in which they are received. And, most importantly, THEY RESTRICT THE NUMBER OF TIMES ANY PQ CAN BE RUN. If you start to set up a PQ, and hit the Submit button, then realize that you goofed on something, the system has already put the PQ into the processing queue. If it isn’t very busy, the thing might have already run before one can make the changes needed. And then the system will not allow the PQ to be run again for a certain amount of time, but at least a few hours, if not the next day. Sure, you can change the name of the PQ and run it again, but it is far better to get into the habit of making the setting of the generation date the very last thing that one does before hitting the Submit button.

    C) You might want to mention that an e-mail is sent when a PQ is ready. This is especially useful for PQs set to generate on a date in the future. Newbies should know this; there are many long-time cachers who don’t realize it.

    D) On that same vein, it should also be noted that, on every browser that I’ve ever used (seven and counting), after a PQ has been submitted, the Pocket Query page will not regenerate on its own; it must be refreshed for the “Ready to Download” tab to update. The tab is part of the current page, not a separate webpage, so the tab info will not refresh on its own. If the entire page is not refreshed, the tab will not show a ready PQ, even if it has been generated.

    Hope you don’t mind me picking these nits. Over-all, I really liked how you did this 🙂

  2. theycallmebeef says:

    Thanks Jim!
    I made those changes.

  3. Thank you! This helped immensley! My only problem step was having a program on my computer that would open compressed and/or GPX files. I’ve downloaded the trial version of WinZip to get my pocket query onto my Garmin for now, but will still have problems in the future when my trial expires. 😦

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