Geocaching Tips for Topo USA and PN-20 Owners

In preparation for the upcoming Cache-In Trash-Out Geocaching Event at DeLorme, I wanted to share how I geocache with Topo USA and the PN-20. I think it might help some of you increase your Cache Found stats on the 19th!

In case you aren’t familiar with geocaching, think of it as a treasure hunt driven by GPS. You can get more details at the Getting Started page. My recommendations below assume that you have a basic understanding of how to download a cache description from the site.

Get a Premium Membership with
There are two types of downloadable files from, a .LOC file available to everyone, and a more detailed .GPX file that is available only to premium members. Since we’ve put a good deal of effort into displaying extended cache descriptions and hints from .GPX files in the comment field of a PN-20 waypoint I think it’s worth the membership fee.

Use Pocket Queries to get a .GPX file.
Pocket queries allow you to create detailed filters so that only the caches you’re interested in appear in your .GPX file and on your PN-20. I filter out micro caches and 5/5 (very difficult) caches along with caches that don’t have travel bugs or geocoins in them.

Use Draw\File\Import… to open your pocket query.
Once your pocket query is emailed to you, use the Draw tab in Topo USA to open it. Draw will display all of the caches on the map and give you a good feel for cache distribution.

Send the Pocket Query to your PN-20.

Use the Find button to search for the nearest geocache.
Set the Show: option to Waypoint and the Symbol: option to Geocache to filter your waypoint list to only show caches you haven’t found yet.

View the cache waypoint then press Menu and View Details.
This displays a page with details and hints for the cache. Keep in mind that only 800 characters can be stored in the comment field. Consider editing the comment in Topo USA if it has lots of additional information that isn’t necessary for finding the cache.

Use Direct Routes when navigating to geocaches.
Create a direct route to the cache you are looking for. This will display a route line from your current location and always point you in the direction of the cache.

Change your Info Fields to show GPS Accuracy and Distance to Finish.
These are two important fields when geocaching. You want to know how accurate your GPS signal is so you know how far off you might be from the cache. Knowing the distance to the cache is also very helpful.

Change the cache symbol to Geocache Found after you’ve found it.
Select the symbol and change it to Geocache Found so that it won’t appear in your Find list. Now you can use the Find button to locate the next closest geocache!

Use Delete by Symbol to delete only the Geocache Found symbol.
This allows you to quickly delete the caches you’ve found while retaining those that you still need to locate.

11 Comments on “Geocaching Tips for Topo USA and PN-20 Owners

  1. Would like to see the PN-20 in action at the CITO this weekend. Will you be having demonstrations?

  2. We will have a few PN-20s on hand for people to try out while searching for the Bears In The Bushes and other cashes on the DeLorme property. Brian and I will be available to give demos and share general GPS knowledge with people while we barbecue. Our usability group has also put together a brief GPS Usage survey and will be looking for people willing to let them follow along and take notes on how they use their GPS devices; PN-20s as well as other models. We’re looking forward to meeting all of the local geocachers and having a good time while we clean up the caches in the area. – Chip

  3. Thank you for the information, as a geocacher I have been very interested in how this unit works. The article was written well, although for me it leaves a few questions.

    I see that you are limited to 800 characters for comments, what about the limit for the hints? Are the hints included in the comments section or is that an independent attribute with its own limitation? Also does it show ROT13 and/or does it decrypt?

    Also do you have a “pointer” screen similar to what we have become accustomed to with Garmin and Magellan units? If not are you able to change the dimensions of the triangle depicting your current location and direction of travel as well as the geocache icon size to obtain greater fidelity of where you perceive you are in relation to the cache?

  4. A few answers and a link to our forum…

    -The 800 character limit is for all of the text that appears in the waypoint comment. We pass the GPX file to the waypoint comment field during import and then take the first 800 characters based on how we organized the GPX tags. We do decrypt and display the hint that appears at the end of a cache description, assuming it fits within the 800 character limit.
    -We have not implemented control of the GPS cursor size. This is a nice request and I will add it to our list. We do offer the ability to choose between the standard “Cache” and “Cache Found” symbols and a small, generic symbol in our Topo USA software and on the Earthmate PN-20. This is available through a “use small symbols” option where you would specify a scale above which the symbol will be reduced in size.

    I encourage you to visit our public forum…


    There are many knowledgeable Earthmate PN-20 users there and they are very prompt with helpful responses.

    Thank you for your comment.


  5. Just got my PN-20 3 days ago, and it’s been a real learning experience. I’ve been using a Garmin Legend for almost 3 years now, and this one is a whole new ballgame. I’m liking it more and more as I use it & learn about it. It was a real struggle trying to figure out how to get Geocaching waypoints on the device, but I finally got it figured out thanks to this post & a few others I’ve found. Thanks for the info!


  6. We keep working to improve the process of exchanging geocaches and other GPS data between the Topo USA software and the PN-20. We are currently evaluating the information we take from the GPX file in an effort to better utilize the comment field. There are lots of great suggestions, tips, and helpful posts on our forum; I’m pleased to hear that you’ve put them to good use.

    Thank you for your comment.


  7. Will it work with the WhereIGo game pieces.
    Is it like the Garmin Colorado 400T

  8. They seem to have concatenated cache name, difficulty, owner and discription into one field collaed comments. The size should have been put in there too (M, S, R, L, X). Or, is this something that needs to do so it loads onto the GPX file?

  9. The PN-20 does not support the WhereIGo games; we are keeping our eye on this new GroundSpeak feature but haven’t made plans to include it with the PN device.

    Regarding the cache size, we have scheduled some work here on our end to include that in the import process so that users will see it in the waypoint comments.

    Thank you both for your posts!


  10. We are looking for a replacement for our Magellen eXplorist600 and think that the Delorme line has a lot to offer. Would it be possible to have a firmware upgrade to your PN-20/40 devices to handle WhereIGo if the game does gain popularity?

  11. Currently, public school systems around the country (and particularly here in California) have been tied to Garmin for Science classes as well as Geography classes because of cost. The ability of the schools to use the Garmin DNR software to pull their points & tracks into ESRI Arcmap is a cost savings over XMap Professional. Keep in mind schools have the cost of buying entire classroom sets of 30 GPS receivers for each school.
    We have a few Delorme PN-20 receivers in our schools but mostly Garmin Legend devices.
    Has there been any thought of publishing a similar shareware to the Garmin DNR software that would allow basic downloading of waypoints and tracks into ArcMap?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: