Geocaching with the Suunto Ambit GPS watch

A classic geocache

Geocaching is a great sport that consists of locating physical containers (called a cache) by using a GPS device. In short, you find the GPS coordinates for nearby caches on, and enter them to into the GPS device. After locating the cache, you sign its physical logbook and use to log that you’ve found it. Geocaching is a great way of discovering new places, since the caches are usually placed on or near locations with something interesting to see, such as trails, places with great views, historical buildings, etc. There are currently 2,263,860 caches out there!

I usually use the Geocaching app on my smartphone, but having GPS enabled and the screen brightness on full really consumes battery. When I was thinking about buying the Suunto Ambit GPS watch for exercise and exploring, I was curious about how it geocaching friendly it was. Exactly how geocaching friendly it is wasn’t quite clear when I scoured the Internet for information, so I thought I’d post some information about it to show people who are thinking about buying it how geocaching is done with the watch. DC Rainmaker has performed an extremely comprehensive review of the watch, which is obligatory reading to determine whether the watch will suit your needs or not.

The Suunto Ambit does not support geocaching in the same way as some other units. While some other units natively support geocaching in the way that they make it easy to download a bunch of caches, you’ll have to manually create points of interest (POIs) for each cache you want to find. This is a bit of a tedious process, especially if you’re planning on finding many caches in one session, but it does its navigation job nicely once the coordinates are loaded.

First, we need to convert the GPS coordinates listed in the cache to decimal format. You’ll find the decimal format under Other conversions. The following screenshot is of the cache I’ll be using as an example during this post, GC4GRHP.
In order to communicate with the watch and add caches, you’ll need to use Suunto’s online tool called Movescount. This is where everything regarding the watch is done, both configurations and showing the results of recorded workouts. After creating an account, installing the communication software and connecting the watch, you’re ready to add the caches. The location of Points of interest is not exactly obvious at first, so the following screenshots show where it’s found and how POIs are added.
After clicking Gear then Suunto Ambit, Points of interests can be found after expanding the Navigation menu. Here you enter the decimal coordinates as described earlier, along with the name of the cache (or any other name). Geocache can be selected as a type, which categorizes the POIs and make them easier to select on the watch. The Ambit is able to store up to 100 POIs.

movescount-3When the POI (the cache) is saved and the watch is reconnected, it will be stored on the unit and it’s ready for navigation. The following images show how it looks like when navigating to the cache.

With some caches, e.g. multi-caches and mystery caches, you’ll need to enter new coordinates while out in the field. This is possible to do with the watch, but as you’ll have to use the buttons to change the last decimal up or down, you better not be too far away from the location or it will take some time.

Time to go hunt down the cache.

Cache GC4GRHP in Efjorden

And it’s found! Some concluding remarks:
The Suunto Ambit watch is great for tracking exercise and exploration adventures. I have never had any problems with its accuracy, except in a few cases where I’ve been surrounded by large buildings. Adding caches to the watch is, however, a little bit time consuming although it’s manageable when you’re used to the routine.

The limit of 100 POIs/caches is quite low, which forces you to delete the POIs often if you’re an active geocacher. In short: If you want a GPS watch mainly for exercise and just occasional geocaching, the Ambit is great. But if you’re looking for a GPS unit mainly for geocaching, you should probably look elsewhere.

7 thoughts on “Geocaching with the Suunto Ambit GPS watch”

  1. Thanks for your detailed, excellent post.
    I am a trail/ultra runner interested in geocaching, and I’ve been eyeing the Ambit 2 for a year now.
    I knew that the Ambit technically doesnt have geocaching functions like the Garmin Fenix, but it looks like it is geocaching-friendly enough for what i would like.
    Thanks a bunch for your post!

    1. Thanks for your comment! Sounds like it will be a perfect choice, and considering its battery life it should easily last throughout an ultra run (unless it’s a 24 hour race and the refresh interval is set to 1 second, but I don’t think any existing watch could handle that).

  2. Thank you for this excellent review with helpful screenshots! I bought a 2 S today for my running purposes, and reading the manual made me wonder if the device could also be used in geocaching. So some google searching, and I found your article that confirms I bought a multi-purpose device. Cool! 🙂

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