Geocaching - Cheap Hobby or Not?
geocaching.com or opencaching.us or other listing service(s). You can do basic searches and get info on the caches for free at geocaching.com, which is probably the most popular listing site. If you want to run pocket queries and set up alerts when new caches are published, then you will need to spend $30 for an annual Premium membership. (About 6 meals at McDonald's). At opencaching.us, there is no premium membership - everything is free.
Most cachers will need/want a GPSr eventually. You can get a dedicated unit or you may use a smartphone. If you are looking for a dedicated unit, look in the geocaching forums for used items. If you know of anyone that is upgrading to a newer/more powerful unit, you can find a good deal on their old units. I personally began using my Motorola Droid to find caches and I'm still using it over 750 finds later. This is my personal opinion - and nothing more - but I think the Droid has a better GPS than the iPhone. If you've already got a smartphone with data plan, you really have all you need. If you're really on a tight budget and can't afford either of these, you can also print out the cache pages with detailed maps, descriptions and hints and search using that. Or, for even more fun, find a friend that has a device and go with them. "Park and Grabs" can easily be found using a printed map.
Geocaching.com has their own app that has a one-time cost of $9.99 and is available for Android and iPhone platforms. It allows you to hunt for caches where you are without having to worry about downloading the pocket queries. It's great for on-a-whim caching. You do have the capability to load specific queries and/or routes as well. Want to save $10? Try c:geo (my personal favorite). It's free and allows you to find caches without loading queries as well. It also has the capability to do live searches using the map, which I find handy as I am driving along a route. It will also let you visit/drop trackables in the field so you don't have to do a "Note" later. It seems to have better search options as well. Both of these only work with geocaching.com listings. If you want to find opencaching.us caches as well, you can try GeoBeagle or Columbus. Again, these are free apps. GeoBeagle will require you to download queries from either or both listing services. There are plenty others, as well as apps for Blackberry, but these are ones that I've tried and are familiar with. Check the Market or App Store or check with other cachers in your area to see what they like best.
GPS Status & Toolbox is a good Radar application that gives you lots of information besides just the location/direction of the cache. For hiding caches, GPS Averaging is a must. It allows you take multiple readings of the GPS coordinates of the location and then you can send it to a note app, email, Facebook and more.
geokrety.org. You can even make yourself trackable. Just create (register) a new geokret and print a label. One option is to print it out with a QR Code so that you can scan them with a smartphone. They work the same as geocaching.com trackables in that you log it when you pick it up and you log it where you drop it. If you're dropping it in an opencaching.us cache, all you need is the OU number on the cache. For geocaching.com caches, you will need the GC number AND the GPS coordinates. They can be used in caches from other sites as well.
VistaPrint. Once you order from them, you'll get emails with offers for free items all the time. Keychains, pens, hats, t-shirts, magnets (also make great signature items to add to ammo cans), mugs. Many of these are great items to use as door prizes at events.
If you're wanting to hide caches, you don't have to spend money buying ammo cans or Lock & Lock containers. You can use pharmacy pill bottles, aspirin bottles, film canisters (ask your local film processors for their throw-aways), etc. If you use any containers that once held food or anything scented, thoroughly wash it several times to get rid of any scent. A hungry squirrel can demolish a peanut butter jar in a matter of seconds.
This hobby is fun and can even be good for you. It can cost as much or as little as you make it. Go hit the trails and HaPpY CaChInG!