The year was 2006. I had recently graduated from university and was living in London with my wife. On my way to work, I passed an open field and there, among the mud and rubble, stood a familiar sight: a rusty old caravan. I was in Staffordshire, a few miles from Manchester, and this was my first experience of geocaching, the hobby of hunting for hidden treasures hidden in geocaches, or ‘caches’ as they’re commonly called. I’ve been hooked ever since. A month later, I discovered my first geocache, a plastic shoe box with a wooden handle that I’d tucked away in a corner of an old well behind my parents’ house. Since then, I’ve become an avid hunter of these hidden gems, scouring the city in my spare time for the next cache, or ‘bucket’ as geocachers call them. In the past 10 years, I’ve found hundreds of these small treasures, and it’s become a game that I look forward to each week.

In 2018, this pastime took on a new dimension with the launch of Nextdoor, a location-based app that enables users to chat with their neighbors, share important information, and – most notably – engage with other users around their local area. As a Geocacher London North West (GLANYW) member, I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to test-drive the app, and I couldn’t be more excited about its potential.

Here, I’ll walk you through my experience using the app and breaking down all the major changes that you need to know about if you’re a regular user looking to upgrade your existing geocaching apps.

The Basics

I should start by saying that Nextdoor is a fairly sleek and modern app when compared to other more traditional geocaching apps. There’s nothing more quintessentially English than an old shoe, so it’s fitting that the aesthetic of the app is reminiscent of an old English folk costume – the ‘biker’ look, predominantly composed of dark leather jackets and orange and black choppers, is a recurring theme throughout.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the menu is slightly different from what you’re used to. It looks like a combination of WhatsApp and iMessage, but with way more prominent white space. The navigation, especially down the left-hand side, is much easier to achieve with a simple swipe, which is also how you perform your standard searches. You can filter your search results by date and location, making it much easier to find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, the search bar on the top left of the screen does not have an effect when you’re using the app on your smartphone, so you’ll have to input your search details manually.

What is a Cache?

A ‘cache’ in layman’s terms is a hiding place, a small stash of something desirable, usually of a non-renewable nature, that can be discovered using a GPS. These are typically small items that people want to keep secret, so if you find one, it usually means there are more nearby. A cache can range from a few grams to a full backpack – the limit is up to you!

It’s important to keep in mind that there are no actual rules or regulations on what constitutes a cache, which means it’s pretty easy to make it up as you go along. Some are quite creative, using items such as old wine bottles and plastic bags to hide their treasures.

How does it work?

There are a number of ways in which Nextdoor works, but the most basic function is to connect you with your local community. When you download the app, you’ll see a local map with your name at the center. When you log in with your email address and password, you’ll be presented with your own little dashboard, showing you the communities that you’re already a member of, as well as the ones to which you’ve just been added. You can click the button to the right of your name to see information about your upcoming deliveries – these are the people buying or selling goods that you can get involved in.

Your actual neighborhood is represented by a small pin on the map. To the right of this is a list of all the communities that you’re a member of. You can click on any of these to see a list of all the resources, activities, and events that are taking place within that particular group. This is a great way to get involved and find out what’s happening in your area.

How many Caches are there?

If you’ve ever geocached, you’ll know that the number of caches is endless. There are no restrictions on the number of items that you can cache or the places in which you can hide them. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can use the search bar at the top of the page to find a geographical area, such as London, and then conduct a search within that area. This is how I found my first cache as a beginner – I just searched for ‘London’ and a handful of boxes appeared on screen with handwritten notes providing cryptic clues to the location of the hidden gem. 

With hundreds of millions of downloads and growing (thanks to its use by people who want to keep their treasures secret), it’s fairly easy to find a cache near you. What you need to keep in mind is that most are made with the anonymous public in mind, so it’s not like the great British publicity stunt of old – if you really want to keep something hidden, consider using a fake email or a different username when you log in so that your neighbors don’t find out about your little secret.


Nextdoor offers a number of features in addition to the basic functionality described above. One of the more interesting additions is the ability to leave tips for your neighbors. When you visit a cafe, barber shop, restaurant, or hotel that you’ve never visited before and leave a tip after your purchase, the cashier will have the option of whether or not to let you know about it. Some places may not want to advertise the fact that they’re taking tips, so this is a nice way to find out without alerting the entire neighborhood.

Tipsters can be either individuals or businesses that you’ve never been associated with before, but one of two things will happen once you’ve left a tip: either the cashier will thank you and give you a discount or offer you a special prize, or they’ll decline the tip, saying that they don’t take cash tips or that it isn’t permitted by law (in some places). Either way, you’ve now successfully left a tip without alerting your neighbors about your visit in the first place.

Another great feature is the ability to ask questions of your neighbors. If you visit a place that you’ve never been to before and leave a question for the people there, the owner (or manager) will have the option of either responding or not. If they choose to respond, they’ll receive an email at the end, confirming that you’ve asked the question and giving you the option of leaving a tip or getting a voucher for your trouble. 

Vouching for your neighbors is also possible, meaning that you can vouch for someone who you believe is legitimate and will cause no problems. If you have children and worry about their safety while they’re out and about, this is a great option for you: you can vouch that this person is good, responsible, and won’t cause any trouble. Vouching for a neighbor is as simple as visiting them and leaving a tip or purchasing something from them – it’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and help keep an eye on your kids while they’re playing outside.

Another great feature is the ‘Neighborhood Watch’ – if you’ve ever been the victim of crime in your neighborhood, you’ll know that it’s often the simple things that you might not have noticed that make a difference. The more eyes on the street that can see potential trouble spots, the better – after all, the more you know, the less you worry! Nextdoor enables you to do this by compiling a list of potential trouble spots in your area and then allowing you (and only you) to see these locations when you log in. From here on out, they’re only visible to you and any other users that you invite along to check out these locations. If someone is breaking the law and you’ve got proof, you can report it to the police or security services directly from the app.

A final feature that I really liked is the ability to join community events, such as wine tastings, art exhibitions, and private parties. If you’ve got a genuine love for something (such as wine or beer) and you often visit places where these beverages are served, consider joining the local community and getting involved in what they’re doing.