What is the Best GPS for Geocaching?

eTrex GPS
Photo courtesy Flickr: meddygarnet

First off, you may be wondering, what is geocaching?  Geocaching is a fun, low cost activity that you can do with family or friends.  Many hikers love the sport of geocaching because it hones your navigational skills, and is another reason to spend time outdoors. I have written another article on geocaching, which is essentially outdoor navigation with GPS.

Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt, although you do not keep what you find. Instead you replace it with something else of the same or higher value. When you geocache, you’re really not driven by the treasure, but rather the process of finding the cache.  It is a great way to enhance your GPS navigational skills.

Participants use GPS devices to track down their treasures, therefore it is important to have a device that is easy to use.

What to look for in a GPS

If you want to find the best GPS for geocaching, there are several features you need to look for.  There are hundreds of devices available, and some are great for fisherman, others are better for backpackers, and yet others are ideal for geocachers. So to help parse through the product offerings, compare the devices based on the following criteria:

  • Screen size. Is it easy to see the information on your screen?  Can you resize maps easily?  Will you need reading glasses to look at the maps?
  • Ability to lock onto satellite signals. How quickly can the device find a signal?  Will it work in cloudy conditions?
  • Size and dimensions. Is it of a practical size and dimensions?  Can it easily clip to your daypack or is it heavy and bulky?
  • Waterproof. Many claim to be waterproof, but are really just water resistant.  If you think you might drop yours in a stream or lake, make sure it is waterproof!
  • Battery life. A short battery life can easily cut a fun day of geocaching day short.
  • Weight. If you are a hiker and backpacker, this will be important to you.
  • Budget. Depending on your budget, you may also decide on a color display vs. black and white, although it won’t necessarily make you better at geocaching!  There are touch screen displays, built in cameras and MP3 players, and many other features that are nice, but not necessary.
  • Built in Geocaching Feature. Some GPS devices have a geocaching mode that enable you to keep track of cache locations. Some even enable you to wirelessly download locations of caches.

 

The Best GPS for Geocaching:

The key is to get a device that is reliable, has the functionality you need, and fits your budget.  Some of the major manufacturers of GPS devices are Garmin and Magellan, so you are likely going to see a lot of them on the market.  Any GPS will be useful in geocaching, but some are better than others.
Here is a list of the best ones I’ve found:

#1 Garmin GPSMAP 60:

Rugged, highly functional, best value GPS for geocaching. This Garmin GPSMAP 60 has a very large display for its size, and it is waterproof and easy to read.  It has more functionality than a very basic GPS device, but isn’t it nice to have an alarm clock and sunrise and sunset information?  This one has 28 hours of battery life, which is great for those of us who like to go on multi-day outdoor adventures.

#2 Garmin eTrex H:

Best value, great for beginner hikers and geocachers. Do you just want a simple to use GPS device so you can get started geocaching?  This is a great device for basic navigation.  Unlike the fully loaded GPS’, this one has a black and white display, and it is very easy to read outdoors.  Plus it has a 17 hour battery life!

#3 Garmin Oregon 400T:

Lots of bells and whistles, and great if you want to use it in your car too. This GPS is considered to be one of the best overall GPS devices, and is good for geocaching as well as other outdoor adventures.  It has a touch screen interface, and no buttons except for the on and off button.  Since this one is at the top end of the price range, you can expect all the other bells and whistles like a full color display, a touch interface that will work with gloves on, and a MicroSD card slot so you can add more maps and save location data.  It also has a very sensitive receiver, which is great for cloudy days, and a geocaching feature that enables you to wirelessly download caches and details directly to it. The drawbacks are its price, its display can be a little difficult to read in bright sunlight, and it is water resistant, not waterproof.  The nice thing about this Garmin device is that you can load in street maps and mount it in your car, making it truly multi-purpose.

#4 Garmin Geko 201:

Lightweight and user friendly. This is a lightweight user-friendly GPS that has trackback functionality.  That means that as you hike along toward your geocache target, a series of dots on the screen will track your progress.  Then, you can retrace your steps back when you turn on the trackback setting.  It is a basic GPS device, so good for geocaching beginners on a budget.

Finding a Geocache!
Finding a Geocache! Photo courtesy Flickr: respres

Apple’s iPhone with Geocaching Apps?

Eventually smartphones like Apple’s iPhones will be great for geocaching, but only the 3G version of the phone is suitable for geocaching.  Plus, many users have complained about the poor battery life. So for now I’m sticking to a stand alone GPS.

Why Any Outdoor Enthusiast Needs a GPS

GPS’ have many uses in the outdoors – whether you’re an amateur or avid geocacher, a hiker, backpacker, mountain biker, or other outdoor enthusiast, investing in a GPS is a good idea.  It could save your life if you are lost in the wilderness.

Happy trails!  And have fun geocaching!

15 comments

  1. anna says:

    Thanks for a great article. I wonder if you could elaborate on why you think Garmin GPS is better for geocaching than Magellan?

  2. Gina Miller says:

    Garmin 600 do you have to download geo maps from a desktop? I want one just for geocaching, turn on and search for cache, read hints, then be able to log find without juggling a cell phone to enter coordinates, descriptions and logging finds. Is there such a GPS?

  3. Hiking Lady says:

    Good idea to think about getting a dedicated GPS device. Oftentimes people who do a lot of geocaching with their smartphones find that it just drains the battery too quickly, and it is trickier to load maps.

    As far as an entry level GPS device, the Magellan eXplorist 110 and the Garmin etrex 10 both have worldwide maps, and are both fairly easy to use. Personally I find Garmins to be more reliable and it has a longer battery life (25 hours vs. 18 hours). Plus I believe the Magellan eXplorist 110 has been discontinued!

    Happy trails and have fun geocaching 🙂

  4. S Jordan says:

    We use phone geocashing but want a gps unit as well. Need to go low priced so looking at Magellan explorist 110 and Garmin etrex 10. Can you give your opinion on which is best. We need maps to include all countries. We are not techy so need very easy to use. It will only be for
    geocaching.

  5. Antonio says:

    I use the Garmin e-trex30 and I absolutely love it.

    I’m not too much into geocaching though. I use it mainly for hiking. But it’s small, light, with a long battery life and affordable. Highly recommended.

  6. Cindy says:

    my hubby and I enjoy geocaching and presently using the iPhone. We are looking at gps handhelds. It is daunting! So confusing! We are evaluating the 64s right now..so confusing and not user friendly.

    What can you recommend that is simple, intuitive, easy to download and reasonable????

    Thank you.

  7. siobhan says:

    i am new to geocaching and im currently using my iphone but i would like to geocach in ireland and england next week when im visiting family. i was going to get a Magellan eXplorist 310 because it fits within my budget but i dont know how to tell if it will work over there what do i need to make sure it has

  8. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Yep, the Garmin Montana 600 is a great GPS. I like the fact that it is waterproof and it is rugged so it will be able to handle all of your adventures. Enjoy geocaching!

  9. Sharon Krause says:

    I am new to geocaching, and I have been researching GPSs and ended up ordering a Garmin Montana 600 three days ago. I was hoping to do geocaching when I go on cruises, and find a GPS that works well under tree cover. Did I make a good choice?

  10. Carmella says:

    This is a very good tip
    Simple buut very accurate information… Thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  11. Hiking Lady says:

    Great comment, ADVGirl. The Magellan eXplorist series is the Magellan GPS for hikers. Magellan makes okay products if you are really budget conscious. Garmin’s maps are more detailed, and Magellan’s have bells and whistles like a flashlight, built in camera, and voice recorder…all nifty features but big battery drainers. I prefer GPS’s that do an excellent job at being a GPS, rather than those that are just okay as a GPS. Hope that helps.

  12. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the feedback. We’ll look into that. We’ve got that set up for the comments but it is a bit trickier for the articles. This article was written in 2011. The best selling and most popular handheld GPS on the market continues to be the Garmin GPSMAP, and the newest version is the 62 series. It is high end, but serious hikers swear by it.
    Good luck with your GPS shopping.

  13. joe says:

    Hi,

    I just wondered if you can put the DATE on your articles. Technology changes quickly. I don’t know if this was done in 2005 or 2012 so I can’t tell how useful the info is. I don’t know any of the models, so I can’t tell from that either.

    So to me, the article is not helpful because I don’t know how old it is.

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