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GPS vs. Smartphones / Netbooks


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I am just getting started with geocaching and do not yet have my own gps receiver. Am borrowing a friend's for the time being, but very much looking forward to getting my own.


I had originally planned on saving up for a Garmin etrex Legend H or at least something similar with a USB cable so that I could load up the information from the website rather than doing so manually (the Geko I'm borrowing is great, but manually typing the coordinates in is time-consuming and I know I'd geocache a lot more if I didn't have to do that.


However, I will be getting a new cell phone next month, and may very well end up getting a smartphone. Now I have heard that the Blackberry has software like CacheBerry and the like for geocaching enthusiasts to essentially use their cell phone as a gps unit. I am on the fence with this idea because I'm not sure if I want to be out in the field using my cell phone as a gps if I happen to need to use the phone at the same time. Cost for service is also a concern as well. It might end up being more practical to just get a gps unit to be used solely for geocaching if that makes sense.


I have also considered getting a netbook for home use, but also for the use of geocaching, but I have no idea how this really works.


I guess I am asking for opinions, suggestions, experiences, etc. on any of the above. I don't have a lot of money so I want to get my money's worth, but I also don't want to take a lot of time to gather materials to get me going either.


Thanks in advance for any assistance! :blink:



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I previously used a PDA and my GPS'r, a 60csx, for caching. I would store all the information about the caches in the PDA and use the CSX to find them. This was a very good way of doing it. In fact I would still be doing it this way if I hadn't upgraded to an Iphone. I now use the Iphone, like my PDA, to store my PQ's that I can download directly from GC.com. I have the GC app for the Iphone and it works well for urban caching but I wouldn't take it out on the trail. I use it on the trail as mentioned before, to store my cache information for paperless caching.


Some of cons to a phone for geocaching are recurring cost of monthly plans and services, not as durable, and definitely not water resistant. A phone is a good start, if you have a phone that can do all these things, but I wouldn't buy a phone for geocaching when I could get a good GPS, a cheap PDA, and an inexpensive phone plan for making calls and texting. If you do want all the features of a smartphone, you could try one out for 30 days and then return it for a more basic model if you don't like through AT&T or whatever provider you use.


But let me just say, I love my Iphone and I won't go back. I just wouldn't use it for caching in the woods or trails. I have used it and found caches around town with my kids.


edited for spelling

Edited by ao318
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I would not trade the durability and ease of a handheld gpsr (in my case, a Colorado) for anything. But with that said, I have an Asus PDA/gpsr that works very well and have even found a few caches with the iPhone. Each have their uses, but for everyday caching the handheld gpsr is the way to go.


Of course I heard today that the Garmin-Asus Nuviphone will be released in October. It could be intriguing of caching apps are developed for it.

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If you watch ebay for a while, you can often find GPS companions for older pdas cheap. Until recently, I used a Magellan GPS Companion with a Palm M125. The GPS was $30 from Ebay and designind to clip to the back of the palm pilot. I used a free palm app called Cetus GPS for the software and it worked wonderfully.

BTW, Palm M125s are dirt cheap. I find them for as little as $10 in thrift stores. They are also very power efficieny and use standard AAA batteries, a good thing because you can carry some spares and swap them out in the field, something you can't do with a lot of rechargeable PDAs.


I set up a batch file to use GPSBabel to create a Cetus data file, a kml file for google earth, and an html file. Cetus GPS lets you have multiple databases on the PDA and you can move oan copy entries between them, so I would have a "caches" database with with my big list of caches, a "found" database and a "DNF" database. When I found a cache, I would simply move the cache entry to the "found" database. The "DNF" database was there for those did not finds.


CetusGPS has screens for the usual info, but doesn't do maps. however it has the ability to be configured so the navigation screen will automatically seek the nearest cache.


I use google earth at home with the kml files to plan my geocaching expiditions, and the html file is useful for planning as well.


Pros: cheap, monochrome pdas are easy to view in sunlight, works quite well, lightweight, relatively rugged.


Cons: not weatherproof, no mapping, no auto routing


Now some notes on pocket pcs.

particularly the older ones.

older versions of Windows CE had a very limited library of applictions per version and there was almost no compatibility between versions 1 through 3. Many pocket PCs have color screens which are totally unreadable in bright sunlight, (this is true of many newer color palm pilots as well) so if you want color, look for a unit with a transflective color screen. Transflective displays, which are clearly viewable in sunlight, look gray when the screen is turned off. You don't want the type of display that looks black when the power is off.

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The smart phone approach does have its merits and costs. Most require a data plan with a rather significant monthly cost. It does however allow you to go to the web to download the pq when you have cell or wifi. As previous replies noted, smart phones are not for the ruff and tumble and wet environments. I really do not like to use my BB Bold where in might skitter down the mountain, in the stream or when it rains. All places we cache. It is great when we are off the grid and need more cache notes for the hunt. With cell coverage the Bold downloads, cacheberry imports, and leads me right to the spot. We used a Palm T3 and garmin etrex vista until the Palm died and we were forced to upgrade phones. While the pda approach does work, it does require a computer and more steps. With the Bold, cacheberry, and goodle maps I can select, download pq, and search for caches without using the computer. Unfortunately I cannot get the pq caches to the garmin without the computer. BTW, if a call comes in while caching just answer the phone then go back to caching. The reality is the inexpensive way requires more planning and moving data (or paper) around, while the easy approach smart phone and gpsr requires more $$$.


I like the Bold, cacheberry, garmin, and notebook for the heavy lifting.

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