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alhonesty

handheld gps

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Hello! I'm in the market for a handheld GPS to use in those areas that don't have cell signal. I've browsed both MEC and Canadian Tire and there's many to choose from, in a broad price range. I want something that can easily load caches from the website, and is big enough to load many for our road trips, as we'll have limited access to data.

Which model do you recommend?

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I recommend a cheap, rugged Android phone (or the one you might already own) with Locus Map Pro, with maps and caches preloaded.  That's my setup, and I always cache offline.  (Online works too; I consider that a backup.)

If your phone has a skinny battery, a USB battery pack is a cheap accessory.  But I get two days from my fat-battery phone.  On longer camping trips I use a solar panel to keep me caching.  Running out of beer after a few days is the biggest concern.

You could buy a phone just for caching.  Nothing says you need to put a SIM card in it (get a phone number) and pay monthly fees.

If you look around, you'll find many threads on the what-GPS question, also on the phone-vs-GPS debate.  We'll never all agree.  :lol:

Edited by Viajero Perdido
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I'm one of those rare old birds who used a $5000 4 lb. GPS before geocaching was invented. I never rely on a cell phone signal when I have  more than 4 satellites providing signal. I use a Magellan Meridian Color that I bought on Ebay for $75US. I punch in the numbers with the up/down toggle.

I do have a laptop so i can log the caches that i find anyplace that has wifi. In the wilds of Canada where there is spotty or no cell coverage, you really need a handheld GPS of some type. Always remember to waypoint your vehicle so you can find your way back to it after you search for a cache out of sight of your vehicle.

 

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42 minutes ago, tomfuller & Quill said:

In the wilds of Canada where there is spotty or no cell coverage, you really need a handheld GPS of some type.

That's exactly where I cache, fully offline with "just" a phone.

I wish people would lose the idea that a phone needs cell signal to be useful for caching.

 

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2 hours ago, Viajero Perdido said:

I wish people would lose the idea that a phone needs cell signal to be useful for caching.

Yep. I've found a number of caches located in places with no cell service, using my smartphone and an API-based app.

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On 3/31/2018 at 8:00 PM, Viajero Perdido said:

That's exactly where I cache, fully offline with "just" a phone.

I wish people would lose the idea that a phone needs cell signal to be useful for caching.

 

I would love to lose that idea! As soon as I figure out how to cache offline.

The Chief actually prefers that we do!

Edited by Max and 99
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It's hard to beat the Garmin 64S or 64ST. A great all around unit. The number of cache waypoints that can be loaded is virtually unlimited.  I have about 8,000 on mine now and could probably load 20 times that on my 32 gig card. I refresh it about once a month and that takes about 5 minutes using GSAK, 

I have an Android phone that I use for spur of the moment geocaching, but I prefer the battery life of a handheld GPS and field replaceable batteries. I've tried the battery pack to augment my phone but I find it unwieldy because I have to devote two hands to holding both of them or if I put the battery pack in my pocket, the cable invariably gets caught on branches, bushes, etc. I like that I can clip  my GPS to my belt and leave my hands free to use my hiking poles.   And  even with my Otter Box case, my phone doesn't come close to the durability and water resistance of my GPS.

And the ability to actually see the screen in bright sunlight is a major bonus.  I can't read my phone screen in bright sunlight. I either have to find shade to read it or pull my shirt over my head and read it inside.  Walking around with my shirt puled over my head isn't convienient, especially on rockly terrain, which we have lots of in New Jersey. The brighter the sun, the easier it is to read my Garmin 64 and 62.

 

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16 minutes ago, briansnat said:

It's hard to beat the Garmin 64S or 64ST. A great all around unit. The number of cache waypoints that can be loaded is virtually unlimited. 

 

I understood everything up to this point. 

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13 hours ago, Max and 99 said:

I would love to lose that idea! As soon as I figure out how to cache offline.

The Chief actually prefers that we do!

Many of the apps allow you to download lists of geocaches to the phone (just as one does with a GPS) as well as map data.  Once the data is on the phone it works just like a GPS, even if you have the phone in airplane mode.  

8 hours ago, Max and 99 said:
9 hours ago, briansnat said:

It's hard to beat the Garmin 64S or 64ST. A great all around unit. The number of cache waypoints that can be loaded is virtually unlimited. 

 

I understood everything up to this point

I assumed that to mean one could download more cache data that anyone could possibly find before needing to refresh the data.  Brian mentioned 8000 caches on his GPS currently.   That should last most people at least a week.

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14 hours ago, briansnat said:

It's hard to beat the Garmin 64S or 64ST. A great all around unit. The number of cache waypoints that can be loaded is virtually unlimited.  I have about 8,000 on mine now and could probably load 20 times that on my 32 gig card. I refresh it about once a month and that takes about 5 minutes using GSAK, 

I have an Android phone that I use for spur of the moment geocaching, but I prefer the battery life of a handheld GPS and field replaceable batteries. I've tried the battery pack to augment my phone but I find it unwieldy because I have to devote two hands to holding both of them or if I put the battery pack in my pocket, the cable invariably gets caught on branches, bushes, etc. I like that I can clip  my GPS to my belt and leave my hands free to use my hiking poles.   And  even with my Otter Box case, my phone doesn't come close to the durability and water resistance of my GPS.

And the ability to actually see the screen in bright sunlight is a major bonus.  I can't read my phone screen in bright sunlight. I either have to find shade to read it or pull my shirt over my head and read it inside.  Walking around with my shirt puled over my head isn't convienient, especially on rockly terrain, which we have lots of in New Jersey. The brighter the sun, the easier it is to read my Garmin 64 and 62.

 

We have a garmin 64s. I can't figure it out for geocaching. What if I want geocaches 20km from where I am? It loads the closest ones. How do I do anything on this thing? I can't even find a good help file on this thing that puts everything out step by step. I can build a computer but can't run this thing. The pdf it comes with is quite useless: select a geocache. Select GO.
If you know a good website that details geocaching using this thing step by step, that would be awesome.

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23 hours ago, briansnat said:

It's hard to beat the Garmin 64S or 64ST. A great all around unit. The number of cache waypoints that can be loaded is virtually unlimited.

 

Just to clarify. THIS, above, I understood. Everything AFTER that, is a foreign language. One of these days, I'll figure it out. I could really use this feature in rural Oklahoma!

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Much of the decision between using a GPSr vs Smartphone app is based on personal preference and monetary cost.  In regards to personal preferences, some things to consider are:

  • Screen visibility - For some, a GPSr screen is easier to look at than a smartphone. For me, I have to turn up the phone's brightness in order to read what's on the screen. The high brightness uses more battery. I don't see a glare problem with my GPSr's screen.
  • Buttons vs Touchscreen - Touchscreens, on phones or GPSr's, can get 'jumpy' if there are water droplets (rain) on them. That problem doesn't happen with GPSr's that use buttons. This is a big factor for me, as I often cache in the rain.
  • Screen size - Most smartphones have a larger screen than most GPSr's. There are times when I wish my GPSr screen was larger.
  • Durability - Some cachers have rugged smartphones and/or cases, so they don't worry about dropping them or laying them in the dirt or getting them wet. GPSr's are usually more durable 'out of the box' than most smartphones.
  • General fit - Some cachers find smartphones to be too big for one-handed operation. Personally, I find it easier to navigate the GPSr with one hand, whereas I usually need two hands for my phone (one to hold, the other to swipe).
  • Battery life - Some cachers can cache for an entire day with their smartphones and still have plenty of power left, while others have a dead battery before they've finished caching. Most GPSr's will last more than a day on a pair of AA's. There are external battery packs to charge a smartphone on the go, so that is an option. Personally, I find it easier to carry extra rechargeable AA's that I can quickly swap into my GPSr. Carrying a smartphone that's attached to an external charging pack is just cumbersome to me.
  • Logging - Using a GPSr does not allow for instant logging of caches, unless you have one of the few units that connects to geocaching.com (eg, Garmin Oregon 700 series). Using a smartphone in an area with cell/wifi service allows cachers to log their caches right away. Whether this is a benefit or not depends on the cacher. Some cachers prefer to write their logs later, perhaps at the end of the caching day. Either device should allow for creating Drafts (aka 'field notes').

---------------------------------------------------------------

There have been several GPSr vs Smartphone threads debating the benefits, or not, of using one type of device over another:

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23 hours ago, SirIyeH said:

We have a garmin 64s. I can't figure it out for geocaching. What if I want geocaches 20km from where I am? It loads the closest ones. How do I do anything on this thing? I can't even find a good help file on this thing that puts everything out step by step. I can build a computer but can't run this thing. The pdf it comes with is quite useless: select a geocache. Select GO.
If you know a good website that details geocaching using this thing step by step, that would be awesome.

I don't have a 64S but have an earlier Garmin model.  By default, when viewing a list of caches that have been downloaded to the GPS it will display them based on the proximity to your current location and limit the number that can be displayed.  If the nearest cache isn't close to where you are currently located it may appear that it hasn't loaded any.   I don't recall where the setting is, but you can also display the list of caches "By Cache Name" and you'll see all of the caches that have been loaded.  Once you get close to where the caches are they'll show up on the list.

I frequent download caches to my Oregon that are hundreds even thousands of miles away in preparation for a trip.  After downloading the caches I'll pan/zoom the map to the area I'll be visiting to make sure that the caches show on the map.   Garmin has manuals for most of their devices online.  Just do a search for "garmin 64S manual"

 

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56 minutes ago, NYPaddleCacher said:

By default, when viewing a list of caches that have been downloaded to the GPS it will display them based on the proximity to your current location

...or if you've panned the map somewhere else, to that location.

That's how my old 60CSx worked anyway, and it seems logical for newer models to keep doing that.

Have you tried panning the map?

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On 3/30/2018 at 2:44 PM, Viajero Perdido said:

I recommend a cheap, rugged Android phone (or the one you might already own) with Locus Map Pro, with maps and caches preloaded.  That's my setup, and I always cache offline.  (Online works too; I consider that a backup.)

If your phone has a skinny battery, a USB battery pack is a cheap accessory.  But I get two days from my fat-battery phone.  On longer camping trips I use a solar panel to keep me caching.  Running out of beer after a few days is the biggest concern.

You could buy a phone just for caching.  Nothing says you need to put a SIM card in it (get a phone number) and pay monthly fees.

If you look around, you'll find many threads on the what-GPS question, also on the phone-vs-GPS debate.  We'll never all agree.  :lol:

Thank you so much for this! I didn't even realize I could use my phone in this manner or what Locus Map was. This is going to help me out a ton in the more rural areas I live in. I wish more people mentioned this.

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Thanks for the feedback.  :)

BTW, with a phone setup for offline caching as mentioned above, you can even leave it in Airplane Mode to save battery.  If you're right on the edge of "signal", the phone uses extra power trying to find that signal, when you may not even care.

With my old skinny-battery phone, Airplane Mode, and that app, I could get one pretty long caching day without the battery dying.

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Depending on what app you use you can also just save the caches to the phone and then look for them when off line.  That is how I do it.  We went to a area without service so when I did get service or somewhere with WIFI I would save all the nearby caches to look for later.

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On 4/2/2018 at 2:22 PM, SirIyeH said:

We have a garmin 64s. I can't figure it out for geocaching. What if I want geocaches 20km from where I am? It loads the closest ones. How do I do anything on this thing? I can't even find a good help file on this thing that puts everything out step by step. I can build a computer but can't run this thing. The pdf it comes with is quite useless: select a geocache. Select GO.
If you know a good website that details geocaching using this thing step by step, that would be awesome.

As a premium member you can run a pocket query to get caches outside of your area.  Find the coordinates or postal code of the area you want to load caches for and use it as a centerpoint for your pocket query.  Then choose the mile radius from that point. A GPX file with those caches will be delivered to your email address. 

With a 3rd party software like GSAK , you can use the map to pan to the area you want to load caches from.   Then use the circle or square selector to highlight  the exact area from which you want to download.  Then generate a GPX file with GSAK

In order to get the files to your 64S hook it up to your PC and it will act like an external drive.  Simply drop the GPX file you created into your unit's GPX folder.

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On 4/3/2018 at 3:03 PM, Viajero Perdido said:

...or if you've panned the map somewhere else, to that location.

That's how my old 60CSx worked anyway, and it seems logical for newer models to keep doing that.

Have you tried panning the map?

That's what I did on my old 76Cx and on my Oregon 450 as well.  I frequently create pocket queries for far away place prior to traveling.  After sending the results to my GPS I always bring up the map, pan it to the location, then zoom in make sure all the caches I downloaded are on the GPS.  I just created 4 PQs (one for an entire country) for a trip coming up in June.  I don't know which of the other three I'll use as I've not yet bought my tickets but I've got three PQs around international airports in Europe where I might have an overnight layover.  

 

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The Pocket Queries sound like the best way to create a 'hit list' for travel. I'm using a Garmin 64st and was about to create my first pocket query then realized the unit comes with 250k caches already. I don't want to duplicate caches that already exist, so have hit a bit of a wall in trying to find the easiest way to identify caches I don't already have. Does anyone have experience with this scenario?

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On 4/30/2018 at 7:23 AM, herbacache said:

The Pocket Queries sound like the best way to create a 'hit list' for travel. I'm using a Garmin 64st and was about to create my first pocket query then realized the unit comes with 250k caches already. I don't want to duplicate caches that already exist, so have hit a bit of a wall in trying to find the easiest way to identify caches I don't already have. Does anyone have experience with this scenario?

I would suggest deleting all of those pre-loaded caches.  The 'recent' logs on them will not really be 'recent', since they were loaded during manufacturing and that could've been many months ago.

Plus, it's likely that a fair number of those caches have already been archived, so there's nothing to actually find.

And how are those 250k caches distributed across geography?  If they are 250k across the entire US, then how many are in your actual area?  Might as well clear the unit and start fresh.

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On 4/1/2018 at 10:21 PM, briansnat said:

It's hard to beat the Garmin 64S or 64ST. A great all around unit. The number of cache waypoints that can be loaded is virtually unlimited.  I have about 8,000 on mine now and could probably load 20 times that on my 32 gig card. I refresh it about once a month and that takes about 5 minutes using GSAK, 

I have an Android phone that I use for spur of the moment geocaching, but I prefer the battery life of a handheld GPS and field replaceable batteries. I've tried the battery pack to augment my phone but I find it unwieldy because I have to devote two hands to holding both of them or if I put the battery pack in my pocket, the cable invariably gets caught on branches, bushes, etc. I like that I can clip  my GPS to my belt and leave my hands free to use my hiking poles.   And  even with my Otter Box case, my phone doesn't come close to the durability and water resistance of my GPS.

And the ability to actually see the screen in bright sunlight is a major bonus.  I can't read my phone screen in bright sunlight. I either have to find shade to read it or pull my shirt over my head and read it inside.  Walking around with my shirt puled over my head isn't convienient, especially on rockly terrain, which we have lots of in New Jersey. The brighter the sun, the easier it is to read my Garmin 64 and 62.

 

Perfect response, can't add to it.

I also use the 62S, 64S, and a 78S. The 78S is a 62S in a much better case that won't fall apart like the 60 series.....great unit and the buttons are easier to use as well.

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