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mersay

Is a GPS device worth getting?

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Hello everyone! Joined years ago but finally became active recently.

I have been using my phone and the geocaching.com app so far, but I was wondering if you recommend the need for a separate GPS device? So far, I have been downloading the geocaches to my phone in case there is no reception before I go out to search, but do you find GPS a worthwhile investment?

If so, what are your reasons and in today's market, which one would you recommend and why?

 

Thanks for your help!

-Mersay

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I have an external bluetooth GPS receiver which is wirelessly connected to my mobile phone. I am using it especially when the satellite reception is poor. Mostly in woods where the integrated GPS may stops working or can not display accurate position. This way I can get the benefits of both type of devices.

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All depends on what you are most comfortable with. I've done all my geocaching with a GPS (Garmin 12XL, Colorado 300 and now Oregon 600) I keep databases with caches in GSAK which I use to load the GPS. The workflow to keep caches updated, loaded on GPS and after getting back home, importing logged caches into GSAK and writing logs is streamlined to save me a lot of time. Although I have a geocaching app (GDAK) on my Android tablet, I only use it as backup (it has the complete database I have in GSAK on my PC) and to look at images/spoilers...

The GPS is also used on a mount when geocaching by bike and I carry spare batteries so no running out of juice...

 

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No.

 

For more functionality, try other caching apps. There are many to choose from, especially in the Android world.

 

I like Locus Map on Android; iOS people seem to like Cachly. Avoid the one with ":" in the name; long story.

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6 hours ago, mersay said:

I have been using my phone and the geocaching.com app so far, but I was wondering if you recommend the need for a separate GPS device? So far, I have been downloading the geocaches to my phone in case there is no reception before I go out to search, but do you find GPS a worthwhile investment?

If so, what are your reasons and in today's market, which one would you recommend and why?

 

There are many threads about phones vs. handheld GPS, on the advantages and disadvantages to each.  You must first decide if the advantages of a handheld GPS are important to you.

 

I still load my Garmin Oregon to go caching as always, but now that I have a smartphone, I use that for street routing and for Lists.  I have a "Go Find" list on my phone of select caches, and the whole townsful of caches on my Garmin.  So the phone is a handy backup database with all the bells and whistles to research a cache, then I put it away once I start my hike. Except that I also use my phone as my cache camera.

 

Beware that loading a handheld GPS may be a whole new world.  It's never "online", you pre-load caches, and even must refresh the cache data, all manually.  That is, unless you buy something from the new line of Garmins such as the Oregon 700.  Those may be loaded by a wifi hotspot.  Your phone could be that hotspot!

 

Edited by kunarion
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7 hours ago, mersay said:

I have been using my phone and the geocaching.com app so far, but I was wondering if you recommend the need for a separate GPS device?

I do most of my geocaching with an app on my Android phone. But I occasionally use my eXplorist when I need better durability, battery life, and/or GPS reception than my phone provides.

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Reply scavenged from previous replies on similar topics...

 

There are some cachers who only ever use phones, and there are others who only ever use a GPSr, but like many, I use both.  I prefer the GPSr for the planned hike in the country, but the phone comes into its own for impromptu urban caching.  Even on those hikes, I will get my phone out at GZ to check logs, photos, satellite imagery, etc., and to write draft logs, but generally I like to keep it safely tucked away for emergencies.

 

For me, the main advantages of a GPSr are its robustness and battery life.  Tough phone covers and battery packs go some way to addressing these issues, but IMHO not quite far enough.  (Others will disagree.)

 

However, there is a learning curve.  We’re all familiar with the standard(ish) behaviour of phone apps these days, but learning how your new GPSr works may be more of a challenge!  And you do need to be better prepared and a little more tech-savvy, to get the correct maps and caches downloaded to the unit.

 

I certainly wouldn’t rush out and buy a GPSr yet.  See how you get on with a phone and the various apps first.  If you can get to a local event, I’m sure you’ll be able to get other cachers to ‘show and tell’.  Good luck.

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We don't own smartphones, so we've only ever cached with GPSr's (although we have borrowed a friend's phone once or twice for Wherigo's).  I keep my GPSr in my car and refresh the "50 mile radius of home" PQ once a week, so I'm covered for impromptu caching trips.  We also have several overlapping PQs centered around work and a couple of other areas we frequent.  These PQs are updated less often (once a month or whenever we think we'll be in the area).

 

As to learning curves, we recently switched from Magellan after 7 years (due to equipment failure) to Garmin Oregons.  Even though the two devices serve essentially the same purpose, they do it differently enough that we're still learning after 6 months.

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A phone is a general-purpose "GPS unit" that comes in a smaller package (or rugged, your choice), can run software of your choice for caching, has frequent updates for that software which don't risk bricking your unit, and can even do non-GPS things even including making phone calls. (Remember those?)

 

All in a versatile package (app stores!) in a competitive market that keeps prices down (fashion brands aside).

 

What's not to love?

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I've always Geocached with a stand alone unit.    To be honest I don't even own a smart phone (yes I'm that guy) so I couldn't compare caching between the two.    I own a Garmin Oregon 450 which I paid $200.00 for years ago.   I can tell you that it's rolled down a few hills and been dropped many times.   It's still as reliable as the day I purchased it. 

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(can I just say I'm pretty impressed with this thread keeping quite anecdotal with personal experiences rather than sweeping general claims of better/worse, lol)

 

Likewise, only ever cached with iPhone since 2009 on the 3GS. I'm on a 2 year upgrade cycle so now on the 8+. I'm sure there may have been times where the improved reception (sensitivity to satellite signal, not necessarily speed) of a dedicated device would have improved some search times, but I'm approaching 12000 finds, covering just about every environment out there.

 

Both classes have their advantages and drawbacks. Personally, the effort needed to 'improve' the phone's weakness to the gps device are negligible and worthwhile. And most of the time I don't even do that (speaking mainly of things like an external case for ruggedness). Water resistence is much better with modern phones; I use an external AA battery pack if necessary, not a juice pack, so batteries can be shared and power is immediate by just using new ones instead of sitting to wait for a recharge.

 

IMO, you can do stuff to a phone to bring it to par with a gps device, but not vice versa, so if I can justify the work/cost, it's more worthwhile for me since it has many other uses I take advantage of on a regular basis.

 

People will have different answers and different reasons. Take them to heart, but really only you can decide which is better for you.  If you already have a smartphone, use it for a while. Maybe you could borrow someone else's GPS for a while to get a feel for it and see if you like it better, generally.

At least, if you buy a gps and don't like it, it doesn't deppreciate in value much at all and you could re-sell it.

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47 minutes ago, thebruce0 said:

Maybe you could borrow someone else's GPS for a while to get a feel for it and see if you like it better

Good point.  I did exactly this when I hid my first cache and realized that my Garmin Nuvi wasn't quite accurate enough.   After using it to hid that cache I fell in love with it and had to get one.   I'm sure the accuracy of smart phones have come a long way but I'm not convinced that they are better than a stand alone. 

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3 minutes ago, justintim1999 said:

Good point.  I did exactly this when I hid my first cache and realized that my Garmin Nuvi wasn't quite accurate enough.   After using it to hid that cache I fell in love with it and had to get one.   I'm sure the accuracy of smart phones have come a long way but I'm not convinced that they are better than a stand alone. 

 

At peak accuracy, a dedicated GPS should be more accurate than a smartphone (otherwise what's it got going for it?)

But if you consider for the context of geocaching, especially with coordinates only to 3 decimal accuracy and absolutely zero guarantee that any cache was actually placed with total accuracy amongst other unforsee and unavoidable circumstances, like user error which doesn't care which device you're using, smartphones these are are certainly sufficient for geocaching.  It really is just a matter of preference and personal experience now.

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4 minutes ago, thebruce0 said:

(otherwise what's it got going for it?)

the only other thing I can think of is durability.  I'd rather drop my $200.00 gps in the stream than my smart phone.  ;)

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Sure, and like I said, to me that's something that can be fixed with an accessory... whether you think the accessory is worthwhile or not, well that's preference :)  at least the option is there!

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54 minutes ago, justintim1999 said:

I'm sure the accuracy of smart phones have come a long way but I'm not convinced that they are better than a stand alone. 

 

Accuracy depends on the size of the antenna inside the unit. The antenna in an ordinary dedicated GPS receiver is almost as large as battery in an ordinary mobile phone. It is impossible to place such a big antenna in a mobile phone. In good circumstances both may be as accurate but when there is any obstacles around the phone will lose the accuracy first. As long as sensitivity depends on size of the antenna, dedicated receivers will win this competition.

Edited by arisoft
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36 minutes ago, thebruce0 said:

But if you consider for the context of geocaching, especially with coordinates only to 3 decimal accuracy and absolutely zero guarantee that any cache was actually placed with total accuracy amongst other unforsee and unavoidable circumstances

 

I have seen this kind of arguments used before. The hypotesis is that you can not get any advance if your device is better than the one the CO used. Actually the worst case  error is the sum of both. If the CO is using accuracy of 10 meters (33 ft) and the finder is using the same accuracy, the cache may be 20 meters (66 ft) from the GZ! If the finder have, for example, a RTK type precision GPS with negligible error, the GZ is only 10 meters (33 ft) from the GZ in the worst case. Then the area you have to search is 4 times smaller with an accurate receiver.

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2 hours ago, arisoft said:
3 hours ago, thebruce0 said:

But if you consider for the context of geocaching, especially with coordinates only to 3 decimal accuracy and absolutely zero guarantee that any cache was actually placed with total accuracy amongst other unforsee and unavoidable circumstances

 

I have seen this kind of arguments used before. The hypotesis is that you can not get any advance if your device is better than the one the CO used. Actually the worst case  error is the sum of both. If the CO is using accuracy of 10 meters (33 ft) and the finder is using the same accuracy, the cache may be 20 meters (66 ft) from the GZ! If the finder have, for example, a RTK type precision GPS with negligible error, the GZ is only 10 meters (33 ft) from the GZ in the worst case. Then the area you have to search is 4 times smaller with an accurate receiver.

 

Yes, that's what I was saying. Primary point: Just because your device accuracy may be greater than what's afforded by the 3 decimal precision of the provided coordinates doesn't mean anything when you factor in all the other possible hindrances to the cache actually being within that small area.  Today most recent smartphones' accuracy is at least as good as that afforded by 3 decimal minute precision, so regardless of your device, taking the unknowns into consideration, better to put it away and start looking.

 

In practice, trying to buy the "most accurate" gps device on the market is a waste of effort if the context is for geocaching. Smartphones tend to be a little faster to lock in due to AGPS (when cell towers are near), but decidated gps devices are more sensitive and tend to have better overall accuracy. But at that point, base accuracy is sufficient for the coordinates generally across the board. (barring other factors like weather, environment, user error, etc)  And once you know how your device fairs in those conditions and how best to optimize its results, it can become a non-issue for its user.

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Thank you all for your advice! A lot to consider, but I like the idea of trying other phone apps first, and maybe borrowing a GPSr if I ever come across one. 

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