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I've been geocaching using Android smartphone, but it slowly becomes unsatisfying. The battery time of Android smartphones is too low, I need to minimize time I'm walking with device on, because battery discharges very quickly. I'm planning to buy a dedicated GPS device.

What should I take into account when I'm going to use GPS device for geocaching? There are some general features, like battery life, screen resolution, the ability to upload custom maps and points with photos and descriptions (general GPX support).

But are there any features that are specific for geocahing, and may be not present, or unsatisfactory in some GPS devices? Geocaching requires the device, for example, to be hand-held and operate by various whether conditions... Is there anything else I'm missing?

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1 Answer 1

I'd say the following are important things to have:

  • Good signal strength is a must - Geocaching will often take you into built up areas or wooded areas, and it's incredibly frustrating going round in circles with an inaccurate GPS when one with a better signal strength could home in on it with no problem at all.
  • Good battery life, preferably with standard batteries so you can easily take extras. (Get rechargeables if you're using it with any frequency, they'll prove invaluable.)
  • Waterproof. This is actually surprisingly standard on many walking GPS units, so shouldn't be an issue.
  • Electronic compass. This again is a must have, especially if you're used to using a phone to navigate. Without a compass the direction needle will base it's position on your last few metres of movement, meaning you can't just stand still and let the compass needle ascertain your direction, you have to walk around a bit - this can quickly get rather annoying when you're at GZ and trying to work out precisely where the co-ords state.
  • More than screen resolution, screen contrast is important. You're going to be using this (hopefully!) on sunny days, so a screen with all the contrast of a 90's LCD is going to be nigh on useless. Make sure it can be used without difficulty in bright light.
  • If you're caching at night, then the opposite will also be true - make sure the screen has a backlight.

The other points I think you've covered - maps of course are very useful, as is the ability to upload photos. Bear in mind however that cost tends to rapidly rise the more "nice to have" features you add, and budget units will do the job. I've been caching with my etrex-h for the last few years now - cheap, basic, black and white screen, no maps, no electronic compass - but it still does the job and has found me a few hundred caches without issue!

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For batteries, I would consider getting a unit which supports both NiMH and Lithium AA batteries as the later have a longer life. The electronic compass is nice but bear in mind that it will drain your battery. –  ppl Mar 23 at 23:57
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There are GPS models available with electronic compass that have great battery life. Aside from that, I have found that having a good topo map can be really helpful (depending on your location). I also found a map that shows all of the trails, which makes it so much easier to figure out how to get to caches. You might find a similar resource for your area that is limited to certain devices. –  fooot Mar 26 at 21:40

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