What GPS should I buy?

Well, apart from the obvious answer (one you can afford) there are a number of things to consider e.g. type, features, screen, size or user interface.

  • Type:
    There are 4 main types of GPS: Car, Mobile Phone, Hand-held and Maritime/Aviation Onboard Units. Your purchasing choice will be shaped by your intended usage. Most Geocachers decide to go for a hand-held outdoor device.
  • Features:
    some of the features to look for when purchasing a GPS might be preloaded maps, external storage, Bluetooth or other external connectivity.
  • Screens:
    Screen size and resolutions vary quite significantly. You can still buy pixelated monochrome units on the lower end and a high-resolution retina colour screen on the other side. Some unit’s processing power isn’t really enough so you can have a GPS with a great screen which is very slow.
  • User Interface:
    The two options here are touch screen and normal, where the GPS will be operated by buttons. Whilst touch screens are getting better and better, they can still be more delicate then a button operated unit. Unfortunately most touch-screens are manufactured out of glass which can shatter. On the other hand, they tend to be very easy to operate.
  • Size:
    Have a think about how you might prefer to carry your GPS, this will have a bearing on the size of the unit you buy. The difference in size between something you can fit in your pocket vs. wear on a lanyard around your neck.

You are spoilt for choices so asking in a forum or on facebook which unit everyone has won’t do you any good. It will give you the complete product range which you could just look up, because choosing a GPS is a very individual decision.

If you don’t feel like researching product reviews, the best way to find a suitable GPS is to attend a Geocaching Event and have a look and feel of others cacher’s units.

Is geocaching with a GPS or a phone better?

This usually comes down to personal preference. There are pros and cons to both and here are a few things to consider:

GPS – Pros

  • Don’t need mobile phone reception to load maps
  • Don’t use up any data when caching
  • Better accuracy, and faster at getting a signal and updating (although mobiles are getting better at this)
  • Much more rugged, if you drop it into a mud puddle, just wash it off, and it will be fine
  • Can carry spare batteries

GPS – Cons

  • Need to purchase a dedicated device
  • Have to carry spare batteries
  • Even ‘paperless’ geocaching GPS’s don’t have all the details on a cache that are on the geocaching.com website.

Phone – Pros

  • Access to all online information
  • No need to purchase a dedicated device
  • Many innovative and varied apps available for geocaching

Phone – Cons

  • Need to be in reception area for some apps to work
  • Using the onboard GPS tended to drain the battery quite fast
  • Some phones can’t change batteries over
  • Delicate, drop your phone and it can be an expensive day out on the hunt and have more impacts on your life than just caching

Where and when did geocaching start?

Geocaching started out similar to the 160-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories to guide you to a specific location. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the United States government turned off selective availability from the Global Positioning System on May 2, 2000.  This improved accuracy of the system and allowed for a container to be specifically placed and located. Prior to this, the error in the network was too large. Overnight the system went from +/- 150m to +/-3-4m. =

The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav as N 45°17.460′ W 122°24.800′. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once. According to Dave Ulmer’s message: this cache was a black plastic bucket that was partially buried and contained software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot. Although the cache is now archived, a geocache and plaque called the Original Stash Tribute Plaque now sit at the site.

Geocaching was originally referred to as GPS stash hunt or gpsstashing. This was changed shortly after the original hide when it was suggested in the gpsstash eGroup that “stash” could have negative connotations and the term geocaching was adopted.

How do I meet other geocachers?

One of the easiest ways to meet up with other geocachers, other than at an event, is to head over to one of the geocaching FaceBook groups (there is a list of some here) and simply make a post about the time and place you feel like caching, usually you will get a taker or two. Also, keep an eye out for other people doing the same thing.

What’s a GCA cache?

GCA stands for Geocaching Australia. Established in 2005, it is a free listing service that is not affiliated with Groundspeak or Geocaching.com in any way. This website displays all the geocaches from geocaching.com, but it also allows users to publish geocaches only on this website, and allows more types of geocaches. Caches from the GCA website have codes that are GA####, instead of GC####

What is a trackable?

A Trackable is a physical geocaching “game piece” that hitchhikes from one geocache to another. You will often find them in geocaches or see them at geocaching gatherings. Each Trackable is etched with a unique code that can be used to log its movements online. There are three main types of Trackables: Travel Bug Trackables, Geocoins and other Trackables.

Trackables can have goals set by its owner. Goals are typically travel-related, such as travel around Australia in an anticlockwise direction, go to a particular cache in a particular place. Trackables move from cache to cache with the help of geocachers like you!

How do you pronounce Geocaching?

Australia, whether in a perverse desire to be different or just to be contrary, pronounces Geocaching differently to the rest of the world. Most people you will meet here pronounce it geo-KAY-shing, where as most websites from the rest of the world will tell you it is pronounced geo-CASH-ing. Feel free to use either, everyone will know what you mean.

What if I can’t find or don’t have a pen?

This one is quite simple, if you do not have a pen, you probably cannot fulfill your obligations as a cacher to the cache owner and that is to sign the log book. The best suggestion would be to go to the nearest pen shop and buy one, I always reward my forgetfulness by buying a pretty colored one. If you are unable to do that, best to do something other than caching and come back when you do have a pen. If you log a cache online without signing the log, please be prepared to have your online log deleted by the cache owner.

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