Saturday, May 5, 2007

Shopping for a GPS unit for geocaching

The redhead and I have an anniversary coming up and she's had a great idea for a present to ourselves: a handheld GPS unit so we can do some geocaching. Don't you just love her?

(Not familiar with geocaching? Wikipedia to the rescue!
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little monetary value. Today, well over 350,000 geocaches are currently placed in 222 countries around the world, which are registered on various websites devoted to the sport.
Do you love her now?)

I'm don't think we need the fanciest handheld because I've already got two GPS devices that serve me well. I use the GPS navigation built into my Prius when I'm driving near my home and I connect my laptop to an Earthmate GPS-LT-20 via USB when I'm driving a rental car. (I think that Earthmate GPS-LT-20 is a must-have for anyone who carries a laptop and rents cars in the States. It's bundled with Street Atlas for $99.95US MSRP.)

We're "car campers" and not hikers, so the handheld GPS would probably just augment the car-based GPSes we already use. I picture that we'll drive most of the way to a location using the car's GPS and then use the handheld for the last parts of the approach.

Some of the places I've visited during my research:
Shopping comparison chart
GPS unitReview(s)MSRPFeatures
Magellan Meridian Aug 2004$329.99US12 channels, IPX7 (submersible to one meter for 30 minutes), floats
Magellan Meridian Aug 2004$399.99USSame as gold plus 3-axis compass, barometer, and temperature sensor.
DeLorme Earthmate GPS Jan 2007, Apr 2007Basic: $369.95US
Travel bundle: $409.95US
Deluxe bundle: $449.95US
Topographic maps (sample) but can be pricey to purchase large areas (according to comments here).
Garmin GPS 60 $192.84USGrayscale display, up to 28 hr battery life, 1 MB RAM, serial and USB interface, 500 waypoints, geocaching mode (see video), IPX7
Garmin GPSMAP 60 $249.99USSame as GPS 60 but 24MB RAM, basemap, can add maps, turn by turn routing on roads
Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx $428.56USSame as GPSMAP 60 but color display, shorter (18 hr) battery life, "high-sensitivity receiver", no built-in memory but accepts microSD cards (64MB card included), 1000 waypoints, custom POIs
Garmin GPSMAP 2006$482.13USSame as GPSMAP 60Cx plus electronic compass, barometric altimeter
Garmin GPS 76 $179.99USGrayscale display, 1 MB RAM, serial interface, 500 waypoints
Garmin GPSMAP 76 $199.99USSame as GPS 76 but 8 MB RAM, can add maps, 1000 waypoints
Garmin GPSMAP 2006(?)$249.99USSame as GPSMAP 76 but 24 MB RAM, electronic compass, barometric altimeter
Garmin GPSMAP 76Cx $428.56USColor display, microSD card slot, 128 MB microSD card, geocaching mode (see video), serial and USB interface. (Might be able to do topo maps through Google Earth + TerraServer [for topo] for free; I need to check.)
Garmin GPSMAP Nov 2005$482.13USSame as 76Cx plus electronic compass and barometric altimeter

After all that research, what did I decide to get?

Trick question, as it turns out. Once I saw how much money a really good GPS would cost I realized that I wasn't looking broadly enough. I've decided not to get any of the above right now and to research the alternatives to a dedicated GPS handheld. I'll cover that in a another post, soon.