The Best Handheld GPS Units for Geocaching – Do Your Homework Before You Buy

The Best Handheld GPS Units for Geocaching – Do Your Homework Before You Buy

With so many choices, it can be difficult to choose a GPS.  A veteran geocacher shares their top picks for best handheld GPS units for geocaching to help you decide.

If you are just starting out, you may be wondering which are the best handheld GPS units for geocaching.  With so many makes and models to choose from, it can be difficult to know which kind to get. Low end models start at around $70, so a GPS is not a purchase to be made lightly. You will definitely want to do your research and make sure the model you buy has all the features you want and need.

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Best Geocaching GPS for Beginners

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS NavigatorGarmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

When you are just starting out with the hobby, you may want to go with the least expensive option. Please know that even the least expensive GPS on the market will work just fine for geocaching. It just won’t have all the bells and whistles that the more expensive units will have.

When our family first started geocaching 10 years ago, we opted for the Garmin E-Trex, which at the time was around $100 and the least expensive option we could find. It was our only GPS for several years and we are still using it to this day! (One of our kids uses it as we all have our own GPS units now.) So I can personally attest to the quality.

Garmins are great units for people just starting out with geocaching because they are easy to learn and use.  We have tried many different brands over the years and we keep coming back to Garmin.

Features of the Garmin E-Trex Handheld GPS

  • pre-loaded world basemap
  • high sensitivity GPS receiver for fast and accurate positioning
  • 20 hour battery life – which is great if you go out geocaching all day, like we do on the weekends.  (The unit requires 2 AA batteries.  I highly recommend going with quality rechargeable batteries.  It will save you a lot of money over time.)
  • Waterproof – which is important if you ever get caught out in the rain or accidentally drop your GPS in a puddle.  Not that anyone in my family has ever done that 🙂
  • Supports paperless geocaching – which means you no longer have to print any clues.

The one downside of the E-Trex is that it doesn’t come with the USB cable that you will need to connect to the geocaching website to download your coordinates. If you don’t mind putting the coordinates in manually, then this isn’t a problem.  However most people will want to USB cable to make the process of transferring coordinates much quicker and simpler.  Fortunately, the USB cable is inexpensive and you can get it on Amazon.

Best Geocaching GPS Unit for Kids

Brand 44 Geomate.Jr 2.0 Geocache GPS and Update Kit ComboBrand 44 Geomate.Jr 2.0 Geocache GPS and Update Kit Combo

If you are going to be geocaching as a family, you might want to consider having more than one unit. My husband and I have 4 kids. When we started geocaching, all 6 of us shared one GPS. We let the kids takes turns holding it. That worked for awhile, but eventually the kids lost interest when they weren’t the one navigating. So eventually we decided to get everyone their own.

If you are wanting to get one for your child, in my opinion the best geocaching GPS unit for kids is without a doubt the Geomate. The Geomate is extremely easy to use, even for younger children, and is the perfect size for little hands to grip.

The Geomate is currently the least expensive GPS on the market. It comes pre-loaded with 250,000 caches that are located throughout the United States, Europe, and other countries. Let me tell you, all those pre-loaded caches are nice to have when you find yourself away from home and want to do a little unplanned geocaching 🙂

Things to consider before purchasing a handheld GPS for geocaching.

An USB cable is essential for connecting your GPS to your computer so you can download coordinates quickly and easily. Some of the less expensive models don’t come with one. (You might be able to purchase one separately though.) It can be quite time-consuming to enter all those coordinates into your machine by hand. So you will definitely want to make sure your chosen model comes with a USB cable.

Another consideration is battery life. GPS units can be battery hogs.  The battery life of most units is around 12 hours. If you are planning to spend entire days out geocaching, you will definitely want to look for a unit with a longer battery life so you you don’t have to worry about bring along extra batteries. A unit that will accept rechargeable batteries is also a plus and will save a lot of money over time.

Another feature to keep in mind is the amount of memory that the GPS has. Maps on the GPS unit are quite useful for navigating roads near the cache site but they can definitely use up a lot of memory. If you plan on loading topographic or street maps on your GPS, you will definitely want to make sure your chosen unit has enough memory to support them. Inadequate memory can limit the amount of maps you can load or cause the GPS to run extremely slowly. Some models have the capacity to accept SD cards for additional memory as well, so that is another thing to consider.

You never know when you might be caught in the rain while you are out geocaching, so be sure to look for a GPS that is  waterproof. It’s almost a certainty that your GPS will get rained on or dropped in water at some point. So you will want to be prepared by purchasing a unit that won’t be damaged by water.

A touch screen can be quite helpful for navigating maps quickly. Although not strictly necessary, it is a nice feature to have on your handheld GPS.

Although not strictly necessary, newer GPS units are coming with built-in cameras. A lot of geocachers bring cameras along on their outings, so choosing a GPS with a camera would mean one less piece of equipment to carry around.

When determining the best geocaching GPS for your needs, be sure to consider all the available features. It is a good idea to make a list of all the attributes you consider essential. A little research up front can save a lot of frustration and hassle. While a base level GPS is certainly less expensive, it is well worth the time to contemplate all of your options. If you can afford the cost, it might be in your best interest to purchase a more expensive unit that has all the features you want, rather than settling for a lower end model with the intention of upgrading later. The right GPS can make all the difference in your geocaching experience, so purchase wisely.

Best Handheld GPS Units for Geocaching that have more options

These are all great GPS units that are reasonably priced, but still have more features than the base models.  Any of these would good choices for geocaching.

Garmin eTrex 20x GPSGarmin eTrex 20x GPSGarmin eTrex 30x GPSGarmin eTrex 30x GPSGarmin Oregon 600 GPSGarmin Oregon 600 GPS

Still trying to decide?  Pin this post so you can come back to it later.

With so many choices, it can be difficult to choose a GPS.  A veteran geocacher shares their top picks for best handheld GPS units for geocaching to help you decide.

So tell me… which brands do you consider to be the best handheld GPS units for geocaching?  Did I leave anything out?  Be sure to leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.

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