The world of handheld GPS receivers can be quite confusing, both before and after buying one. So here’s an attempt to narrow down the choices for beginning geocachers…
If you have a smartphone, it’s a great place to start. You’ll need a geocaching app for it (and there are free ones available). The downsides? Using the phone’s GPS will drain the battery quickly, visibility in bright light is an issue and it may not be as accurate as a dedicated GPS. Oh, and it’s not ruggedized or waterproof, so if you drop it, well, it could be more expensive than just buying a GPS!
The Geomate.jr is a geocaching only device that comes preloaded with 250,000 caches. But it was sold to another company and the support has been iffy. Plus, you’ll likely need an update kit to go along with it, so I’d stay away from this one. MSRP $69.99.
Garmin eTrex 10
Stepping up to the eTrex 10 will get you paperless caching support, meaning you can load recent logs, hints, descriptions, etc. to the device. The downsides to this model are its monochrome screen and very poor basemap. On the plus side, it’s good for hiking too as long as you don’t need a map, since it will navigate waypoints, tracks and routes. MSRP $109.99
Magellan eXplorist GC
The eXplorist GC is a geocaching-only unit that has a detailed and nearly world-wide basemap of roads. It also has a color screen and supports paperless caching. The biggest downsides are a hard to read screen (especially in bright light) and an interface that could stand some improvement. Still a good deal for the money though. MSRP $149.99
Garmin eTrex 20
The eTrex 20 is my choice if you can swing it. It has a bright (although small) color screen, supports paperless caching and can accommodate a full range of mapping options (and there are many sources of free user-created maps available for Garmin devices). It’s a great GPS for hiking too. MSRP $199.99
For the truly committed
If you’ve spent some time geocaching and are really ready to dive in, you may want to step up beyond these entry-level models. My current favorite is the Garmin GPSMAP 62s, but the soon to be released Oregon 600 series is worth taking a look at. For Magellan fans I like their eXplorist 510.