Purchasing Your First GPS

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Garmin Oregon 550t

GPS Checklist

When choosing a GPS to use for Geocaching, it's important to find the right unit for your needs. There are so many different choices available, it can be difficult to choose the right GPS.

Here are the basics to keep in mind:

1. Portability
Any GPS can be used for geocaching, but a portable hand-held GPS is almost a necessity. A vehicle mounted GPS can get you in the vicinity of a geocache, but unless you can dismount the GPS and carry it with you, "close" won't get you close enough.

The best GPS is a portable unit that fits comfortably in your hand. Hold the GPS in your hand and make sure that you can easily and comfortably manipulate the controls.

2. Waterproof
Not all hand-held GPS units are waterproof. A waterproof GPS is an absolute necessity. Even if you only do occasional and casual geocaching, you will get your GPS wet at some point. It will be dropped in the mud, dropped in a puddle or you will get caught in the rain. It's not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when".

Be aware of the difference between "waterproof" and "water-resistant". Waterproof means that the GPS can be fully submerged in liquid and remain watertight and functional. "Water-Resistant" means that the GPS can tolerate a certain amount of moisture (such as getting rained on), but can not be fully submerged.

3. Shockproof
Like the question of will my GPS get wet, assume that at some point you will drop your GPS. It's not a matter of "if", it's a matter of when. Unfortunately, unlike the distinction between waterproof and water-resistant, the difference between "shockproof" and shock-resistant" is not as clear or easily defined. Look for a hand-held GPS that has a rubber outer coating. This not only helps you hold on to the GPS, but it helps reduce the shock if it's dropped.

4. Usability
GPS units can run the gauntlet from simple with limited functionality, to complicated with full functionality. Whatever GPS you choose, make sure that you can figure out how to load coordinates, search for locations and navigate through the menu options. You would be surprised at everything a full-featured GPS unit can do. The newer generation GPOS units can not only find geocaches, but they can show you the next exit on the highway and many even have a built in digital camera.

5. Updates
Every GPS needs the ability to receive map updates. Most GPS units can connect to a computer via a USB cable to receive software/map updates, and most also include a Secure Digital (SD) card slot for installing manufacturer updates.



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