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One of the hobbies we do as a family is geocaching. For those of you who have not heard of the hobby before, it is basically a treasure hunting game using GPS. You register at the website geocaching.com to find out where the treasure is hidden, you plot the co-ordinates into your GPS device, then set off to find the treasure. As a family hobby it is really brilliant as it encourages you to get out in the fresh air and also use your brain to spot likely places the treasure is hidden once you reach the location the GPS takes you to. As hobbies go, it is not an expensive one really. You can register with the site for free or spend about $30 a year being a premium member. Then all you need is minimum, a pen and some paper to write some information down, and a GPS device. You can get apps for your mobile phone if your phone is a smart phone. The first time we went out we had a friend with us who was an experienced 'cacher. She had a handheld GPS device which was basically a bit like a compass. Her screen showed a needle which swung round to show you which way to go. She told us tales of having to climb fences and negotiate ditches to get to the place she was going. Our first time out alone, we tried using the car sat nav. This was a bit pitiful as it tried to direct us to the nearest road and got itself very confused. So we were wanting to buy something that was a bit more complex than my friends device so we didn't end up pushing my buggy into a ditch by accident. We decided the device needed to have some mapping capability so that was could see what the lay of the land is before stumbling into any obstacles in the way.We usually print out an OS map of the area we are caching in, and roughly plot the locations of the spots we are aiming for, so that we have less chance of getting lost in areas we are unfamiliar with. This is usually a back up in case the batteries go in the device while we are out. We bought this in October 2009. The RRP on amazon is £199. It varies in price tremendously though. It can go from around £121 like it is today, and I am pretty sure I paid about £140 for it. The device is handheld so it is comfortable to sit it in the palm of your hand while you are using it. It weighs about 150g, and comes with a neck strap to wear round your neck while walking. We don't tend to do this, but the kids always like to if it is there turn to hold it till the next treasure. We bought a clip to attach this to a bike handlebar. This was a bit of a waste of time. It did work ok, and I used to attach it to the little trailer we had for the kids to sit in at the back of a bike, and we also tried it on my sons handlebar on his little bike. For some reason, the compass will not work on this when near my son's bike. It goes a bit scatty. The device is rubberised round the edges, and has a covered port at the back to connect it to your computer via USB port. You need to do this to download the GPS co-ordinates onto it. You can do this manually, and we have tried this when out and about, but when you do it via the computer it transfers other information like the name and number given to the cache, so it is just quicker and easier to plan your trips before you go out. I find it easier to then work out when we get back which ones we managed to find so I can log it on the geocaching.com website. The device works with 2 AA batteries. We find it is best to take batteries with us when we go out for the day, as if your batteries fail on you when out and you can't replace them then that is the end of your day out. Turning on the device, you just squeeze a rubber button on the right hand side with your thumb. The device firstly needs to search for satellites to work out where you are. This can take a little while if you are inside as the signal is weaker indoors. The top button on the right takes you to an options menu which you can then scroll through using the joypad on the front of the device, and select by pressing the joypad down. The device can enable you to select a particular geocache or to just use it to find the nearest one to your current location. Once you have selected a cache, you see a screen which shows a compass and tells you a distance to the cache, your speed and an estimated arrival time. You could also use this as a walker as it has the capability of putting in a route to follow. You can also use this for waymarking by putting in specific landmarks you want to navigate a route between. Additionally, there is a calendar, a calculator and a stopwatch, and you can use it to find out information about a walk such as tracking where you walked, how far you walked, time taken, how long you rested for, what your average speed was. This can look really funny from a caching point of view, as you can really walk in circles sometimes doubling back on yourself to get to your destination. There is also an altimeter on the device. Another great feature is you can add a marker such as when you park up somewhere new to go caching, mark the car park on the GPS, and then you can always find the quickest route back if you give up mid-way through. Eg. once we went out with the bike trailer and got a puncture so needed to get back to the car rather than shred the tire by continuing, and we could exit the circular walk quite easily. My friend has travelled extensively, and uses hers to mark places she has visited in Australia and Asia. Our impression of this device is it is fairly simple to use. It has a large enough memory to store all the points we have needed in the past few years. We have never had to delete any yet. It has 24 MB of internal memory. It can be quite heavy on batteries, as it needs to be on the whole time you are hunting. Rechargeable batteries last the longest. The map that is on the device is nowhere near as good as what we were expecting. It basically shows major roads but nothing as useful as footpaths. The accuracy of finding the point we are looking for is good. When it beeps to tell us we have reached the given co-ordinates, we are usually within 5-10 feet of the device. This would be closer but sometimes if tree coverage is a bit dense we find it hinders the satellite signal a bit. This is also the case if you are near tall buildings. Most of our caching has happened in rural locations, but we did some when we went to Liverpool and some of these were a little harder to find. We would prefer to have a better map still to work with, and we may eventually upgrade to a newer device with this on it, but for someone just starting out on geocaching this is more than adequate to get you going. We sometimes also use a GPS on my husbands phone, as this is better in the middle of a big field, whereas his phone is better when we are in a built up area. This is really a mid-range device in my opinion. The Garmins are reliable devices and I do recommend the brand, and I would have no problem buying this again or upgrading to a newer Garmin device. It seems to be popular as the geocaching.com site recognises our device and sends data suitable for it. I would say this is fine if you are willing to also use traditional OS maps in unfamiliar rural areas. To go out with just the GPS with young children would not be sensible.
A staple among outdoor enthusiasts, eTrex Summit HC features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver for peak performance in any environment and includes 24 megabytes (MB) of internal memory, a detailed basemap, crisp color screen, barometric altimeter and electronic compass.
With its high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, eTrex Summit HC locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its GPS location even in heavy cover and deep canyons. The advantage is clear - whether you're in deep woods or just near tall buildings and trees, you can count on Summit HC to help you find your way when you need it the most.
eTrex Summit HC has a built-in electronic compass that provides bearing information even while you're standing still, and its barometric altimeter tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your precise altitude. You can even use the altimeter to plot barometric pressure over time, which can help you keep an eye on changing weather conditions.
eTrex Summit HC's basemap contains lakes, rivers, cities, interstates, national and state highways, railroads and coastlines. Summit HC also includes 24 MB of internal memory, so you can load waypoints and routes from the included MapSource Trip & Waypoint Manager software and add map detail from Garmin's entire line of optional MapSource mapping products. Its 256-color, sunlight-readable display makes it easy to distinguish map details - even in bright sunlight.