10 Best Geocaching GPS Systems Reviewed

by Andrew

10 Best Geocaching GPS Systems Reviewed

by Andrew

by Andrew

The world of fishing has gained a multitude of devices and gadgets that have transformed the sport.  Most notable of these gadgets will be the introduction of handheld or hard-mounted GPS units.

These units have revolutionized the way anglers both find and tag geographic locations where they plan to fish. Not only are these units great for fishing, but they also have capabilities to geocache. In this article, we review the best GPS for geocaching devices. 

Preview

Product

Display Size

Battery Life

Water Rating

Check Price

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with...

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

2.6 Inches

16 Hours

Waterproof

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS and...

Garmin GPSMAP 78SC

2.6 Inches

20 Hours

Waterproof

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS...

Garmin eTrex 10

2.2 inches

20 Hours

7 IPX Rating

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with...

Garmin eTrex 30x

2.2 Inches

20 Hours

Waterproof

Garmin Montana 680, Touchscreen Hiking...

Garmin Montana 680

4 Inches

16-22 Hours

7IPX Rating

No products found.

agellan eXplorist GC

2.2 Inches

20 Hours

7IPX Rating

No products found.

Garmin eTrex 20

2.2 Inches

24 Hours

7IPX Rating

Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct, Rugged Outdoor...

Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct

1.27 Inches

16 hours

7IPX Rating


Geocaching: What It Is & How It Works

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game in which players research and discover hidden caches located worldwide using a web platform and paper maps or handheld GPS units. In its infancy, geocaching was done primarily using paper map methods.

Players would research locations on the internet where other players had hidden caches; they would mark locations on paper maps and set out on foot or vehicle to find these hidden caches. Today, the general premise remains the same, but the tools have changed. Handheld GPS units have replaced paper maps.


Buying Considerations For Geocaching GPS Devices

GPS Navigator Type & Interface

Before purchasing a GPS, you will want to confirm that the unit will be compact, portable enough to keep in a pocket or pack. An easy-to-read and operate interface screen will also be important as conditions change quickly in the outdoors. Viewing the GPS unit in variable light conditions or precipitation will be a top priority.

Geocaching Features

A GPS unit can be used for multiple activities, not just a geocaching treasure hunt. You will want one that is suited to your style of other activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, or boating. These activities will benefit from a unit with mapping capabilities, points of interest, and an internal compass. One used for geocaching will help more with capabilities that allow you to track records, follow friends, view cache notes, and create logbooks.

Satellites, Accuracy & Coverage

A few factors will determine the quality of a GPS unit, one of which is the device's ability to obtain satellite communication from several satellites. These units need to give a reliable location when heading in the most remote areas, so the more satellite connectivity they have, the more likely they will provide an accurate reading. A goal here is to purchase a unit with minimum connectivity to 12 satellites. This will ensure accuracy in the densest of forests, most remote islands, or deepest of canyons.

Battery Type & Life

The best option for battery life in a GPS unit is to have both a rechargeable and standard battery option. This way, you could carry emergency batteries as a backup plan so you will be able to get back to civilization if your rechargeable batteries run low. Some hard-wired GPS units like you would find on a boat are tied directly to the main boat batteries, so they do not have a backup. This could be the perfect reason to keep a handheld GPS unit in your emergency bag

Data Storage Capacity & Sharing

Device storage ranges from internal storage units that can store up to 10 caches, waypoints, or routes, to units capable of accepting interchangeable memory cards filled with hundreds or thousands of maps and the ability to store hundreds of waypoints. GPS units that can project or share locations are also great for geocaching and fishing with friends.

Mapping System & Functionality

You buy a GPS mainly for the mapping function. Units will likely come with some form of base map preloaded onto the device. These maps are great for beginners, but the more advanced your skillset becomes, the more advanced mapping you will want to have available. Look for a GPS unit that can download or accept mapping SD cards that will have greater detail and accuracy than a base map that comes standard with the unit.

Safety Features

Simple features, like a low battery alarm and internal compass, can be lifesavers in a situation where the GPS unit is your only way of navigating. Track navigation, also known as a "crumb trail," is also a necessity when purchasing a GPS. This feature provides a line on the map of your route into an area so that you can backtrack the same way out. This makes getting lost nearly impossible.

Price & Warranty

Researching the features list and determining which ones you need and which ones you could live without could determine what you spend on the unit. Warranty is something you will want to pay close attention to. Using your GPS happens in extreme conditions, and the unit itself is usually subject to being stuffed in a bag, used in the rain, or accidentally dropped. 


8 Best GPS Units For Geocaching Reviewed

1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Best Geocaching GPS

Type

Portable

Display Size

2.6 Inches

Preloaded Maps

8GB internal Map Storage

Battery Life

16 Hours

Water Rating

Waterproof

Geocaching Features

200 Track Storage, Garmin Connect Compatible

The best paperless geocaching-oriented GPS unit from our comprehensive review is the Garmin 64ST. This unit has a brand new user interface with the tried and true menu buttons. These are perfect for use with wet hands or gloved hands. This unit is useful for everyday users who just need to get from a truck to a treestand and back or navigation to their favorite fishing hole. The Garmin 64ST is perfect for paperless geocaching because it allows the user to download and store up to 8GB of maps from the internet. These maps could be satellite maps, topographical maps, or even inshore fishing maps.

The convenience and accuracy of customized downloadable maps is a more precise and efficient version of navigating. The 64ST has a screen that can be read in full sunlight, as well as a 16-hour battery life which includes a rechargeable battery pack with the option of replacement with traditional AA style batteries. This gives users a backup option for when they are stranded with a low battery and a long hike out. Other features include the ability to link the device to a smartphone and enable notifications. The ability to connect a heart monitoring device or external action camera are also great features of the Garmin 64ST.

Pros
  • Portable
  • Great interphase
  • Preloaded geocache maps
  • Dual battery options
Cons
  • No sd card compatibility
  • Short battery life

2. Garmin GPSMAP 78SC

Best Rated Fishing GPS for Geocaching

Type

Portable, Handheld

Display Size

2.6 Inches

Preloaded Maps

1.7 GB

Battery Life

20 Hours

Water Rating

Waterproof

Geocaching Features

Preloaded fishing maps, Floats

The Garmin 78SC has a revolutionary design with buttons on the top of the unit and a color viewing screen toward the bottom portion of the device, providing an ergonomically pleasing experience. This GPS is handheld and portable, which makes it not only great for a geocaching unit but also a great GPS unit for logging fishing activity and data. With a 2.6 inch display, comfortable rubber grips, and the ability to float, the 78SC is common among boaters. Preloaded Garmin Blue Charts come installed on the unit, making this particular GPS great for fishing coastal waterways.

The Garmin 78SC also comes with 20 pages of mapping information.

Features on the 78SC also include a 12 channel antenna for satellite service in any location across the globe. It has a screen that can be easily read in all light conditions, including full sunlight. There is an internal barometer for measuring barometric pressure and an altimeter that pairs well with topographical maps. The Garmin 78SC even has a 3-axis compass which allows it to orient even when the unit is stationary. These functions come together to give users a great all-around handheld GPS unit that is great for hikers, geocachers, and anglers alike.

Pros
  • Sd memory compatible
  • Comfortable grips
  • Durable
Cons
  • Dated display screen
  • Small screen

3. Garmin eTrex 10

Cheapest GPS for Geocaching

Type

Portable, handheld, mountable

Display Size

2.2 inches

Preloaded Maps

1

Battery Life

20 Hours

Water Rating

7 IPX Rating

Geocaching Features

Small Lightweight Easy to Mount

The Garmin eTrex 10 is a rugged handheld navigator with a preloaded worldwide base map and a 2.2-inch non-color display screen. This unit comes standard with a WAAS-enabled receiver, meaning that it will be able to connect to multiple satellites quickly and reliably from anywhere in the world. This unit does not have the capabilities to download additional maps or memory, making it a bit less accurate than more expensive models. It is waterproof, so you can use it during wet weather or on a boat where splashing could occur.

The Garmin eTrex 10 supports paperless geocaching and even allows you to mount the unit with the standard Garmin Spine Mounting bracket. This bracket will enable you to affix the unit to a dash or handlebars on a vehicle. Battery life is roughly 20 hours in this GPS which is provided by standard AA batteries. The unit can view elevation and store waypoints along with a crumb trail feature that tracks progress and makes hiking back to a road or vehicle quick and safe. The Start-to-Finish feature allows users to grasp and estimate the time a trail or hike will take based on distance, as well as elevation. This is an excellent feature for planning day trips where a user wants to be back to the trailhead by dark.

Pros
  • Low price
  • Simplicity
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Basic map
  • Inability to add memory

4. Garmin eTrex 30x

Best Portable Handheld Geocaching GPS

Type

Portable, handheld

Display Size

2.2 inches

Preloaded Maps

3.7 GB Internal + SD Card Slot

Battery Life

20 Hours

Water Rating

Waterproof

Geocaching Features

Upgraded Display

With an upgraded display from previous models, the Garmin eTrex 30X has a 2.2 inch 65K color screen that is viewable in full sunlight conditions. The upgrades are derived from increased resolution pixels. The additional memory of the eTrex 30X gives users not only 3.7 GB of internal memory but the option to insert SD cards that have customizable maps. Custom maps allow the user to buy, build, or download maps from any online source giving the user a much more accurate plan for their specific geographic location. Another benefit of the SD card slot is the ability to load Huntview for hunters or BlueChart for anglers onto their handheld units. This makes the Garmin eTrex 30X a jack of all trades, universal GPS unit.

The standard features are similar to other Garmin handheld units. An internal 3 axis tilt compass along with altimeter and barometer comes pre-installed. Special features on the eTrex 30X include wireless, sharable waypoints, route tracking, and the ability to communicate geocaches with other geocaching units. This GPS unit is a favorite of camping enthusiasts for its alarm clock feature alone!

In my opinion, the best feature of this particular unit is the ability it has to connect and communicate with other Garmin devices seamlessly, including your hard-mounted Garmin Chartplotter and your Garmin wristwatch. This provides users with a uniform brand experience that builds brand loyalty.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Updated Interphase
  • Connectivity
Cons
  • Small screen
  • Need to purchase upgraded maps

5. Garmin Montana 680

Best GPS for Hiking and Geocaching

Type

Portable, Handheld, Mountable

Display Size

4 Inches

Preloaded Maps

0

Battery Life

16-22 Hours

Water Rating

7IPX Rating

Geocaching Features

Sharable Waypoints, 250,000 Preloaded

The Garmin Montana 680 series GPS is our pick for the best vehicle unit. This handheld GPS for hiking and geocaching is the perfect size for attaching to the handlebars of an adventure motorcycle or ATV. Most adventurers drive into a trailhead or parking area, guided by a smartphone or traditional map, only to pull out their handheld unit once they reach this point. The Montana 680 can replace those over-the-road mapping tactics and continue the trail off-road to your desired destination. The durable design and almost endless features make the Garmin Montana 680 the Swiss Army Knife of the portable GPS market. The unit has multiple attributes designed specifically for paperless geocaching but was designed more for the hunting or fishing-oriented hiker.

Waterproof, rechargeable, internal 3-axis compass, altimeter, and even an 8-megapixel camera, the Garmin Montana 680 is a top-of-the-line GPS unit for any adventurer. The rechargeable and backup battery pack will keep the machine powered for up to 22 hours. While the unit does not come with preloaded topographical maps, you can download all versions of the Garmin hunting, fishing, or city maps. These, paired with the strong GPS satellite connectivity of this particular device, make it a great unit for off-grid trips, as well as winding your way through the highrises of a city-scape. This unit's coolest features are the Birdseye View and the automatic geotagging of photos taken on the built-in camera. The last feature I will make special note of is the 250,000 preloaded geocaches that come on the Garmin Montana 680, providing endless adventures right out of the box with this unit.

Pros
  • Preloaded geocaches
  • Sharable waypoints
  • Large display
Cons
  • No preloaded maps
  • Bulky to carry

6. Magellan eXplorist GC

No products found.

Best Geocaching GPS for Kids

Type

Portable, Handheld

Display Size

2.2 Inches

Preloaded Maps

1

Battery Life

20 Hours

Water Rating

7IPX Rating

Geocaching Features

10,000 Preloaded Geocaches

The Magellan eXplorist GC is a unit designed specifically for geocaching. This unit is designed for new users or younger geocachers new to the sport who may be unfamiliar with handheld navigation and are not looking for an extremely advanced GPS unit, but one that is a solid base unit that they can buy and take directly to the trail. The eXplorist GC comes preloaded with 10,000 paperless geocaches and 500 waypoints on a full-color display. It is waterproof, rugged, and comes with a high connectivity Surfstar III antenna, which connects quickly to satellites in all conditions. This technology also allows the device to be within a 3-meter diameter of any waypoint, making it one of the most accurate GPS units on the market.

Magellan is one of the oldest names in the GPS marketplace, and their experience shows with this unit. This GPS is super easy to use, the 2.2-inch color display makes it easy to read, and the navigation buttons on the face of the unit make it great for use in all weather conditions. This particular unit's almost bulletproof nature is the feature that drives most geocaching enthusiasts to purchase the eXplorist GC.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • No adding memory
  • No advanced mapping

7. Garmin eTrex 20

No products found.

Best Value GPS for Geocaching

Type

Portable, Handheld, Mountable

Display Size

2.2 Inches

Preloaded Maps

1

Battery Life

24 Hours

Water Rating

7IPX Rating

Geocaching Features

Affordability, Great Battery Life

Simple but effective, the best value, no touch screen, 24hrs battery, and waterproof?

The middle child of the eTrex line of GPS units manufactured by Garmin, the eTrex 20 is a great unit for both beginners and experienced geocachers. For fishers, hunters, and hikers, the eTrex 20 makes a great GPS navigation unit that can be put into a pack or pocket. This unit does not have some of the extra features you would find on the eTrex 30, but this unit costs substantially less by not having the touch screen. Having tried and true buttons to control the interphase makes this unit very easy to use in any weather conditions.

The Garmin eTrex 20 does come with the industry-leading Garmin mounting spine, making it super easy to hard mount or add this unit to an action camera. This GPS unit is a great value for the dollar-based on features, especially the 10,000 preloaded geocaches, the 200 waypoints, turn-by-turn directions for when the unit is being used on a vehicle or bicycle. These are all in addition to the internal compass and ability to download custom maps online. Finally, we do not want to forget to mention the 24-hour battery life on this unit, making it one of the longest-lasting in the industry!

Pros
  • Mountable
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Lacks advanced features
  • No touch screen

8. Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct

Best GPS Watch for Geocaching

Type

Watch

Display Size

1.27 Inches

Preloaded Maps

1

Battery Life

16 hours

Water Rating

7IPX Rating

Geocaching Features

Minimap, Heart Rate Monitor

Hitting the list as the only watch-based GPS unit is the Garmin Instinct. This is a wearable GPS unit that runs in about the middle of the Garmin wristwatch lineup. The Instinct comes in a few different colors and closely reminds us of a Casio-style sport or diving watch. With durable housing, this GPS unit is great for anglers and geocachers alike who find themselves in all of the elements, freshwater and saltwater included. This watch is submersible up to 100 meters and is viewable in all ranges of light, including full sunlight.

With 16-hour battery life while using the GPS and 2-week battery life when not using GPS, we recommend keeping that feature off until it is necessary. While the other GPS units on our list are intended for navigation only, we find that the Garmin Instinct is more usable as a watch with GPS capabilities. The watch does have a magnetic compass, so it does orient even when stationary, and it does have a mini-map with a screen tracker even though the screen is quite small compared to the other GPS units we have discussed. We think that this is a great GPS unit for the avid runner or hiker, and while it is capable of being a geocaching unit, it is not designed for geocaching or fishing specifically.

Pros
  • Wearable
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Internal compass
Cons
  • Small screen
  • No shareable maps or waypoints

How to Use a GPS for Geocaching

  • How do I get GPS coordinates for geocaching?
    To get the GPS coordinates for a geocache that has been left by someone else, all you need to do is log onto Geocaching.com. You will need to set up an account on that website, but they are free and easy! There are many other websites and apps that host geocaching coordinates and descriptions of the caches. A quick web search should give you plenty of options for caches to find locally or globally.
  • What is the correct way to write GPS coordinates?
    To write GPS coordinates, they need to be formatted latitude and then longitude. This is the North and South coordinate first, followed by the East and West coordinate. This takes into account the global position using longitude and latitude lines that run perpendicular to one another worldwide. Where these lines cross becomes the “X” that marks the spot.
  • How to download geocaches to a GPS?
    To download the GPS coordinates to your GPS, you could use one of a few methods. You could link your GPS unit to your computer and hard wire download the coordinates onto your handheld device; this is the most traditional method. Another way is to pair your GPS to your smartphone, log into a geocaching platform and choose the map and coordinates you wish to find, and once tethered, you will be able to wirelessly download any maps or coordinates right to your GPS unit.

GPS Vs. Smartphone: Which Is Better Geocaching?

Smartphones have become the newest trend in tracking down geocaches. In our opinion, smartphones are not the best tool for finding geocaches due to their inaccurate maps and location services. Also, the battery life on a smartphone while having the display and the GPS feature is significantly shorter than even the most basic of handheld GPS units.

Smartphones are great for tethering and downloading maps to your handheld GPS unit but are not designed to give as specific of a location that you will find on a GPS-specific unit. On a smartphone map, your location could put you right on the desired location, while in reality, you could be 50 feet away from your target. When searching for a target that may be the size of a pill bottle, a smartphone would have you searching for hours, while a geocaching specific handheld GPS unit would lead you to within a meter of the same cache.

If you do not have a handheld unit and you would like to stick your toes into the geocaching waters, here are a few smartphone apps that will help you get started.


People also Ask (FAQs)

Do you need a GPS to geocache?

You do not necessarily need a GPS unit to geocache. To paper geocache, which is how the sport began, all you need is a program to find the coordinates, a map, and a compass. This was traditionally how any treasure hunter found what they were looking for. Once you find the coordinates, you mark them on your paper map. You then orient yourself with your map and compass to set off on foot to find the spot you marked. This is a greater challenge but could even be more fun than using a GPS unit.

What should I bring when I go geocaching?

When going on any hike, you should be sure to pack a few essentials, especially when geocaching. First, you always want to carry some water and a snack, just in case you end up being out longer than you initially plan for. Bring some sort of survival kit that includes a lighter or fire starter, a knife, a paper map for backup if your phone or GPS die, and a small first aid kit. You could also bring a blanket if you have the room; this makes for a great resting spot or makeshift tent in an emergency.

What are the top geocaching GPS brands?

Like any electronics, there are numerous brands of GPS units available on the market. We personally suggest running a Garmin GPS Unit. For accuracy and value for money, Garmin GPS units are the best for geocaching and fishing.

Where can I buy these geocaching GPS devices for the best price?

Amazon.com is the best place to purchase your new GPS unit. There, you can read reviews, see images, and research all sorts of Garmin GPS units. This will help you to find the perfect model for your specific needs and one that will fit best within your budget. Shipping is fast and easy, and if for any reason the unit needs to be returned, you can trust Amazon to handle the transaction promptly and professionally.


Conclusion

Wow, that is a lot of information with regards to handheld GPS units for geocaching. While most of the units we discussed are centered on geocaching alone, we recommend choosing the Garmin GPSMAP 64st. Bang for the buck, this is the best unit for not only geocaching but fishing as well. Mark locations or structures and set off by land or by sea. This unit is durable, long-lasting, and easy to operate in any condition. Good luck and tight lines!

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