In this guide we’ll take a look at the best handheld GPS devices for geocaching.
We’ve compared durability, battery life, screen size, weight, and cost
to give you our top recommendations.
What Is The Best GPS Device for Geocaching?
More Detailed GPS Device Reviews
First on the list we’ve got the Garmin Montana 610 Camo, the top pick for those of you who want a quality product with bundles of handy and fun features.
Where to even begin with this neat little Garmin model? Well, first things first, the Montana supports paperless geocaching GPX files.
Forget manually entering coordinates, mistaking a 6 for a 9 and ending up the wrong side of the border, this device uploads geocaches straight from geocaching.com.
This means you can have everything you need at the click of a button – including location, difficulty, terrain, hints and descriptions.
The Montana 610t Camo locates your position quickly and accurately. The high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS reception, alongside the WAAS-enabled receiver and HotFix satellite protection makes this one of the most accurate GPS devices out there – no matter what your environment.
Accuracy aside, it is the 4-inch glove-friendly touchscreen is what makes this device the true winner in my eyes. It works well no matter what the temperature, and the screen is large enough that the maps are high resolution and easy to read.
This device also comes preloaded with 250,000 preloaded worldwide geocaches, as well as TOPO US 100K maps. Finally, purchasing this device will give you access to a 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription – something you simply won’t get on cheaper models.
Any downsides? Well, I’ll be honest, the price is slightly eye watering. However, I’m a proud owner of this product and can fully attest to its quality.
If you’ve got a strict budget you might want to look at one of the other options on this list. Another slight downside is the battery life.
While something with such a huge array of features will have a shorter battery life than something a lot simpler (compare your vintage Nokia to the iPhone X), if you’re planning on doing a lot of adventuring and aren’t bothered about having something too modern, a simpler unit with a longer battery life could be a better option.
- Dimensions – 2.9 x 1.4 x 5.7 inches
- Weight – 8 ounces
- Battery Average Life – 16 hours
- Screen Size – 4 inches
- Can share waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly with other compatible devices
- Durable with a glove-friendly screen
- Large, high-resolution screen size
The second device I gave a whirl is the Garmin GPSMAP 64st which, although slightly more retro looking than the Montana, still boasts some great features.
Like most Garmin products, this GPS is accurate and this model also has a neat 2.6-inch sunlight-readable, color screen.
Like the Montana, the GPSMAP 64st comes with a year’s subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and is preloaded with TOPO 100k, which includes full coverage of the U.S including Alaska and Hawaii.
More maps can easily be added, as this device has 8GB of memory as well as a slot for a microSD card.
Like the Montana, the GPSMAP 64st supports paperless geocaching and has 250,000 preloaded caches as well as hints and descriptions.
Geocachers can wirelessly share their data with other devices using Live Track, helping you to stay connected and part of the community while on route.
You can also wirelessly receive emails, texts and alerts from your smartphone – although I opted to turn off this feature so I could catch a break!
In terms of negatives, some geocachers have reported issues with accuracy. I personally found it to be very accurate, although many who have gone a little bit more off the beaten track have struggled with this device.
Downloading extra maps onto the device can also be a bit of a minefield, which is frustrating especially when you’ve already spent money on both the device and maps.
Finally, the interaction is slightly less intuitive than other Garmin models. What some products require one button press for, the GPSMAP 64st will need 5 or 6 – although this seems to be the price you pay for a non-touch screen device.
- Dimensions – 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.3 inches
- Weight – 9.28 ounces
- Screen Size – 2.6 inches
- Looks retro but features are modern and screen is good resolution
- Dual battery pack system
- Durable and water resistant
- Heavier than other devices
Another device I’m extremely fond of is the Garmin Oregon 650t, which is available in a few different sizes and styles.
The 3-inch sunlight-readable display is great for those brighter days, while the touchscreen is compatible with many gloves – making it easy to use in winter without the danger of frostbite!
This device lets you easily share your routes, tracks, waypoints and geocaches with other units. Plus, the built in 8MP digital camera lets your snap pictures on the go and send them to other adventurers.
A great device for those who are looking to get stuck into the community aspect of geocaching, staying in touch with others while on the move, as well as documenting their adventures.
Like many other Garmin products, the Oregon 650t comes with a state-of-the-art dual battery system. Choose between the included and rechargeable NiMH pack or opt for traditional AA batteries. Either way, you are unlikely to be stuck with no battery!
Finally, like the other devices, this Garmin product comes with built-in US topographic data, and adding more maps is a simple and intuitive process.
All in all, this is a fantastic Garmin product. The camera is a great extra feature, and each picture you take is geotagged with the exact location of where it was taken. The 650t also has a microSD card slot in case you need to add more storage.
- Dimensions – 1.3 x 4.5 x 2.4 inches
- Weight – 7.4 ounces
- Battery Average Life – 16 hours
- Screen Size – 3 inches
- Easy to use and intuitive
- Sunlight display very good and easy to adjust the backlight
- Built-in, 8MP digital camera
- Accuracy when elevated not as good as other models
- Occasionally crashes
Why Buy a GPS Device for Geocaching?
We are firm believers that geocaching is a hobby everyone should get involved in.
A modern-day treasure hunt, geocaching is a fun and rewarding hobby that gets you outdoors and back into nature – something we often don’t manage in our daily lives!
For inexperienced geocachers, getting started can often seem overwhelming. If you haven’t read our ultimate guide to geocaching, we recommend doing this first. It’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started both finding, and burying, your first geocache.
A GPS device is something of a geocaching essential. While modern smartphones are equipped with GPS technology, a GPS device will enhance your geocaching experience and in our opinion, are a must-have.
Still not convinced? Here’s why you should buy a GPS device and what you should be looking for.
We know, we know, virtually every phone has GPS these days. For this reason, you might be struggling to justify the cost of a GPS navigator.
We’re firm believers however, that a geocaching device can make your geocaching experience that much better. Here’s why.
Longer Battery Life
Running GPS on your smartphone for a long period of time will drain the battery quicker than you can say ‘I’m lost in the woods’.
Save your smartphone battery for emergencies, and get a GPS device with a battery that lasts.
Smartphones are not designed to run GPS for hours at a time, and if you’ve got a long day ahead of you then venturing out without enough phone battery may lead you into trouble.
Lack of Storage
Most modern GPS devices, especially those designed for geocaching, allow you to download and store maps onto them.
While your iPhone may store thousands of songs, a bundle of arguably useless apps and every photo you’ve taken since 2015, maps are whole different ball game.
Save your smartphone storage for the stuff that matters in your day to day life, and use your GPS device for geocaching.
Ability to Disconnect
Trekking through the forest, feeling the wind against your face, the crunch of the crisp autumn leaves beneath your feet, and suddenly ‘bing’, you’ve got an email. It’s safe to say that the moment is ruined.
You are no longer foraging in the forest for hidden treasures, you’ve been transported back to your everyday life with responsibilities and technology and stress-induced backache.
GPS devices allow you to disconnect from the world, while keeping track of your location. You won’t get bugged by Instagram notifications, Facebook likes or bothersome emails.
Instead, you can fully immerse yourself in your geocaching experience – appreciating Mother Nature in the process!
What to Look for in a GPS Device for Geocaching?
As we’ve already mentioned, battery life is essential. GPS devices with bundles of fancy features, backlights and Bluetooth capabilities will not have as good a battery life as old-school devices – despite what the manufacturers may tell you!
To get the most from your device’s battery, ensure the display is locked when you’re not using it and, if possible, turn off connectivity if you don’t need it. If your device takes regular batteries like many do, make sure you bring spares.
I’m a sucker for a large, color screen, although this is by no means necessary and a smaller, black and white screen certainly does the job!
Backlight, sunlight-readability and a glove-friendly screen will make geocaching easier in more extreme weather. Keep in mind that these features will use more battery power and will also increase the cost of your device.
If you want to install extra topographic maps or anything extra on your device, you will need to ensure it has plenty of storage.
Devices with a lot of built-in storage will be more expensive, but devices with memory card slots are readily available for those of you on more of a budget.
Durable & Waterproof
Geocaching can be hardcore! Rocky terrain, streams, lakes, and questionable weather are just some of the obstacles you might have to face on your search.
A waterproof and sturdy GPS device is highly recommended. A case can help prevent further damage and if you’re worried about scratching the screen, invest in a screen protector.
At risk of stating the obvious, the more your device weighs, the more you need to carry!
A bag which is too heavy can quickly take the fun out of geocaching, so ensure your GPS device is something you are happy to carry for long periods of time.
Bear in mind that if you are going to be out for most of the day you will need to take water, food and other emergency supplies, as well as any items you wish to trade!
More expensive devices are often touchscreen, include topographic maps and will allow you to connect with other geocachers. Other built-in features include color displays, cameras and MP3 players which are good to have but certainly not essentials!
Cheaper devices will be a lot simpler to use although may only include a basemap. It’s worth figuring out the costs yourself however, as you will need to pay to download and install topographic maps – a cost which can quickly add up!
Extra Geocaching Features
High-end devices often have extra features specifically for geocaching. This could include the ability to keep track of cache locations and field notes.
Connectivity with other devices is important for many geocachers who want to get involved in the community, although if you’re happy to go it alone then these features may not appeal to you. Cheaper devices are unlikely to be tailored specifically for geocaching.