ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Technology»
  • Consumer Electronics & Personal Gadgets

How to Choose the Right GPS for Geocaching

Updated on February 20, 2014

Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt using GPS to locate caches that were hidden by other people that geocache. A handheld GPS unit or smart phone with GPS, directs you to the area of the geocache. A quality GPS unit can get you within a couple feet of where the geocache is, but ultimately you will have to look around a little to figure out where it is actually hidden.

A geocache can be hidden in an area that you can park next to, or could be several miles into a national forest, requiring a hike, rock climbing, SCUBA diving or other technical gear. They also could be hidden under a couple rocks, or disguised as a tree branch or electrical conduit. See an example of one hidden in an electrical pipe here. Fortunately the descriptions of the geocaches give you an idea of how hard or easy they are to find. For more information about what geocaching is, read my blog post: What is geocaching?

Deciding What To Use

While difficult, you can sometimes find geocaches without a GPS. I have found geocaches by looking at Google Maps, going to the location where the geocache is supposed to be and looking around, but it isn't the easiest way. If you want to consistently find geocaches, you will need a GPS unit, or a smartphone that can use GPS.

I use both regularly and they each have advantages and disadvantages. Below I will take a look at what I like about both and what to look for when you make a decision on what you will use.

Garmin GPS Map60CSX
Garmin GPS Map60CSX

Choosing A Handheld GPS Unit

First, let's take a look at a GPS receiver. This is a hand held receiver that displays your location and can guide you to different locations, saved as waypoints. You can enter the coordinates of a geocache individually, or sync the GPS to your computer to download multiple geocaches. Let's take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of a handheld GPS unit over a smartphone:


  • GPS receivers require a clear view of the sky to receive GPS signals, but they do not require a cellular signal.
  • WAAS enabled GPS receivers can be more accurate than cell phone based GPS.
  • Many GPS receivers will run longer on a set of batteries than a smartphone can while running mapping or GPS programs.
  • All waypoints and maps saved to a GPS receiver can be accessed at anytime, no need to have cellular service to view maps. (You can download maps to some smartphones to view later, in those cases they operate just like the GPS)


  • GPS units can be expensive to buy.
  • All waypoints must be identified before you leave home, you can't look up new geocaches from the device once you are away from your computer. (Unless you look it up on a smartphone and manually enter the numbers)
  • A separate GPS unit becomes another device to keep track of.
  • You have to keep track of what caches you have found until you get back to a computer to log them.

Geocaching App on an iPhone
Geocaching App on an iPhone

Geocaching With A Smartphone

Next, let's take a look at using a smartphone for geocaching. Many people already own a smartphone that can be used with the right app, so it can be a great starting place for those that are wanting to try it out without spending a lot of money. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that I have found using an iPhone for geocaching:


  • Many people already have a smartphone, which means there is no equipment to buy to get started.
  • You can use free navigation apps to take guide you to waypoints, one at a time.
  • offers a free app to get started using caches from their website. If you want to pay about $10.00 you can buy an app that lets you access most of the features of the website from within the app. ( is my favorite site for
  • If you have your smartphone with you, you can find a geocache. There is no need to pre-load waypoints and remember to bring a separate GPS unit.
  • You can view descriptions and difficulty ratings on your phone, potentially giving you hints to help find the geocache.
  • You can log your find right away, you won't have to worry about remembering to log them at home on your computer.


  • The GPS in smartphones are typically not as accurate as WAAS enabled receivers. That means you may not get quite as close with a smartphone.
  • Running GPS on your smartphone will probably drain the battery much faster than normal, leaving you without a phone, or making you charge your phone more frequently.
  • Unless you save your geocaches to your phone ahead of time, you will not be able to access geocaches or maps without a cellular network.

GPS Features To Look For

If you decide to buy a GPS unit, here are my suggestions: Make sure you pick a WAAS enabled unit. These are more accurate and will help you get closer to the right location. I prefer to have a built in topographical map in my GPS units. These give you an idea of your surroundings and make it easier to read the terrain. Another personal preference for me is a colored screen. This makes it easier for me to read the screen and make out the different features on the topographical map.

How To Choose

Now that you know some of the advantages and disadvantages, I'll explain what I use and why. First off, I bought a GPS for hiking and backpacking long before I started geocaching. So for me, I didn't have to worry about the added cost of a new GPS unit. I had thought about geocaching for awhile before finally giving it a go. It started when I decided to download the free app for my iPhone and found my first few geocaches using that method.

As I decided to look for more, I switched to using my Garmin MAP60csx. I found it much more accurate, but it can be a pain to remember to download geocaches ahead of time. I still use the handheld unit, and I have upgraded to the paid app for my iPhone. The paid app allows me to search for more geocaches at a time, plus log the finds, and log any trackable items that I find, such as travel bugs.

Typically, if I am looking for geocaches around town, or at the spur of the moment, I use my iPhone. It lets me look up new caches on the fly. If I have some free time in a new area I like to see what caches are around. I don't always think of that ahead of time.

I still take my GPS unit on hiking trips or backpacking trips. In the back country I appreciate having the added accuracy of my GPS unit. I also like the fact that I can run the GPS all day and still have battery life left in my phone for emergency calls.

If you are just starting out and own a smartphone, I would suggest trying the free version of the geocaching app to start with. From there you can decide if you want to add a GPS unit, or just upgrade to the paid version of the app.

Go Out And Have Some Fun!

Now that you know what to look for in a GPS, go out and have some fun! In the end it doesn't really matter which device you choose, you'll be able to find geocaches with whatever you choose. What is your preferred GPS device? Let me know in the comment section below.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)