Earlier this month, Magellan released their new dedicated geocaching handheld GPS device, the eXplorist GC. Magellan sent me one to try out and for the last month, I have been using the handheld GPS to find hidden caches in California, Minnesota and even Washington DC.
comes ready to use right out of the box. No downloading of maps or installing software, simply log on to Geocaching.com and start searching for caches near you. One of my favorite things about the Magellan handheld GPS is the seamless integration with Geocaching.com. As soon as you find a cache you like on the site, simply press the "send to GPS" button and all of the detailed cache information is loaded on your device via the USB cable connection.
A free, 30-day premium membership for Geocaching.com comes with your eXplorist GC and I highly recommend trying it out. One of the main reasons is that if you are a Mac user, the plugins for the "send to GPS" functionality do not support the Safari browser. But with the premium membership, you can download the gpx file for the cache and then just transfer the file manually to your handheld GPS.
The eXplorist GC fits perfectly in your hand and a loop at the bottom of the device makes it easy for you to hang it off of your belt or a pack and even around your neck when not in use. The large color screen is easy to see in bright daylight and the menus are dead simple to navigate- even my dad was able to do it!
When you first boot up the handheld GPS, it takes a few minutes to lock on to the satellites so you have to be patient. But once you have a connection, you can be pretty sure you won't lose it, even in dense tree cover. All of the downloaded caches, as well as some of the most popular ones around the world, will appear in a list ordered by the ones nearest to you (or farthest away if you so choose).
Clicking on a cache brings up all of the detailed information you would get as if you were looking at the cache online such as description, recent logs, and even hints. This was perfect for me as I find these details the most helpful in finding the actual cache when you get in the vicinity. I wish my dad and I had read about the dead raccoon warnings in the recent logs of one of the Minnesota caches as we wouldn't have bothered to peer in the tree hole to try and retrieve the ammo box!
Once you have chosen the cache you want to find, simply move the joystick to the right and the navigation map appears showing your position as well as the position of the cache. Two boxes at the bottom of the screen display the distance to the cache as well as the required heading. You can opt to place a compass overlay on the map in order to orient yourself perfectly.
The eXplorist GC always brought me to within 3 feet of the actual cache location and sometimes even right on top of it. The map can jump around a bit and take some time to reorient itself if you change direction too often and too quickly, especially when you are on top of the cache. So once again, a little patience is required.
When you have found a cache, you can mark it as found and write some field notes about your find to share with the geocaching community. Caches you have previously found will appear with smiley faces on the navigation map and cache list. I like the random messages of encouragement that pop from time to time while you are out such as "Congratulations, you have hiked 5 miles so far!"
A customizable dashboard screen lets you track the stats for your current geocaching outing and you can even navigate from this screen as well. I didn't tend to use it that often but I am sure data junkies will enjoy it. You can also use the eXplorist GC as a normal handheld GPS for hiking where you can view maps, mark waypoints and upload the details of your trip when you get home.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a handheld GPS to use mainly for geocaching, the
is for you. I have had a ton of fun using the device and find it has made geocaching easier and more enjoyable from the seamless integration with Geocaching.com to having detailed information at your fingertips and the great navigational abilities. The Magellan eXplorist GC has encouraged me to get out geocaching more and bring Lola, my family and friends along for the hike. Now that's a good thing!