My former GPS unit was a Garmin Nuvi. It was a failed partnership with TMobile to make a phone that could also have good GPS, email, weather, MP3 player, etc. Timing was poor, and smartphones outperformed them, so Garmin ended up selling off tons at a reduced price as standalone GPS units. It served me well, leading to geocaches, playing music on road trips, taking pictures. Unfortunately, its battery pack only lasts 12 minutes now. It still has a home on my dashboard, but not in the field.
To sustain my Geocaching hobby (and introduce it to the new kids) I needed to step up my game. My first, non-negotiable feature was paperless Geocaching. It didn’t have to log my finds, but it did need to load and display all the hints and details I might need to find the cache.
True, I could have bought an app or 3 for my phone. However, location services vary amongst smartphones, with some having poor to NO internal GPS. Some (gasp) rely purely on cellular and WiFi for location. In a city, this wouldn’t be too big an issue, but I plan to apply my GPS off-grid, in canyons, over mountains, I want the most accurate thing I can afford! Along those lines I wanted something rugged, with replaceable batteries, something I could strap to my 4-wheeler for the day. (Something I could hand over to a child.)
This brings me to my other requests:
- Under $250 (my budget started lower…)
- Hard buttons (touchscreens don’t work with gloves)
- Available accessories for 12v car/quad use
- SD Slot for more maps
- NMEA output for APRS applications (this was really just a bonus)
I checked out Magellan’s site, but found their comparison feature lacking detail. Using a handy comparison chart from GPSTracklog.com I narrowed my search to the MAP64. I also found a great review on that site, from a mountain biker who rode a windy track with multiple models to compare their accuracy. I was impressed. If I had the money, I certainly would have upgraded to the S model, and gotten pre-loaded US Topo maps. It’s only money, right? Hah!
In the end, all of the models I looked at had paperless Geocaching, so what really narrowed the field was avoiding the touch screen models. Every Garmin model under $250 had a touch screen with internal antenna. The MAP64 had 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 227 reviews. At $214, I feel it will serve me well for many years to come, whether I’m Geocaching, riding the trails, camping, getting firewood, mushroom hunting, snowshoeing, or hiking, this thing will do the job.