There are many different types of GPS receivers on the market, ranging from very basic to navigational powerhouses. Units can range from a little more than $100 to over $1000!
I would recommend that you go for a dedicated receiver. A dedicated receiver is designed for navigation only and cannot be used for making calls, as a PDA, or for any other non-navigation related activity. The different types are:
Basic: Basic GPS receivers are small, lightweight and relatively easy to use. They are also quite inexpensive, which makes them appealing to those just starting out with geocaching. The main problem with receivers classed as basic is that they generally do not contain base maps. You will therefore need to be quite proficient as a map reader as you will have to plot your coordinates on a paper map. Basic units also generally do not include antenna extension jacks or the ability to sync with your computer. I would only recommend that you purchase this kind of unit if you are absolutely certain that it is all that you will be able to afford. It is not that it is impossible to use for finding caches, it is just that there are some easier ways to go about it. It is sometimes the case that people are disillusioned or discouraged by their struggles on the hunt and write off the sport altogether. This situation can often be avoided by using slightly better equipment. However, if you relish the prospect of raising the difficulty level a bit, then this kind of unit will certainly do the trick!
Intermediate: The main difference between basic and intermediate receivers is the fact that intermediate receivers contain base maps. Some of them also include syncing options, the ability to expand memory capacity and a jack for an external antenna. The fact that the base map is included will generally translate into a much more positive geocaching experience as it will mean less fiddling around with paper maps. (It is not the case that paper maps are ever totally unnecessary, even with top of the line receivers. Having a base map in place just means that you will have to consult it less often). I would recommend if you can afford it, that you begin with an intermediate receiver as your first unit. This should lead to a much more positive first geocaching experience.
Full featured: The sky is the limit when it comes to full featured receivers! Most of them will contain all of the features listed above and then some! A good full featured receiver will contain worldwide base maps as well as topographical maps. There will also be the option of adding more detailed maps through a SD card slot or a USB connection. Some of the other benefits include:
- Connectivity – Many receivers can connect to wireless networks or to the mobile phone data network. Some also contain Bluetooth connections for data exchange with other units. This means that this kind of unit is the perfect paperless geocaching solution as everything that you need can be downloaded onto it, even when you’re on the move.
- Extra navigational tools – High-end receivers will almost always contain the following: Non-satellite-based compasses, barometric altimeters and WAAS ability.
- Extras – It is amazing to see what some manufacturers can fit into a relatively small GPS receiver! Here are just some of the extras that can be found in some units:
- Voice recorder: What better way to record your impressions of the hunt than by recording it directly onto your receiver.
- Camera: Some receivers have high-end digital cameras built into them, meaning that you have one less piece of equipment to worry about.
- Two-way radio ability: There are dedicated two-way radio frequencies for geocaching. Don’t be surprised therefore if you ever see a geocacher speaking to his receiver! It could just be that he has a unit that can double as a radio if need be.
Having access to a high-end unit is perhaps as close to GPS heaven as it is possible to get. The main disadvantages are price (some of them can do pretty serious damage to your bank balance) and perceived complexity. Many people take one look at all the buttons and functions and decide to go for something simpler. However, if you can afford it and are not afraid to play around with technology I would definitely recommend this option.