Newbie thread: Which PDA/GPS combination to buy?

Discussion about software such as GSAK, OziExplorer etc, as well as all things hardware, GPSrs, laptops, PDAs, paperless caching, cables etc
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Newbie thread: Which PDA/GPS combination to buy?

Post by Cached » 27 September 07 3:59 pm

This thread is a sticky for discussing which combinations of PDA & GPS are suitable for geocaching etc.

Please keep to the point.



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Post by Alansee » 01 October 07 5:53 pm

No Postings for this thread yet and I have to say I am not surprised!

I am still using paper but am slowly, inexorably working my way towards paperless, and the answer to the question is - They all are! there are so many different options that it can very quickly get confusing! I know, I am! (confused)

I think the best suggestion that I can make is to decide how YOU want to approach it. ie. are you a tech-head for whom the contraption is a major part of the fun, in which case you probably don't need to read this thread, or are you like me, prepared to learn new, better(?) ways but want to take it one step and expense at a time.

After months of consideration I am probably about to start at the bottom - get a Palm Pilot, load cachemate, and continue with my Yellow e-trex. Once I have got that sorted then I'll look at the next step.....

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Post by Team Geo-Nads » 01 October 07 8:50 pm

I have just got a MIO P550 which is a PDA and GPS in one unit. I have installed Oziexplorer and GPX sonar on it and all seems to work well.
It came with 2 navigator programs on it as well

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Post by nomad_penguin » 01 October 07 9:42 pm

I will share our experience.

We (Stealth Ninja Penguin and I) found more than 500 caches using the trusty old paper method. One of the 'problems' holding us back from going paperless was that I use a mac and all the solutions I read seemed to be geared towards a PC/GSAK combination.

Anyhow. We were heading OS, so rather than take a book of cache printouts, we bought a relatively cheap PDA from eBay. We use CacheMate to hold the cache descriptions. A sat nav system came along later as part of a car purchase and only gets used to navigate to coordinates.

I don't mind the PDA for traditionals and short multis, but it can be a little difficult when the multi requires two heads to think about the cache (and hence read the description). I would never head out on a long day's caching without planning it first at home, reading the logs and possibly looking at the gallery. Even with the PDA, we might print out a list (in order) of caches to find as well as the cache pages of those that might be better read on paper.

I have had a little play around with a SIRF III chip and the PDA but I wasn't impressed and haven't gone back to work out how to improve the experience.

There are advantages in paper caching. Paper doesn't have batteries to go flat or other technical issues that one might experience (either your fault or the PDA :)). There are other advantages to paper that have been discussed on another thread and might make the mind boggle ;). However, it's pretty hard to update the data on paper without cutting down another forest.

My summary. At this moment, a cheap PDA from eBay with CacheMate, a regular GPSr (Garmin GPS60) and some well thought out pocket queries suit us just fine.

My opinion. A cheap PDA is a good way to replace carrying a forest of paper around with you.

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Post by Facitman » 01 October 07 10:12 pm

Ok, I'll have a go.
Why a PDA?
Using a PDA for Gecaching provides a few benefits:
  • No more printing pages and pages of cache info
  • Easy access to caching info, software supports filtering by name, difficulty etc as well as supporting finding nearest cache to a location (another cache or co-ordinates acquired from a connected GPSr)
  • Enter find details into the PDA and upload to PC when you get home
  • Integration of cache details with mapping software, see where the caches are on a map, have caches as POI in TomTom
Cheapest option:
Old Palm III or Vx running Cachemate and stand alone GPSr (eTrex or whatever)
Palm's can be bought off ebay for <$100
Cachemate is US$8

More Expensive
New Palm TX or HP iPAQ running Cachemate or GPSSonar and a Bluetooth GPSr
Palm or iPAQ price varies from $180 - $1000+
Generic Bluetooth GPSr approximately $100 off eBay or shop (I got mine from a shop specialising in PDAs)
Cachemate is US$8 (Palm and Pocket PC versions)
GPXSonar is free (Pocket PC, Donations accepted)

Extra bits & pieces
More software for the PDA, eg OziExplorer CE for mapping, SpoilerSync for cache log photos
More software supporting the PDA, GSAK for cache management

Where to find it and what does it do?
  • Cachemate enables you to download cache details from a Pocket Query or GSAK export onto you PDA and access the information is a useful form. Includes key information about the cache, name, code, size, difficulty, terrain, owner, full description, previous logs and Hints. In the field you can enter details about your find, log type, date and time, find notes etc
    Cachemate is available from Smittyware
    GPXSonar Can a knowledgeable person fill in details of GPS Sonar
    Spoiler Sync enables the loading of photos from cache logs onto your PDA so they can be viewed in the field. SpoilerSync is available from SpoilerSync
    OZIExplorerCE provides electronic mapping on your PDA allowing loading of caches as waypoints, moving map (when connected to the GPSr) etc
    OZI Explorer CE is available from Ozi Explorer
    GSAK allows you to manage cache information on your PC and download selected caches onto your PDA
    GSAK is available from GSAK
Geocaching Australia Wiki info on software Wiki Waypoint Management Software

Everyone, Feel free to edit, correct and expand

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Post by calumphing_four » 04 October 07 12:08 am

The is also the option of using an iPod for cache notes.

I had my iPod before caching, as I never found I needed a PDA. Using GSAK and a pretty simple batch file I wrote, I load 900 caches into the iPod (limited to 1000 files of a size < 4k) and the waypoints into my Garmin Legend - also limited to 1000 waypoints.
I find 900 is plenty, although limited to about 70km from Adelaide GPO. If planning to go further afield, then I adjust my export accordingly from GSAK.
Occassionally I get caught out with the 4k file limit, when I've needed to look at the hint and find that its not available. The iPod simply displays the first 4k of text.

Also, if looking at going the paperless option, one does need to become a Premium member (to gain access to GPX downloads) and pay the rego for GSAK (IMHO the best tool for managing GPX downloads).

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Post by Cached » 04 October 07 2:27 am

When I'm being lazy, all I use on my PDA for paperless caching is Internet Explorer. I have GSAK export to HTML and then that's all I use. I don't use waypoint management software on the PDA at all.

When I'm not being lazy, I use a bluetooth GPS with software such as TomTOm and VitoNavigator.

Of course, I am still using a handheld GPS as well.

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Post by octagonal » 05 October 07 7:28 pm

I was at this point a couple of weeks ago. I own a decent PDA & I needed to assess whether to get a bluetooth gpsr & software for the pda or a hand held gpsr.

After a decent amount of reading I've got an etrex legend gps unit.

I use GSAK to manage the gpx files I get from pocketquery & send them to the etrex. I also export the html files and sync with my pda so I can read cache info.

This combination works very well.

One of the main reasons I did this was the unsuitability of a pda in the bush. Mainly damage from sweat and grime, but also from other water and scratch hazards. A pda screen is also a pain to read in sunlight + I would have to carry another non-ruggedised device around as well - the bluetooth gpsr.

So far I am very happy. I can read up on caches online to prepare. Check the pda notes in the car and then head out with the etrex to find what I am looking for. No printing required, no pda in the bush & the etrex legend seems to do the job well.

I made this choice after a lot of reading here and some very good advice & answers in response to questions I asked.

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Post by edmil » 06 October 07 6:06 pm

Might as well add my bluetooth bit to the list.
I haven't used paper (for caching) for some time. I'm on my second PDA/Phone. Prior to that it was a Palm Tungsten T.

I currently use a combination of Atom Life XDA with Cachemate and a SirfIII bluetooth GPS connected. Tom Tom is also loaded as is oziexplorerCE. I use the cachemate for storing all the cache details and use either a Garmin GPSmap 60CS or when I don't have that with me I use Tom Tom. The majority of the time I use the Garmin.

I use GSAK to store all caches on my PC and use it to export cache details to Cachemate, Tom Tom the Garmin as well as other programs.

I have caches from all over the country loaded into a Tom Tom POI and have Cachemate broken up into individual state databases.

I still carry a small notebook with me as I find it faster and easier to record details of the multis. Maddie can jot down the details as I give them to her. I found that using an alt-tab type button on the PDA to switch between the cache details and notepad was too slow and clunky.

Even after 18 months or so I am still dealing with small glitches like when you get a cache with a photo and it's not downloaded with the rest of the cache details.

The PDA regularly needs resetting. and when running bluetooth it needs to be recharged often.

Cachemate is great when your out for extended periods as you can complete the log on the road and then upload to GSAK for logging on the net. After 9 days in Tassie and 48 caches it was great to have them all up on the net within 30 minutes of getting home.

So far I've managed to keep the PDA in one piece by using a screen protector and a rubber casing. more knocks on the GPS than PDA.

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Post by Crisp image » 06 October 07 6:50 pm

I use a combination of an IPAQ and Garmin legend C. Using GSAK on my laptop connected to a USB mouse type GPSr I load the IPAQ with cachemate notes. Then using Ozi on the laptop navigate my way to the destination and then the final assault using the garmin. I also have tom tom loaded on the pda using a bluetooth gps for road navigation.
I really like the cachemate gsak combination because of the cache notes and logs on the fly. then uploading them in quick time so it is not too labourious.
I also use a paper note book to work out multis as I have found it easier to do that that swapping between sections of cachemate or notebook on the pda.
Having the laptop in the car (it is a P3 600mhz with 256mb ram) is great in case you change your mind mid caching and want to go a different direction.
Works for me.
BTW what do you get if you eat a blackberry?
A blue tooth!!
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Post by Alansee » 09 October 07 8:39 pm

I've just got myself an unused Palm from a pawnbroker and set it up! Now for a trial run which should be fun.

Thanks to all those who continue to contribute their info to these forums - it is a great help!

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Post by Richary » 10 October 07 12:09 am

I have thought about it, but haven't bothered so far, even though I have an oldish iPaq sitting here doing nothing. But what I don't like about the iPaq is that if the thing goes flat then it drops all the data. How much extra would NVRAM have cost?

I usually just throw the laptop in the car if I am going caching. The TomTom gets me to the closest road, the GPS guides me. If I am going for one that is a bit of a walk I will have a glance at the hint/previous logs on GSAK before I set off. The only ones I print out are slightly complicated multis so I am not turning the thing on all the time. Though it seems to have about 4 hours battery life and got me all the way from Adelaide to Coffs Harbour without needing a recharge so that works for me.

Using a PDA would just be another export file I would need to generate and copy each week. My PQs come down Thursday GC time so Thursday evening here. Now I am moving to NSW I need 7 to cover the whole state and ACT so will have to spread them over 2 days, unless I change my mind and only get the ones for areas I am likely to be hitting - though I will be heading up the north coast regularly so would need that one each week.

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Solution found for Apple Mac and iPod owners

Post by lelongp » 23 October 07 9:01 am

As a relative newcomer to geocaching I was looking for a solution that provided easy uploads of coordintates to my Apple Mac. I didn't want to have to carry a laptop with me either so hoped Icould use my ipod.

A solution that has proven very effective is the maccaching software a free donwload that easily stores the gpx and Loc files from the geocaching website. Connects directly back to website as well as to google maps.

The best thing of all is that it also allows for exporting all notes directly to your ipod for checking on clues when walking.

No more paper carrying on wet days.

Hope this helps.

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Post by Alansee » 27 October 07 5:27 pm

I have been using the Palm for a couple of weeks now and all is going fine. The BIG, and I mean BIG, saving has been on printing time. I tend to do a lot of caches and while a small piece of paper is very convenient (I print to A5) the time savings in downloading one file with lots of caches in one go are much appreciated.

The only real frustration I was having with Cachemate was only being able to see one past log per cache, but I've fixed that now (tap on the date!)

I'll probably go to a PDA with more features sometime but for now I'm happy. :D :D

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Post by ruzzelz » 05 May 08 8:03 pm

I need to come down from the trees (or at least stop using the trees) and start paperless caching. Hence do I go for a PDA or a mobile? I looked at the Nokia N 95 but having to download maps on the fly seems to be a possible cost blow out.

I also wish to use the device to assit in holding travel information for an upcoming OS holiday.

Will a HP iPAQ 112 do me fine or not. I'm not that worried about the mobile phone but paperless caching, GPS if possible and some additional features would be good

I have a Map 60CSx and it appears I could get EU maps for this at the right price.

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