10 Best Geocaching GPS Units [For Beginners & Hikers]

Treasure hunting is an exhilarating activity that individuals of all ages can enjoy. We have tried treasure hunting with just a metal detector, but we weren’t too successful. You essentially pick a spot and hope the machine begins to make noise. With today’s ever-evolving technology, devices such as geocaching GPS units have made treasure hunting easier. 

Geocachers will search for benchmarks, which is a type of survey mark, that make up the National Spatial Reference System. This is where all the mapping and surveying activities are stored all over the United States. The benchmark will be a brass, bronze, or aluminum disk in concrete or bedrock. Inside of these containers can contain trinkets, coins, or even a simple sign-in sheet to see how many people have visited the site and where they’re from. 

We understand that finding the correct geocaching GPS unit for your hobby can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to start. We suggest the Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator due to its vibrant color display, high-tech features, and reliable signal. Feel free to check out the rest of our guide if you want to explore alternate options. 

Top 10 Geocaching GPS Units

1. Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator – Best Overall

Garmin is one of the top manufacturers of GPS systems across the globe. They’re constantly updating their technology and producing advanced devices. We chose this model as the best overall because it’s simple to use, rugged, and waterproof. 

Great Signal

A GPS tracker is only as good as its signal and the eTrex 20 offers a solid connection. It can pick up the signal quickly and uses WAAS to improve accuracy. Additionally, it offers GLONASS support. This is a Russian version of GPS and it has the capabilities to improve your signal by 20%. We found that this tracker picked up better signals than some of the more expensive units. 

Battery Powered

We are huge fans of battery powered devices. Rather than worrying about a rechargeable battery going dead and having nowhere to plug it in, with the eTrex all you have to do is swap AA batteries when they die. They’re small enough to carry extras on your adventures.

Normal alkaline batteries give out 22-24 hours of continuous use depending on what you’re using them for and Lithium batteries get around 40-50 hours of continuous use. Remember, the more functions you have going on in the background, the more battery power you’re going to use. 

Easy To Use

If you’re a first-time treasure hunter using a new geocaching gps unit, you’re not going to want to worry about the hassle of intricate buttons and functions. The eTrex is simple to use. You can create your own hiking tracks and routes, download free tracks from the internet, mark waypoints, navigate to those waypoints, track speed, time, distance, progress, and more. We were impressed by the simple buttons and software. Additionally, the entire unit is waterproof and durable. You can drop it and it won’t shatter like a cell phone would. 

What We Like

  • It’s waterproof
  • Easy to use
  • Bright display
  • Free downloadable tracks
  • Inexpensive
  • Battery operated
  • Accurate GPS

What We Don’t Like

  • Screen is a tad small
  • Garmin maps aren’t free (generic ones are)

2. Magellan eXplirist GC Waetrproof Geocaching GPS

The Magellan eXplorist GC has been specifically designed for geocachers. It displays latitude and longitude coordinates to help you navigate to a location to find caches which can contain trinkets and log books that you can sign. This device is simple to use, durable, and inexpensive. 

Simple Interface

We can’t tell you enough how important it is for a product to be easy to use, especially if you’re a beginner. The interface of the eXplorist GC is basic and easy enough to understand and navigate thanks to the built-in joystick. The joystick can make navigating the menu a little frustrating if you accidentally press the top of it, but you’ll get used to it quickly. When you turn the unit on, it brings you to a main menu that lets you choose what you want to use. You cnaa also see stats, summaries, and more.  

Pre-Loaded Caches

On the eXplorist GC, you can see a menu of pre-loaded caches that may be near your location. It comes with 1,000 preloaded caches, but you can add up to 9,000 more by logging onto the geocaching.com site. This does require a 30-day premium account, though. After you sign up, you can search for the caches and store them on the unit. Each listing will provide you with details regarding the cache as well as hints and spoilers. 

GPS Tracking

Smartphones can only provide you with 20-meter GPS accuracy whereas this unit can provide you with 3-meter accuracy thanks to the high-sensitivity SiRFstarIII. That’s a huge difference. This will make it easier for you to locate your target. It contains a worldwide basemap, but does not have live movement like Google Maps does. You have to navigate the map and keep track of your location on your own. 

What We Like

  • Sunlight readable color screen
  • Easy to navigate
  • High-sensitivity GPS accuracy
  • Battery operated
  • VantagePoint & GPX Compatible
  • Store up to 10,000 geocaches
  • Durable  & waterproof

What We Don’t Like

  • Does not auto-navigate like Google Maps
  • Small screen

3.Garmin GPSMAP i66

You’re going to see quite a few Garmin products on this list since they’re the top GPS unit manufacturer in the United States. The Garmin GPSMAP i66 offers its users premium navigation and durability. It’s a 2-in-2 unit that combines GPS and satellite communication. We suggest only purchasing this device if you are an advanced geocacher. If you’re just starting out, this may have too many functions for you. 

Navigation

This is one of the best features this GPS unit offers. You can store up to 10,000 waypoints, 250 GPX tracks, 300 fit activities, and 250 routes. You can put in a destination on teh map and it will calculate the best route for you to take. The device is pre-loaded with topographic maps and gives you detailed information regarding the surrounding terrain. Additionally, you can loa an SD card into the unit to add maps to the device. 

Interface

The interface struck us as a little dated and not as attractive as some of the more affordable models. It looks almost like an old-school cell phone, but this aside, the performance is outstanding. The processor is quick, allowing you to move between the features quickly andwith ease. You won’t have to deal with lag or choppy movement. The maps will quickly move on the 3” display that’s not only easy to read, but bright and clear. 

Rugged

We found this device to be rugged and just about indestructible. It has an IPX7 rating which means it can be submerged in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Additionally, it will have a MIL-STD 810 certificate with it which means it passed military-grade testing. This just goes to show how durable this unit is. It can withstand fire, chock, salt fog, and some vibroacoustic testing, amongst others. 

What We Like

  • Rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • Rugged body
  • Fast processor
  • GNSS support
  • Sattelite communications 
  • Texting capabilities
  • Live maps

What We Don’t Like

  • Satellite texts take too long
  • Clunky design

4.Garmin Montana 700i

The Garmin Montana 700 is a rugged outdoor GPS unit that honestly looks more like a thick smartphone. It supports a variety of satellite systems and has plenty of internal storage. Additionally, this robust GPS unit is a nice geocaching tool, but may be a little overkill for novice treasure hunters. 

GPS Reception

The Garmin Montana 700i seems to have a decently designed antella that can make its way through thick forests and vegetation. This is one of the few devices that has GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo platform capabilities. Additionally, you can choose to toggle WAAS/EGNOS for improved accuracy in terms of positioning. On average, it has a GPS accuracy of 9-feet. 

Display

Most of the other GPS units we’ve covered have small screens measuring a maximum of 3 inches. This unit has a 480 x 800 pixel, 5-inch WVGA screen. It’s similar to a small tablet. The screen is transflective so you can still see it when the sun is beating down on it. It’s easy to read and the orientation of the touchscreen can be switched when the device is from landscape to portrait. 

Ease of Use

Since the touchscreen is so large, it makes the device very simple to navigate. You can customize the unit for many purposes including off-road travel, planning routed on teh device, and more. The combination of the topographic maps and optional public land overlays, makes this unit practical and valuable. It may be a little overkill for geocaching, but it can be used for other activities as well. 

What We Like

  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable
  • Multi-GNSS support
  • Two-way messaging
  • Easy to use screen
  • Tons of pre-loaded option
  • Active weather forecasts
  • Dog tracking

What We Don’t Like

  • Expensive unit
  • May be too complicated for novice geocachers

5.Garmin Montana 680t

The Garmin Montana 680t is a great option for geocaching. It’s packed full of handy features that’ll make your treasure hunting experience easier and more enjoyable. This versatile GPS system features a color touchscreen display that’s glove-friendly, digital camera, and more. 

Easy Geocaching Uploading

The Garmin Montana supports paperless geocaching GPX files that allow you to upload the geocaches directly from Geocaching.com. You no longer need to enter the coordinates manually or look at paper printouts. Montana will store and display all the information you need for your next target. It certainly does make treasure hunting quicker and more efficient. Additionally, you can track routes, waypoints, logs, and more. We love that this device has so much space, too. It offers a whopping 8GB of storage and you can upgrade it to up to 32 GB with a micro-SD card. 

Map Compatibility

No matter where you are, Garmin Montana has a map for your location. You can load multiple maps on a micro-SD card so they can all run together for seamless transition between them. This device also allows you to access BirdsEye satellite imagery that grants you access to high-resolution satellite images. It also has full Topo V5 maps for Australia and New Zealand. You can literally geocache anywhere. 

Battery Life

Some GPS devices have rechargeable battery packs and others run on batteries, but this one does both. There is a supplied battery that lasts 16-hours on a full charge, but if you need more power, you can use 3 AAA batteries for another 6-hours of treasure hunting. This gives you a total of 22-hours worth of charge. 

What We Like

  • Internal memory can be upgraded
  • Touchscreen can be used with gloves
  • Rugged waterproof body
  • Accurate GPS
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • Easy to use
  • Mid-range price

What We Don’t Like

  • Spotty touchscreen

6.Magellan eXplorist 110 

This portable GPS geocaching unit is convenient, rugged, and simple to use as opposed to some of the fancier Garmin models we’ve reviewed. This model is reliable and overall affordable for a reliable GPS tracker. Never again will you have to use paper geocaching information!

High-Sensitivity GPS

Nothing is more important when it comes to geocaching than having a reliable GPS signal. Even some of the most expensive models don’t have reliable service. This device has a 3-5 meter GPS accuracy using SiRFstarIII. It’s preloaded with a world map that outlines complete road networking in North America and Western Europe along with major roads across the globe. You can see parks, rivers, major city points, and more.

Battery Conservation

This isn’t a feature we see on many GPS units. The suspended mode feature helps conserve battery life by putting the device into a power saving mode. It will turn off everything except for the GPS tracking. To wake it up, just click a button. As far as overall battery life is concerned, you will get 18-hours out of 2 AA batteries. 

Memory

It doesn’t have as much memory as some of the Garmin devices, but it’s still quite a bit. It offers 500 megabytes of user memory. It’s enough to store waypoints, geocaches, tracks, etc. You can keep a log of all the steps you took throughout the day and you can use it to track your way back to your starting point. 

What We Like

  • Waterproof IPX-7
  • High-sensitivity GPS
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Easy to navigate maps
  • NMEA message output
  • Keeps logs

What We Don’t Like

  • Clumsy joystick
  • No expandable memory

7.Garmin GPSMAP 64sx

We already know by now that Garmin makes some impressive GPS tracking units and the GPSMAP 64sx is no different. It’s simple navigation in the palm of your hand that will point you in the direction of the cache you’re hunting. 

GPS Accuracy

The accuracy of this GPS tracker is highly sensitive. It uses GPS + GLONASS + WAAS compliant technologies and blends sensitive four-helix antennas with high precision for both open and shaded spaces. The signals are quick and it will remain locked until your location has been determined. You can also track old waypoints with the built-in electronic compass, which can come in handy when reviewing old geocaches. 

Wireless Connectivity

One feature we really liked about this device was that it is capable of pairing with you rcellphone via Bluetooth and ANT+ technology. You can receive emails, messages, and notifications to the device via your cell phone Bluetooth. You don’t have to keep digging around in you backpack or pockets to view notifications. You can share your location and geocaches with other compatible devices on your handheld tracker. You don’t have to plug it in to share your caches with your friends. 

Functionality

When you pair classic portable devices with new technology, you get the 64sx. The 10 robust buttons on this device make it easy to get from one place to another. There’s also a simple multi-directional pad, zoom in function, search, leave, mark, join, manu, and pae button. The menu seemed very simple to use for us and you can even customize it. You can store up to 5,000 points of interest and 200 tracks with the 4 GB built-in memory. You can expand the memory to 32 GB with a micro SDTM card. 

What We Like

  • You can add maps
  • Tracks and logs
  • Easy to use
  • TopoActive technology
  • Storage can be expanded
  • Offers smart notifications
  • Waterproof interface
  • High-sensitivity GPS

What We Don’t Like

  • It’s a bit heavy
  • Outdated USB interface

8.Garmin GPSMAP 66i

This Garmin geocaching GPS device looks more like a cell phone than a GPS unit. Ithas cellular connectivity just like a cell phone and you can access weather forecasts and live geocaching.  It’s compatible with the Garmin explore website to help you manage all of your data. 

Mapping & Communication System

This robust device comes preloaded with Garmin TOPO mapping with direct-to-device Birdseye satellite imagery. You can do this completely free, no annual subscription like with some other devices. Additionally, something we appreciated is satellite communication. It uses inReach technology (with a subscription) to trigger an SOS to the GEOS 24/7 emergency response team. You can interact directly with them in case of an emergency. You can also perform two-way messaging and LiveTrack location sharing via satellite. This allows you to easily stay in touch with teammates, family, and headquarters. 

Mobile Device Compatible

With the free Garmin Explore mobile app, you can sync data and review completed activities even while off the grid. You can sync the device with your mobile device to access maps, U.S. NOAA charts, and aerial imagery. You can also use the inReach features on your mobile device and you can access your phone’s contact list from the Garmin app. 

Rechargeable Battery

The Garmin 66i has a rechargeable lithium battery that will give you 35-hours of use when fully charged in tracking mode (display off) and 200 hours in Expedition mode with 30-minute tracking. We found the battery life to be better than comparable models that required AA batteries. 

What We Like

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Accurate maps
  • Weather forecasts 
  • Geocaching live
  • Satellite SOS
  • Compatible with smartphone
  • Preloaded with Garmin TOPO mapping
  • Easy to use buttons and interface

What We Don’t Like

  • Poor Birdseye imaging
  • Freezes 

9. Garmin GPSMAP 66sr

All of the Garmin GPS devices seem like they’re the same, right? It may seem like it, but with each model, a feature improves. This is true for this model when compared to the 66i or the 66st. This model has a brighter display-if that’s something you’re looking for. 

GPS Receiver

The 66st can provide you with better accuracy when reception may seem unfavorable thanks to the multi-GNSS and multi-band. The Multi-GNSS means that there’s simultaneous reception of GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, OZSS, and IRNSS. You will be able to use it almost anywhere in the world. No matter where you are, whether in a deep valley, forest, canyon, or out in the open, you can rely on accurate GPS information to help you better find those caches. 

Ease of Use

Sure, this device is rugged and looks a lot like an old-school cell phone from the early 2000s, but it’s easy to use. It’s glove-friendly and since the keys are on top, it can be used on different surfaces such as handlebars. The keypad is under a large display with a large helix antenna to help with GPS reception. The only issue we had with it is that the case is pretty large. So this should be taken into consideration. Size aside, many configuration options in the menu may require some training. 

High-Tech Features

Let’s take a look at some of the more “techy” features. It offers navigation with waypoints, tracks, routes, geocaches, and more. You can view altimeter and barometer functions as well as use the integrated flashlight and SOS function. There are alarms, wireless transmission from your device to a cell phone, and so much more. It’s very practical for outdoor use and you can pair it with the Garmin Explore App. 

What We Like

  • Accurate GPS 
  • Easy to use for most
  • Glove-friendly
  • Decent battery life
  • Great storage capacity
  • Extensive configuration options
  • Decently affordable

What We Don’t Like

  • It’s pretty large
  • Poor quality Topo & Birdseye map

10.Garmin eTrex 22x

Lastly, we have the Garmin eTrex 22x. This is one of the more affordable models that Garmin offers in terms of Geocaching GPS units. It brings ease of use, affordability, and durability to the table. 

Mapping

The Garmin eTrex 22x is preloaded with road-routable TopoActive maps that show streets and trails. You can become familiar with your surroundings easier and view them on the 2.2” sunlight-readable color display. It also utilizes GPS + GLONASS, has a GPS-based compass and an altimeter. The only difference between this model and the 32x is that it doesn’t have an ANT+ connection. The mapping is generally reliable and will get you to your geocache with little to no malfunctions. 

No More Paper

When we say no more paper, we mean that you no longer need to use geocaching coordinates from paper. You can upload GPX files right to your device and view location, terrain, and hints from Geocaching.com. This is paperless geocaching and it’s really easy to use and very convenient. 

Memory & Battery

Some of these devices don’t offer much memory, such as the Magellan eXplorist GPS units. They only offer 500 megabytes whereas most Garmin devices offer 8 GB or more. You can also add more memory to this device via micro SD card. It will allow up to 32 GB total. Additionally, this device has a decent battery life of up to 25-hours in GPS mode with 2 AA batteries. 

What We Like

  • Decent battery life
  • Accurate GPS
  • Paperless geocaching
  • Sunlight-readable color display
  • Touchscreen
  • Support for GPS and GLONASS satellite systems
  • Easy to use

What We Don’t Like

  • Poor map software
  • Tiny joystick is tough to use

What To Look For In A Geocaching GPS Unit

Geocaching has been widely known as modern-day treasure hunting. You go around looking for hidden caches all over the world. Some people choose to use paper geocaching while others are getting into the 21st century and using geocaching GPS devices. 

Using a smartphone isn’t enough. It could lose service or get damaged on the hike, or you can even lose your way without knowing it. This is why a geocaching device is needed to assist you in your cache hunting. But how do you know which one is right for you? We’re here to help you figure that out. We’ll explain what you should be looking for in these GPS nits and why. 

Efficiency

This is one of the most important things that you should be looking for in a geocaching GPS device. It should come with a decent basemap that can give you an exact navigational route for the designated location. Additionally, you should look for how many channels it supports. Most of the worthy devices support around 12 channels. 

Additionally, you should always make sure your GPS device is responsive. You should check to see how fast it would lock a satellite signal in and how efficient it is when it comes to re-routing the path. It should also be able to work on a cloudy day. 

Screen Size

The geocaching device you choose should be smaller than your smartphone. You shouldn’t have to lug around a clunky device when there are smaller options available to you. It should be able to easily fit in your pocket or be able to be placed on a bicycle. The screen size should ideally be around 2.2-inches and have a sunlight-readable display with vibrant colors. You should have no visibility errors. 

Power & Battery

We can’t stress this enough. The battery life and power should be sufficient. Since you’re going to be using this device outdoors, it’s likely that you won’t have access to a power source. Thiis why you should become familiar with what kind of power source it needs such as battery or plug. 

We like the battery-operated devices because if it dies, you can just change the batteries out and start fresh. It’s a good idea to check how long it can operate still so you don’t run into an emergency situation. 

Water Resistance

This is very important as well. GPS units for geocaching should be water-resistant and thankfully most of them are. They should be rugged, water-resistant, and easy to use. You should still check on what the exact standard of water-resistance the unit has. We recommend a unit with an IPX7 standard. This will allow the device to be submerged in water for 30-minutes without damage. 

Conclusion

Clearly geocaching GPS units are where it’s at right now in the world of treasure hunting. We love geocaching because it’s fun and exciting. It’s easy to do with the help of one of these handheld devices. 

One of our favorite geocaching GPS units is the Garmin eTrex 20 because it’s simple to use, rugged, and waterproof. There’s nothing fancy about it, it’s just an overall great product that fits a budget well. We hope that this guide gave you some insight into what the best geocaching GPS unit would be for your treasure-hunting adventures.

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