Garmin's handled held GPS series, from the eTrex 10 starter to the eTrex 20 and 30 with mapping capabilities are great for Geocaching. We gave the eTrex 10 a try.
- Rugged. These are more likely to survive if your kids drop it than your phone.
The not so good
- The basic model is very basic. The more expensive version with colour maps is more useful.
This was a hands-on product review.
Garmin eTrex Photos
Garmin have updated their popular eTrex range of handheld GPS devices, which appear to target Geocaching, among other outdoor activities.
Why use a handheld GPS instead of a phone?
Most smartphones now include very good GPS units, and with geocaching apps and in the field internet access (signal permitting of course), why would you want a separate handheld device?
Ruggedness. All of the eTrex GPS units are resistant to dust, humidity, and water. Most smartphones aren't.
Would you give them your phone to do this?
As you can see from this picture we've got one of our kids using the Garmin eTrex 10 out in the pouring rain trying to find a Geocache. Would you give them your phone to do this?
Signal and accuracy. Using high-sensitivity, EGNOS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix® satellite prediction, Garmin claim the devices will work well in canyons and forests with heavy tree cover. As well as GPS, eTrex works with GLONASS, the new Russian GPS service.
There are some good Geocaching apps for smartphones - and we use them too (though often frustrated by the lack of accuracy). Click here if you want to see some reviews of Geocaching apps.
Garmin eTrex 10
The eTrex 10 is the first of their three GPS units in the range.
This has a monochrome display and includes support for paperless Geocaching, where caches and their descriptions are available on the device.
This GPS is the most affordable of the bunch but if you are used to using your smartphone with full-colour apps then the eTrex 10 may initially come as a bit of a disappointment, as there's no maps and no colour.
However, given the lack of maps and 'colour bling', it's actually quite a usable device.
It can still show a route with way markers (which is great if you are Geocaching a series on a trail), and also has a 'compass' style mode where your kids can just follow the arrow to the next cache.
Given that it is waterproof and likely to survive handling by the kids, this is a good device for all weather Geocaching.
Garmin eTrex 20
The eTrex 20 builds upon the base model and adds mapping on a colour screen.
You can use this with either a 1:25K 600 square km section of Ordnance Survey map on your device or load Garmin GB Discoverer base maps, which provide 1:50K maps, via the built-in microSD card slot.
Look out for bundles of OS Maps + eTrex 20
...but that's the thing when you move to the next level up: you pay more for the device plus you have to pay for maps.
Look out for bundles of OS Maps + eTrex 20 as you can sometimes get a bit of a saving.
Garmin eTrex 30
The eTrex 30 is the top of the range.
It builds upon the eTrex 20 and adds a 3 axis digital compass, a barometric altimeter, and the ability to share waypoints wirelessly with other compatible Garmin GPS devices.
If you plan to do more than just Geocaching (i.e. use the GPS for a lot of hiking), it would be worth considering paying the extra for the eTrex 30.
Garmin eTrex Feature Comparison