What Should You Look for in a Handheld GPS?

Finding the best handheld GPS depends on how you want to use it. Of course, if you’re using it for geocaching, one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment; you’ll need some specific features. However, even if you’re using it for other outdoor sports such as fishing, biking, hiking or hunting, you’ll appreciate many of […]



Finding the best handheld GPS depends on how you want to use it. Of course, if you’re using it for geocaching, one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment; you’ll need some specific features. However, even if you’re using it for other outdoor sports such as fishing, biking, hiking or hunting, you’ll appreciate many of the same features necessary for geocaching.

Many of the outdoor sports require a rugged waterproof handheld GPS unit. While these types of units are a little more expensive than a cheaper, non-waterproof model, you may watch your savings go down the drain, no pun intended, if you have to purchase a second device to replace the one ruined when it dropped in a pool of water or in a small stream along the way.

Some people solve the problem by enclosing their GPS unit in a plastic bag. While this may help waterproof your GPS, it’s also precludes you from using a case that attaches with a carabiner or Velcro loop and awkward to reclose and open.

When it comes to handheld GPS units, size does make a difference. You want the GPS to be small enough it’s comfortable and convenient to carry, but you don’t want the screen so small you need a magnifying glass to see the maps.

While you’ll find some very small GPS units you can fit in your pocket along with other items, some of those slightly larger ones can provide you with not only a larger screen and more durability, they also contain many bells and whistles the smaller more compact units don’t have.

Larger screens mean you can read them better, but other features that enhance that ability too. Color, for instance, increases the readability of the screen. Most of the newer models do have colored screens, but check to make certain before you purchase. Look for screens with TFT displays to make reading the screen easier, regardless of the time of day. You can add an antiglare feature by purchasing a case with an anti glare screen cover.

Memory storage is also important when you’re considering a GPS, particularly for geocaching, but also useful for other outdoor activities. Some of the newer, more deluxe models come with an additional memory card for storage or accept memory cards. Whether you’re using the handheld GPS for geocaching or any other activity, the additional memory extends to usefulness to other endeavors.

The number of channels you have is also important to get a good GPS signal from a satellite. Another feature that also helps on receiving a signal is an external antenna, particularly if you’re in an area with heavy tree cover or places with a weak signal. Make certain the GPS unit you purchase has a jack for the antennae so you can attach the antennae any time you need a stronger signal.

In addition, if the handheld GPS has a Wide Area Augmentation System–noted as WAAS-you’ll get far more accuracy because this links you to an entire system of satellites. In fact, it is normally about 95 percent accurate and puts you within 10 feet of your goal.

Regardless of why you want a GPS system, you’ll use it more frequently and with greater ease if it interfaces with your computer. You can download maps, programs, waypoints and newer programs directly from the computer saving you hours of time. Even if you’re not computer savvy, having the capability available for later use you develop a little more experience eliminates the need to purchase another unit that has an interface jack.

Many other bells and whistles can make your GPS invaluable or simply more fun to use. A built in compass can help you find the cache easier if you’re geocaching. Mapping capabilities are also necessary, particularly those that show terrain if you’re biking or on foot. A rocker pad or touchscreen makes it easier to navigate and is another important feature that will make the experience far more pleasant.

One final feature is battery longevity. If you use a handheld GPS with long life batteries such as lithium ones or rechargeable batteries, you’ll end up saving quite a bit of money and frustration. Getting a GPS you can recharge in the car’s lighter socket can insure a fresh charge and extended usefulness.

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