I’ve been using my Garmin Vista HCx as a combination cyclecomputer and geocaching GPS. The maps and battery life (24h on a pair of AAs) are great for cycling, especially compared to the Garmin Edge 305 it replaced. The Edge used to last about 12 hours with its sealed battery… now it’s down to five (and probably less if I used the heart rate monitor).
Around Thanksgiving, I received geocaching.com’s promotional push for Delorme’s PN-40. I was initially very excited about the PN-40 by DeLorme, hoping it would replace my existing Garmin Vista HCx for geocaching. The PN-40 was sitting under the tree, waiting for Christmas.
My primary interests in upgrading to the PN-40:
1) Mapping data updates. Delorme includes a bunch of maps with the unit. For $30, there’s an annual subscription to updates. Updates! For comparison, the set of Garmin Mapsource maps I have were $100 a few years ago and, as far as I can determine, aren’t updated with any regularity, unlike the Nuvi line. Delorme also offers downloadable subsections – useful for when I travel.
2) Supplement the mapping capability of the HCx. With the Mapsource data, I have roads and Dairy Queens and Courthouses and stuff, but what I *really* want are bike trails and help with finding ways to get to a geocache. Delorme’s aerial views that seemed like they would be helpful to determining an approach to a cache.
Interestingly, I later discovered switchbacks.com has many Pacific Northwest trails mapped in a convenient download that piggybacks on top of the existing maps. (Jon also supplies building shapes for the Seattle and Bellevue. How cool is that?)
3) Better handling of the different types of geocaches. I’ve made the classic neocacher mistake of seeing a nearby cache only to discover it was, in fact, a mystery cache “not at the posted coordinates.”
Since discovering GSAK, I figured out how to limit the caches I upload. To make up for the eTrex’s lame 30-character limit on notes, I tried using alternative symbols to mean different things. Of course, being over forty, I’d forget that “a blue flag” meant a microcache. One of the geocachers on the WSGA site pointed me to instructions for customizing icons. It’s tedious to set up, but once done: geocaching.com-like icons.
4) Paperless geocaching. This would be holy grail, of sorts. Carrying printouts in a wet climate like this is not always a good thing.
A few days before Christmas, I started seeing some less than ecstatic reviews. In particular, Jon’s spooked me: the Brett Favre of geocachers was being stymied enough that he couldn’t use it during his trip to Alaska. But moreover, reading his review gave me the cold sweaty realization that the descriptions of Delorme’s geocaching features I’d been reading about weren’t even out yet. Forehead slap – I should know better!
I was having a lot of second thoughts, but what iced it for me was reading on Delorme’s forums the stream of people complaining of USB connection problems and units refusing to turn back on. Eek!
I returned it unopened and instead got my first nice pair of backpacking boots. They’re not only comfortable, they’ve also been invaluable during the wacky wintery weather we’ve had.
I still don’t have a great solution for the paperless geocaching, but it’s an issue that I can live with for now.