Geocaching is a great way for kids to ditch their video games and TV for an active outdoor adventure. Kids need some type of excuse to get outside and play in the great outdoors. A life of video games and TV has led to high levels of obesity in America when combined with a steady diet of processed food. Our children need to exercise if they are to break the cycle, so finding interesting and compelling reasons to get them out the door is something that parents are going to be looking for at every opportunity.
Geocaching combines our children’s love for technology with their need to get outside and DO something. It is like a real life video game, kids must use an electronic device to find a hidden treasure located somewhere around them. The device guides them to their location and helps them navigate the world around them. The can run, or bike, or even walk on their search – all of theses activities are recommended by government orginizations as great ways to improve your child’s health.
But there is one catch with geocaching, the GPS devices traditionally used for it are anything but cheap. Devices like the Garmin GPS 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator and the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx Color High-Sensitivity Mapping Handheld GPS run somewhere above $200 a piece. Sure, they are great devices that can be used for way more than just geocaching, but do you really want to bed dropping that much money on a device that will help your kids play?
Savy to this issue, a company and product was create to solve this issue: Geomate.jr. The product is significantly cheaper than the more traditional geocaching alternatives provide by Garmin and other GPS manufacturers. Right now, you can get it for about $70 at REI. The only thing that even really comes close to this in terms of price is the Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator, which is being sold four about $85.
The Garmin eTrex has received some pretty high praise from its users as a geocaching GPS. Here is one that I though was particularly telling:
This is my primary Geocaching GPS. The high sensitivity chip has the same strong processing power, and thus signal sensitivity and position resolution, as any of the more expensive units. It gives me excellent accuracy in areas where my older GPS units just give up, even dense forest cover.
If you’re only interested in point to point navigation (geocaching, trail tracks or just finding your way back to the car or the ski chalet), then this unit will do a great job for a no-regrets price.
In my opinion, this is going to be the product that you are going to want to compare the Geomate.jr up against if you begin to seriously consider it as a geocaching tool for your child since the price difference is only about $15.
So, what are the Geomate.jr’s features?
- Comes preloaded with about 250,000 geocache locations covering all 50 U.S. states
- Turn the unit on and it will load up the closest geocaching location stored in memory; to find another location simply press the next button and the GPS device will automatically load the next closest cahce
- Not only does the location of the nearest cache appear, but other important details also are displayed, such as the Geocaching.com ID code, the terrain, difficulty rating, and the size of the cache
- Has a “Home” waypoint that will assist you in returning to your point of origin
- Displays compass heading, latitude and longitude
- You can keep a log of all the caches that you have visted so far so that you don’t do the same cache twice if you don’t want to
- The ability to add more caches at a point in the future (at an additional cost)
- Powered for 12 hours on AAA batteries
The features that seem the nicest about the Geomate.jr is that the loading of the geocaches is automatic. You don’t need to input the coordinates into your device yourself since they already exist within the memory. This seems idealy suited to kids who might not be familiar with how to input some information into a handhelf GPS navigation device like the Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator.
But I also think that this feature is also the biggest drawback to this device. Without the ability to add your own caches to the device you run the risk of the Geomate.jr running out of caches for your child to go and find. Do you really want to fork out money for cache updates that you could do for free on the more traditional handheld GPS? I don’t think I would as long as my child was wise enough to be able to input coordinates into the GPS device themselves.
It is also pretty important to note that none of these devices are going to let you be able to track your kids with GPS. Instead, they are just there for enterainment purposes.
What do you think, is the Geomate.jr worth buying or would you rather go with the Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator?