Thursday, February 6, 2014

Geochaching with the Garmin Oregon 650

Several years ago, my daughter, Chelsea,  found a container hidden near a rock in Colorado on one of our hikes.  Neither of us knew what we were looking at and we opened it.  There was a little notebook and some trinkets.   As I opened the book I read a little and realized we had stumbled onto a Geocache.   I had never heard of it before but we followed the directions in the notebook and signed our names and the date and Chelsea swapped one of her trinkets in her bag for one in the cache and we put it back where she found it.  Now that she is older we have taken up the game again and you’d be surprised how many geochaches there are to find in Charleston!  With our handy new Garmin Oregon 650 GPS Device we have had more fun and it has made our adventures much easier.

In essence, Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices, such as the Garmin Oregon 650. Players navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the Geocache hidden at that location.  These can range from a Micro, this size of a chapstick tube, all the way up to a lunchbox sized box or tube or even bigger.  The cache usually has a minimum of a log book but the small to large sized ones normally have items to trade.  The basic rule is, if you take something out replace it with something of equal or greater value.  In some of the caches, you might find what is called a “trackable”, this will have a serial number on it and you can log it on the website and see where it has been.  Since the game is played around the world, you never know where your find might have been.

The basic premise is, go to the website,, and register for the free account.  You can then search by your zip code and a map will show you all the caches near you.  You can then download the coordinates into your device and then the game is on!  Once you get close your GPS device, we have used iPhones before, the coordinates will guide you to the cache.   Now the coordinates may or not be spot on but the cache is usually pretty close to the numbers.  It takes a little looking to find them sometimes.  Non-geochacing players sometimes find the caches and take them or destroy them, while you are looking for a cache try not to make it very obvious, lest the cache get “muggled”.   Once you find the cache, you should sign the log book and make sure you go back to the website to log your find.  

Chelsea and I loaded up a few caches on our Garmin Oregon 650, and headed out to see if we could find them.  We didn’t have as much time as we would have liked so we settled on two.  As we arrived to the first location we navigated to the coordinates and looked around for a good long while.  We did not find the cache but this is a well known one and is prone to being muggled.  We decided to try again on another day and after grabbing some lunch at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivans Island, we headed to our second cache.  We parked and started our walk.  Once out of sight of people walking the trails, we turned on the Oregon 650, touched the Geochaching link, selected our cache and the screen immediately pointed us in the right direction.  We made our way down the trail and arrived at our coordinates.  We stopped and looked around.  As we started to spread out and look around I heard a squeal of delight and Chelsea’s face was lit up and she was pointing at a tree.  I made my way over and there it was!  We carefully removed it from its hiding place and opened it up.  We signed the log book and swapped out trinkets and carefully replaced the cache where we found it.  We have decided we are going to make our own Geocache and place it somewhere around Charleston, so you may be looking for ours one day.

Most devices these days have a geocaching feature built into them but recently I got my hands on a Garmin Oregon 650 to help me find caches around Charleston and anywhere else I may travel.  I have never been so impressed with a device.  This GPS is so easy to use I literally gave my old one away.  Working from a touch screen it is super easy to navigate and find what you need and the icons are easy to read even in sunlight.  Running on 2 AA batteries, it comes with two rechargeable ones, but will also run form alkaline batteries as well.  The three inch screen is easy to see and it even comes pre-loaded with topographical maps of the entire US including Alaska.  I was very surprised that is has a built in 8MP, autofocus camera with a flash that also doubles as a flash light.    If it gets dark you now have a back up flash light and the camera lets you document your adventure and finds.   I have used a lot of GPS devices in my day but this one takes the cake.  It is light yet powerful, and so simple to use.  Some of the older units take some getting used to and require the manual to really make it work.  This full color device is ready to go as soon as you take it out of the box.  I was literally able to take it out, turn it on and navigate to a cache mere minutes from my house before I came home and then looked at everything it could do.  Garmin has REALLY outdone itself this time!

Garmin offers an entire line of handheld GPS devices ranging in size, features and price.  There is one for everyone and all of them are equally easy to use.  There are several dealers here around Charleston, and you can also buy from the website at .  Garmin offers not just handhelds for Geochaching but a vast array of devices for any kind of navigation  on land sea or air.  Check them out and start your own adventure!

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