Anthony on , 26 Jan 2010 10:02 pm

geomate.jrOn the weekend, Gwen and I put on a “Geocaching 101” event for some people we’ve met through Twitter. You can read an awesome summary of the day on the Outdoor Vancouver blog.

As part of that event, the fine folks (Helen and Chris) at Landsharkz loaned us a Geomate.jr GPSr.

The Geomate.jr is a “family-friendly” GPSr. It’s intended to be simple to use so that kids can just pick it up and start geocaching. You don’t have to worry about downloading caches from it … it comes with 250,000 caches already installed. It promises to be quick, easy, and uncomplicated.

The device itself is small, rubberized, and only has a two buttons (plus a power button). The display is a black and white LCD that presents a small amount of information at any given time. When searching for caches, it shows distance in metres and an arrow pointing the way. On the periphery of the display are LCDs for cache size, difficulty, and terrain.

And, it’s quite inexpensive: $70 CAD!

We had the GPS for a bit over a week, and brought it to the Geocaching 101 event where quite a number of kids were able to look at it and use it. We used it to find a few caches and even after a short time with it I think we got a pretty good idea of what it’s like.

The best things about it are the things it’s designed for: it’s a nice small, rugged device that’s quite suitable for small hands racing around the forest. The display is easy to understand on the cache hunt, with big numbers counting down the distance to the cache, and an arrow pointing the direction.

On the other hand, I found using it a bit less intuitive than I liked. The only information you have about the cache you’re seeking — other than the size, terrain, and difficulty — is the GC number. No cache name, no description, no hints, no logs, nothing else. As such, you still need this information somehow, so you need another device or print-outs.

The distance display is good, but the arrow is only helpful when you’re moving. For kids, this is a bit of a challenge: they (and me!) like to stop to get bearings.

Additionally, I found it confusing navigating between the units different screens, and getting it to go back to the cache I was interested in. One of the buttons on the unit goes from the closest cache to the next closest and so on, but to get back to the beginning of the list you have to hold the button down and wait. Sounds easy but I was never sure it was working.

Also, those 250,000 caches? They’re all US caches. To get international caches (including Canada), you need to buy the Upgrade Kit (a special cable) and download caches to it. And they’re just traditional caches. No multi’s, no letterboxes, nothing else. That’s probably ok for kids (we mostly do trads anyway) but it’s a bit confusing when you’re trying to figure out what the next cache is (or should be).


  • Small, and rugged
  • Simple display
  • Easy operation
  • High-sensitivity GPS
  • Inexpensive


  • Direction arrow only accurate when moving
  • Confusing interface
  • To put Canadian caches on it, and to update any geocaches on it, you need the $25 “update” kit
  • No extra cache information: name, hints, found status, etc
  • Only traditional caches, no multis, letterboxes, mysteries, etc
  • No backlight

In the end, while I’m grateful for the loaner, and while I applaud the goals, I don’t think I’d get it for my kids. For a few more dollars, a Garmin eTrex gives you a GPS that does all the same things, except has maps and can show you (marginally) more information.

Anthony on , , , 27 Jul 2009 10:05 am

Here’s day 2 of our Gold Country geocaching adventure:

Anthony on , , , 25 Jul 2009 10:03 pm

Here’s Day 1 in videologue of our trip to Gold Country:

Day 2 will come later…

Anthony on , , , , 21 May 2009 08:57 pm

This past weekend we didn’t go to Victoria. To be clear, it was Victoria Day, we just didn’t go to Victoria even though Aidan was convinced we had to. Instead we took a day trip and went up the Fraser Valley.

The plan was simple. We’d head towards the Othello Tunnels without any schedule or firm plan. And it started fine — we packed a picnic lunch, the kid-carrier backpack, the all-terrain stroller. I loaded up the GPSs and off we went.

Things started going a bit sideways in Abbotsford. Gwen has some new glasses and didn’t have sunglasses at the time. She wanted to stop by a drug store to pick up some clip-ons so we looked up pharmacies in the GPS and headed to one that wasn’t too far from the TCH.

The GPS, of course, led us to a farmer’s field near the Sumas border crossing.

So, we hit up a nearby Zellers. Gwen went in to check for the clip-ons while I checked for nearby geocaches. And the GPS told me “No geocaches found”. Of course, this is *exactly* what I wanted to see while sitting in a parking lot in Abbotsford at the beginning of a day meant for geocaching.

Zellers, of course, didn’t have the clip-ons. In an amazing stroke of luck, I’d brought my netbook (which has GSAK and up-to-date geocaches on it) and attempted to rectify the problem with the Oregon GPSr. Gwen and the kids went off to the Tim’s that was in the parking lot while I repaired the GSAK database (grr) and reloaded the caches. Disaster averted, I went over the Tims and met the family.

We headed out, but I had to stop by the washroom. I wasn’t in the bathroom more than 30 seconds when I heard Aidan calling out for me in the vestibule outside the washrooms. This was surprising because we’d asked him to stay with his mother. Anyway, we did our business and went back out into the restaurant to find a very unhappy Gwen. Turns out Aidan had come to the bathroom when his mother’s back was turned to Quinlan. As a result she had no idea where he was.

We almost went home there and then.

Instead we drove on to Bridal Falls and had a picnic.

Which is really the point of this post. Quinlan seems to like the outdoors, wouldn’t you say?





So, the picnic was a success. Time was marching on, but we did manage to grab a cache in the park. It should have been a quick grab, but in the shadow of the mountains the GPS wasn’t giving us great accuracy, and there were a number of potential hiding spots. And a rushing stream nearby. And it wasn’t clear which side of the stream the cache was on.

Traversing the stream was not an easy feat.

The cache was, of course, on the easy side.

So, we left Bridal Falls and headed up to Hope. An uneventful drive except that the GPS tried to get us to arbitrarily cross the Coquihalla River where the was no crossing, and Aidan fell asleep in the car. He never falls asleep in the car and this was the second time in as many weeks! He must be coming up to a growth spurt.

Eventually we found our way to the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. The park has a trail that leads to the Othello Tunnels, built back in 1914.

We all enjoyed the tunnels, which were a reasonable walk along the reclaimed railbed. Aidan was thrilled with the tunnels, and the canyon was pretty awesome too.





The big reason for coming to the Tunnels, however, was to get the geocache located there.

It seemed to be up the side of a cliff, near a fallen giant tree.


I say “seemed” because in the end, we DNF’d it. Frustrating, but we’d had an excellent adventure despite how the day started, so it was all good.

Next Page »