When I attend geocaching group events it would appear that Garmin is the manufacturer of choice for geocachers. It’s no wonder that is the case. Garmin makes an excellent handheld GPS receiver. I did my first Geocache yesterday with my new Colorado 300. Overall the experience was pretty good but I can tell you that setting the back-light every time is very frustrating! It just so happens that the cache I was doing was a night cache so the back-light was very important.
I’ll keep my review short as I’ve only had the Colorado 300 in the field once my opinions may change over time. Here are some annoyances I’ve discovered with the Colorado 300.
- The shortcut and options button are hard to depress when wearing gloves. It some ways it is nice that these buttons are flush with the case it does make using them a little harder.
- Sharing wirelessly was the main reason that I upgraded from my GPSMAP 60CSx. This outing was my first chance to share a waypoint wirelessly. This is an excellent feature except for the fact that the description is not transfered along with the waypoint.
- The compass requires that you hold the unit level. It is very sensitive in this regard. The compass is also very sensitive to battery changes (which you will do often).
- I”m a little on the fence regarding the carabiner mounting clip. I liked having the lanyard and slip on clip with the 60CSx. That way I could clip it to my backpack and use the lanyard as a safety strap. I would have lost my 60CSx in a river once if it wasn’t attached via the lanyard to my backpack. Warning: only change the batteries over solid ground.
- Why does the unit turn off when I unplug it from the computer? Grrr.
- Navigating when editing a waypoint was not intuitive. When you are entering numbers using the wheel you don’t immediately think to use the rocker to move left and right. Once that’s discovered editing geocache stages becomes straightforward, and easier than on the GPSMAP 60Csx.
It’s not all bad. In fact I quite like the Garmin Colorado. Here are some of my positive impressions of the unit.
- The fully rubberized housing makes for a more secure grip.
- Using the soft buttons (on screen buttons) is quite intuitive.
- You can’t beat the paperless caching aspect of this unit. I long ago abandoned printing cache pages primarily because I frequently cache with my friend Bakers Dozen who already has a Colorado. I’m sure he’ll be relieved that I’ll no longer be calling to him with “do we know what size it is?”.
- Zooming on the map is both intuitive and fast.
- The rocker wheel is definitely a highlight of the unit. It takes some getting used to if you are like me and need to reprogram your brain. Data input is fast with this interface.
- Profiles make it easier to use this unit both in the car and on the trail. Once inside a profile type you can customize things like the trip computer to your liking for each role. In this way your trip computer for Geocaching can have different data fields than your automotive profile.
- The compass overlay on the map screen is a nice feature.
- The ability to log notes with your finds. Even though the rocker wheel allows for fast data input I don’t think you’ll be writing long logs with it. It is a good way to note if you dropped or picked up a trackable item.
Overall I am very pleased with my decision to upgrade to a Garmin Colorado GPSr. The feature I had the most difficulty with was myself. After three years with a GPSMAP 60CSx I have to unlearn all that I’ve learned. The interfaces are radically different. You will find little similarity if you are used to using a different Garmin unit. What you will find is an interface that works very hard to make the administration and execution of your geocaching activities easier.
NOTE: Regardless of when you get your Garmin Colorado be sure and update the firmware. Many past annoyances have already be addressed in the most recent firmware.
UPDATE: The Garmin Colorado has a very temperamental compass. It requires frequent calibration. If you find that your compass is not working you should try recalibrating the compass. When there are no letters on your compass as in the image to the right it indicates that you did NOT successfully calibrate the compass. It must be held flat and rotated at the correct speed for the calibration to be effective.
If you take your Colorado GPSr in the car be sure to set the interface mode to Garmin Spanner. Once you do this the unit will prompt you for Mass Storage mode when you plug in a USB cable.
Here’s how to activate Garmin Spanner:
The Garmin Colorado includes the option to take screen shots of your device. To take a screenshot hold the right soft key for about 5 seconds. If you have sounds on you will hear a beep confirming capture. These images are found in the SCRN folder on the device. This is very handy for illustrating stories and for troubleshooting.