Thinking Seriously of Getting a Handheld GPS

Okay, a better title would be “Seriously WANTING a Handheld GPS”. My actual consideration levels aren’t all that high… yet… 🙂
I was thinking how cool geotagging was, and how it would be nice to add to photos we take. Then there a GPS games, and of course being able to find your way around… Well, I am getting a head of myself. Let’s back up.
A few days ago I saw the iPhone 2.0 may get geotagging abilities. Odds are, if this is a real story, it will just use cell triangulation, which isn’t very accurate. Then a short time later, I saw Sara looking at XKCD’s Geohashing page and from there the interest built.
Some cameras (mostly high end SLRs) allow for a GPS receiver to be hooked up directly to them, then they store the data. In general however, you make sure your camera has an accurate time and date, then using your hand held GPS unit you mark your waypoint. When you get home, you use software to combine the geotagged data with the photographs.
There are cameras coming out with built in GPS abilities. GE has one coming out this year, and AIR Semiconductor, is releasing a single chip solution that will be available to camera manufactures soon. I am going to guess you can choose to leave the tag data off if you want, since if you are taking a picture of your kids and posting it on the Internet, you don’t want the coordinates to your house embedded in the photo. However, it helps recall the exact location of pictures you take for other situations. You will then be able to sort photos by location, as well as other metadata.
While looking up more about it, I learned of a GPS based sport/game of sorts called Geocashing, also spelled geocaching. It is a sort of treasure hunt where you use your GPS to locate an item. There are several sites dedicated to it, perhaps the biggest. There are books about it, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching (The Complete Idiot’s Guide), Outdoor Navigation With GPS: Hiking, Geocaching, Canoeing, Kayaking, Fishing, Outdoor Photography, Backpacking, Mountain Biking, and It’s a Treasure Hunt! Geocaching & Letterboxing and plenty of other stuff out there.
Of course the ability to find one’s way around is also part of it all. While I have a built in direction finding ability, some others, I won’t name names, don’t. Unfortunately most hand held units in our price range aren’t as helpful with driving directions as those in the higher ranges. They can still be used, but lack some of the stuff you typically want in a GPS for driving.
This page covers what they consider to be the best GPS units.
I hear units like Garmin nüvi 350 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator, while mostly for road use, can be handheld. That has obvious advantages over small handheld units like the Garmin eTrex Legend Mapping Handheld GPS, though that is only $104. The advantage of the $104 unit is that it can be justified a bit more, since you could use it for driving…somewhat… Neither is perhaps as fancy as the Colorado series, which directly link to… then again, those run $480, but a Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld GPS Unit with US Topographic Preloaded Maps would be beyond cool to have.
However, I am still searching. I’ll update this post later with what I find.

I am starting to narrow the field down some. From lowest to highest.

$196.80, adds color and better sensitivity.

$226.96. I skipped over some of the lower end Vistas. If you are upgrading to the Vista over the Legend, it seems you may as well go for the HCx. It apparently offers turn by turn directions for when you are driving.

A quick note before I go on. With all the Garmins, it seems best to get one with an x at the end of the name. That means you can add a micro SD card… and perhaps best to get the H in the front of the name, since that adds resolution.

$303.31 Moving well above my price range, and while it doesn’t have the H in its name, it apparently does have high resolution (ability to find satellites in dense situations and the like). It offers turn by turn directions like the Vista above, but a better button layout. (Further review reading seems to suggest the Vista above may be better overall.)

(You can save a bit, by getting the $279.99 Garmin 010-00421-00 GPSMap 60Cx High-Sensitivity Color Mapping Handheld GPS, which is basically the same, but lacks the electronic compass so I don’t know if it can do turn by turn directions).

Finally we move to the Colorado series, which is about as high end as you can get for the handheld market. I already mentioned they link directly with the one geocaching site to do paperless geocaching. They offer turn by turn directions for when you are driving, offer high resolution images and high resolution satellite finding, even deep in the forest and urban jungles (this is the type of high resolution I am talking about above when I spoke of high resolution).
$396.97 gives us the:

At the high end for $481.96 we have the:

The 400t offers topographical maps already installed, where that is an option for the 300… Amazon’s price for the Garmin MapSource Topo U.S. 2008 is $80.99, so you may save a bit by going with the 300. I don’t know if the 400 offers any other features on top of that or not… The chief advantage is with the 300 you are using some of the memory, where the 400t has it built in. (There are other 400s, with inland water or shore water, good for fisherman, but for geotagging and geocaching, probably not so much. Then again, if you find you need those maps, just add them later.)
The Colorados would be the way I would go if I could justify it. A Garmin nüvi 350 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator, which is one of the cheaper GPS units normally used for cars, but is portable enough to carry in your pocket is $233.65 (there are 200 series as well, which tend to be cheaper, but the 300 and up series offer an MP3 player and other features that make it worth the extra money over the 200 IMHO). The problem with the nüvis is they don’t log stuff, so they are not as useful for geotagging, which is of course what initially got me going on this journey.