Geocaching family fun with Geomate.jr

Jack, Maggie, and I decided to spend our Sunday morning outdoors doing some geocaching with our newly acquired Geomate.jr kid-friendly device. I bought the Geomate.jr on a whim based on a recent Outside San Diego blog post that hailed it as the ultimate get out and go geocaching device - and after our fun this Sunday I have to say we whole heartily agree.

Geomate.jr is the first device I know of that is targeted towards kids and made specifically for geocaching as apposed to a full GPS device that can be used for many things including geocaching. It costs substantially less too, at $70 it's a fraction of the cost of a regular GPS device.  The reason for this is that you are getting a single purpose device specifically made for geocaching and not a fully featured GPS topographical unit.  But for us that's fine, all we wanted was to be able to go out wherever we were and start "treasure hunting" as Jack and Maggie like to call it - as it comes pre-loaded with 250,000 US geocaches the Geomate.jr is perfect!

Our new Geomate.jr

When we bought the Geomate.jr from our local REI store last week and when we brought it home we were so excited that we wanted to give it a try immediately.  We popped open the blister pack and read through the minimal instructions that pretty much just said: Go Outside, turn it on, follow the arrow and distance to your closest geocache!

The Geomate.jr takes two standard AAA batteries so we scrambled around in our kitchen drawers looking for some AAAs. We put them in and went outside.  Jack was holding the unit and pressed the top button to turn it on.... it showed a welcome message, searched for GPS satellites to acquire and within 20 seconds was pointing the way to our nearest geocache!  We walked around a bit to see how it responded and then familiarized ourselves with the other two (yes only two!) buttons.  Unfortunately we didn't have time to go geocaching that day so we had to wait until the following weekend.

Fast forward one week... So after starring at our new little Geomate.jr for so long, we were finally ready to go outside and start treasure hunting. Armed with a pen (BYOP), a notepad and some goodies to share, Jack, Maggie, Coco and I set off in the direction of our first geocache.

GC1EF0W - Lake Park - One Degree of Separation:
We drove to Lake Park which is just five minutes from our house and parked up. I had a pretty good idea where the cache would be just by looking around, but wanted to let Jack and Maggie find it entirely by themselves using the Geomate.jr.  Jack turned on the Geomate.jr, waited for it to acquire the satellites and then lead the way with Maggie at his side (constantly talking as she does, it's a girl thing), Coco and I following close behind.

We started out at just over 700 feet away and quickly narrowed in on the cache's location. The Geomate.jr has a neat little direction arrow that you can follow and watch the distance change as you go - easy for Jack to understand.  It probably took us 10-15 minutes to find the cache by the time we stopped to look at colorful leaves and acorns on the ground.  Here's a picture of Jack and Maggie standing just inches away from the cache that is hidden in the crook of the tree to their left.

Within inches of the hidden cache

I was amazed to see that the Geomate.jr got them to within three feet of the cache location. That's spectacular for such a small and inexpensive GPS device.  Later at home I checked the online documentation only to discover that the Geomate.jr uses SiRFstarIII GPS technology.  Ummm ‘so’? Well, SiRFstarIII is regarded as the best GPS technology available!  Not bad for a $70 device eh?

Here's a picture of Jack being a goofball after finding his first geocache with the Geomate.jr.  I could tell that after this first one he was hooked!  Maggie is three and loves to follow us around outside, but she's not yet excited about finding things in the woods. Not yet...

Jack being goofy

The log file that was inside the cache container was wet and had become delicate to handle. As we had lost our pen anyway while poking around in the woods we simply put the log back inside and place the cached back carefully where we had found it.

GC1F7K0 - One Blind Mouse!:
Our second cache of the day was only a mile or two away from the first one, so we all hopped back in my truck and headed off in the general direction.  Jack held on to the Geomate.jr as I drove and told me if I was getting closer or farther away - not to self, the Geomate.jr works fine in the truck.

The location of this cache was a little more overgrown than the first and we very nearly turned back because the ground was water logged. But Jack found a dry route through the head high grass and steered us in the right direction.  This time it was Maggie (with help from Coco's acute sense of smell) who discovered the cache.  I could see her jumping up and down yelling "daddy, over here, it's so cute come see."

Coco & Maggie searching for cache

It was another small cache which always disappoints Jack (he like the trinkets that are in the larger caches) but it was a fun one. Someone had hidden an old computer mouse in a small hidy-hole at the base of a tree. The mouse had little black glasses and whiskers painted on it, hence the name - One Blind Mouse!

We had planned on a third geocache but everyone agreed that we'd had enough adventure for that day and as it was starting to get cold we headed back to the truck and home.

One Blind Mouse cache

I have to say that I was extremely impressed with the Geomate.jr. It was easy for Jack to use and was ready to go with the 250,000 preloaded geocaches right out of the box.  Further more, I've just discovered that with the purchase of a small USB cable it can be synced up with the database to update the device's built-in list of cache locations.  I also read that you can see your longitude and latitude as well as your height above sea level and it's made in the USA.

If you're looking to get started with Geocaching and have been put off, as we were, by the complexity and selection of more expensive GPS units - give Geomate.jr a try.  We were up and running in minutes and hunting down micro-caches under the direction of a five-year-old.  I don't see how you could beat that!

Quick Update:
Just a few hours after posting this to my blog I noticed that Geomate.jr were following me on Twitter and re posting a link to my blog article via their Twitter account. Pretty cool and always amazing how fast things happen on the web. Thanks Geomate.jr  Here's screenshot of their Twitter page.

Geomate.jr following me on Twitter

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