Geocaching With the eTrex Personal Navigator

Geocaching is a great basis for your explorations. The sport gives you a goal (a known latitude and longitude) and a treasure to find (the cache). See our background article about geocaching for some history of the sport. Key to this activity is a GPS unit. It’s a tool that, like compass and sextant of years ago, helps you navigate the wilderness.

eTrex GPS Unit
eTrex GPS Unit

We got our GPS unit ten years ago and it’s still going strong. It is the Garmen eTrex Personal Navigator. This is not the eTrex Venture or any other eTrex model. In fact, it doesn’t really have a model name, being the first in the series. Our model is no longer manufactured. It’s replacement is the eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator.

The unit does not contain maps or other features of more modern units, but it does let you enter a destination and direct you to it. First you need a destination. Go to www.geocaching.com and sign up for free access to the website.  Click “Hide & Seek a Cache” in the menu to the left and use one of the methods to find a cache near you.  Next you will need to get the location of the cache into your GPS unit.

Lots of people had trouble entering their destination with the eTrex unit because the instructions didn’t mention the capability and the process isn’t at all  intuitive. Here’s a step by step guide to entering your destination into the eTrex Personal Navigator:

  • Turn the unit on by pressing and holding the power button down until the screen lights up. The power button is the bottom button on the right side of the unit.
  • The unit will immediately start tracking satellites and ask you to wait. Instead, press the page button three times to bring up the Menu page. The page button is the top button on the right side of the unit.
  • If you happen to be indoors during this process, the unit may advise you that it can’t find any satellites and ask if you are indoors. Indicate “Yes” by pressing the enter button to return to the menu screen. The enter button is the bottom button on the left side of the unit.
  • Press enter while the MARK menu item is highlighted.
  • This brings up the “Mark Waypoint” screen. Normally you might do this to mark the location of your vehicle before you leave it in the parking lot using the location information determined by the GPS unit. In this case, we want to enter our own information. That is done by editing the information already on the screen.
  • Press the down arrow twice until the latitude and longitude information is highlighted.
  • Press Enter.
  • This brings up the “Edit Location” screen. This is where you enter the latitude and longitude of your destination. In the North America you’ll be in the northerly latitudes and the westerly longitudes so there is no need to change the “N” and “W”.
  • Press the down arrow to move past the “N” to the first digit of the degrees of latitude.
  • Press Enter and then the up and down arrows until the correct digit is displayed, then press enter.
  • Repeat this process for the degrees, minutes and fractions of minutes for both latitude and longitude. Remember, press the up or down arrow to move from digit to digit and press Enter if you want to change the numbers.
  • When done, use the down arrow to move to the “OK” item at the bottom of the screen and press Enter. Your desired coordinates are now in the unit, but wait there’s more . . .
  • You should be back on the Mark Waypoint screen with the coordinates highlighted. Press the down arrow twice to highlight the name of the waypoint and press enter.
  • Give the location a six character name using the up/down arrows and enter key just like you set the coordinates.  When done the “OK” item at the bottom of the screen should be highlighted.
  • Press Enter to go back to the Mark Waypoint screen.
  • Press the down arrow to highlight the “OK” item and press Enter to finally save your destination.

The above process can be simplified if you have the software and connect your unit to your computer.  The ‘plug’ that allows you to connect your unit to your computer is under a flap of rubber on the top, rear of the unit.  We don’t have the software or the connection cord so we can’t help you there.

When you are ready to start your trek, start your GPS unit, let it find the satellites, use the Page button to move to the Menu, choose “Waypoints”, find the waypoint you just entered and choose “Go To”.  Then you can follow the arrow.

As an explorer, however, it’s the journey that counts most.  To get the most out of your journey, you will want some notion of what to look for as you look for the cache.  We find Google Earth (earth.google.com) to be a great place to get aerial photos and maps of the area you will be traversing.  You simply enter the coordinates of your cache and Google Earth will zoom in on that point.  Zoom out until you recognize the roads and trails that you’ll be using to get to the cache and print a copy of the aerial photo or the map.  Often you’ll spot unusual  rock formations or other things you may not recognize.  Those are often great places to explore on your journey.  Be sure to take  a camera to record your journey and something to put in the cache.  Have fun!!

Author: Jerry Haugen
©2010 Global Creations, All Rights Reserved.

3 Responses to “Geocaching With the eTrex Personal Navigator”

  1. Richard slikker says:

    Thank you,
    I knew there had to be a way to do it. I got the unit yesterday, but could not find out how to enter lat and long from the lit that came with it. Anyway thank you.

    Richard

  2. Bill says:

    You guys are it! Do you have any idea how ridiculously hard it is to find this info? I bought this thing to take on a canoe trip next summer, basically as a “plan B” in case something goes wrong. I’m not really interested in dedicating my life to GPS research, I just want to plug in some friggin’ coordinates. Thanks guys, seriously….

  3. Pepper says:

    Yes, thanks so much! I got this for a Christmas present and couldn’t figure out how to enter geocache’s with out plugging into the computer! Thanks!

Leave a Reply