Sunday, 6 June 2010

Garmin Oregon; Trashbin or...

First I would like to thank someone. I would like to thank the guy who was telling something about his weird hobby Geocaching at the television show 'Kopspijkers' back in 2005. Finding tupperware boxes with help of million dollar satelites, that's weird! But wait a minute, this sounds like hiking, navigating and challenge. I like those things! This sounds like something for me! Thanks man, for this great addiction!

A few months later I bought my first GPS. Let's see if geocaching is something for me. It had to be cheap GPS because I did not want to spent a lot of money on a hobby I did not even know I liked. So I bought my first GPS on ebay and it happened to be a Garmin Etrex H.

Now, 3 years later, Geoaching appeared to be something I like a lot. So, I treated myself with a new, more advanced GPS last Christmas. First I was looking at a Garmin GPSMAP60CSx but this one is missing the Wherigo functionality, a very promising new trend in Geocaching in my opinion. When I read about the Garmin Dakota and Oregon series, I was sold. The Dakota is also missing the Wherigo functionality but the Oregon had all the options I wanted.

There are a few different versions of the Oregon. The 200 is the most basic version. The 300 has an electronic compass added, the 450 has detailed maps added included and the 550 has a camera but not the cards.

The first test for my Oregon was 'Van de Kaart', a recommendation. According to the description, this cache is not very easy and various options of the GPS need to be used. All I need for a good test! It was January 2nd and the first thing I discovered is that it is very hard to use the touch screen with gloves. The next thing I discovered is the accuracy of the Oregon. I found all waypoints within 2 meter of the GPS indication. With being used to the avarage accuracy of the Etrex, something like 20 meters, this was a major improvement. I do not like searching but I really like finding. Now I could tell whether the waypoint information was hidden on the trashbin or on the restplace right next to it. This will save me a lot of searching without finding! I would never have found a difficult cache like 'Van de Kaart' with my Etrex.

Another big improvement compared to the Etrex is the map. When you enter a new coordinate you hit the 'view map' label and you can immediately see whether the new waypoint makes sense or not. Now, I can immediately see whether I made a miscalcalculation or a typo so my waypoint appears to be in the water or on the other side of a river, which has happened a lot in the last 3 years.

Using the Oregon is very easy. I never needed the manual (is a manual included anyway?) for 'Van de Kaart', which includes a cross projection and multiple different date notations. There are also some strange things, like it seems that the Geocaching module of the software is only written for traditional caches. The additional waypoints of multicache are loaded as seperate waypoints and not as child waypoints related the the geocache. Also creating a new waypoint for a multicache is not very straight forward and is only possible from the main screen. What I also have not been able to do is getting the geocaching dashboard active when navigating to a normal waypoint. This dashboard is the most usefull dashboard because it is the only one with the map and compass active in a single screen. If somebody has managed to achieve this, please let me know!

Another missing thing is the danger area option, which is used in more and more caches recently but I was a bit lucky I did not need it for 'Van de Kaart'. Hopefully this will come in a software upgrade soon. For software upgrades, by the way, use the Microsoft approach and install the upgrade when the first hotfix is available which fixes all the issues in the new version because the bugs can be very disturbing. Another point of concern for me was battery usage, but allthough the Oregon is using more power then the Etrex, you can easily spent a day caching on a single pair of batteries.

Besides these few minor remarks, I am very pleased with my new Oregon. If you are thinking about buying one, Do not think about it, just do it!

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