(Continued: Page 2 of 2)
Before setting out into the wilderness, users should press and hold the Next and Page buttons for a few seconds to set a Home marker. If you get lost, simply chose the Home marker by holding the Next button and the Geomate.jr will lead you back to where you started.
The Geomate.jr is not a navigation device, at least not in the conventional sense. It won't give you turn-by-turn directions to the cache; it merely points in the right direction and leaves the finding to the user.
We decided to test the Geomate.jr by finding a few caches in downtown Oakland, Calif. The terrain of our testing area was a combination of dense urban environments and more open city parks. Satellite reception was spotty around tall buildings, so city geocachers should expect slightly longer-than-average satellite-lock times and a bit of inaccuracy in the device's positioning.
The Geomate.jr lacks a built-in compass and, like most portable GPS devices of its ilk, the Geomate.jr relies on motion to determine heading. On foot, that means that you have to walk a bit before the device can figure out which way you're going, which sometimes translates into quite a bit of walking around in circles when you're very near to the cache.
Overall, however, we were pleased with the Geomate.jr's performance. Given a clear sky, the Geomate.jr led us more or less straight to three of the four caches that we sought. Of course, the device didn't lead us right to the cache, because finding the cleverly hidden caches is more than half of the fun. (The fourth cache we sought was a high-difficulty microcache, so our missing it can't really be blamed on the device.)
The Geomate.jr has a very limited feature set. Essentially, it points in the direction of any of its preloaded cache points. We like the simplistic, yet rugged, design and the no-setup, out-of-the-box usage. We penalized the score slightly for its lack of an internal compass, which we feel every low-speed GPS device should have, but the Geomate.jr still ended up rating quite high.
If users find all of the caches in their areas, an update kit (purchased separately) allows the database to be refreshed. Cache points are added and removed all of the time.
Advanced geocachers will want to look at a more full-featured handheld GPS device from Lowrance or Garmin, and will want to bring a smartphone for on-the-go access to their geocaching Web sites of choice.
However, with its easy-to-use interface, the Geomate.jr gives children, moms, and other first-time cache hunters a low-cost entry point into the world of geocaching.