According to Geocaching.com, "Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online."
The Magellan eXplorist GC is one of only a handful of paperless, purpose-built geocaching devices on the market and Magellan's first foray into the niche--although not its first off-road handheld GPS device. Boasting a full-color display and a ruggedized design, the eXplorist seems ready to tackle the world's largest treasure hunt, but what about the technology with it?
The handheld device measures 2.2 inches wide by 4.4 inches tall by 1.4 inches thick. The round-edged, pebblelike design and rubberized finish makes the eXplorist feel great in the hand, but its thickness means that it isn't very pocketable--unless you're talking cargo pockets. Fortunately, the device features an integrated loop along its bottom edge for attaching a strap or carabineer and a slot on the rear panel for attaching a belt clip (not included).
The eXplorist GC features a 2.2-inch color transflective screen that's a bit small but provides very good readability in direct sunlight, which is very important in a device meant to be used outdoors. The screen is not a touch panel, so all of the user's interactions will be handled by a bank of rubber buttons located just below the screen. The user is given controls for Back, Menu, Zoom out, and Zoom in, as well as a centrally located joystick controller that can be nudged up, down, left, right, and pressed to select.
At the top edge of the device is a soft power button that is molded into the rubber body without a seam, and along the bottom, behind the hanging loop, is a mini-USB port hidden beneath a rubber flap. The rear panel locks into place with a metal rotating latch that folds flat when not in use. A rubber gasket seals the compartment where the two AA batteries that power the device live.
If all of the rubber seals and gaskets didn't tip you off, the eXplorist GC is ruggedized for outdoor use. A raised ridge around the screen's bezel is meant to protect the display in the event of a drop. The device is also shockproof and IPX-7 waterproof, able to survive submersion for up to one minute without damage.
Like the that we reviewed last year, the Magellan eXplorist GC is designed to be a standalone, paperless geocaching device. The idea is that you should be able to power up this device and begin 'caching right out of the box.
To facilitate this ease of use, the eXplorist comes preloaded with a database of geocaches stored in its memory. Magellan doesn't disclose exactly how many caches are preloaded, but they seem to number in the thousands. The unit also includes worldwide base maps. These maps aren't as accurate as those used for turn-by-turn directions, but at least you'll still be able to use your eXplorist to hunt geocaches while on vacation in Orlando, Florida, or Dublin, Ireland, without buying a new map pack.
For each cache in the eXplorist's memory, the user is given access to the GPS coordinates and a wide range of information about the cache's location. This usually includes a rich description of the significance of the location you're visiting, a few hints about the cache's location, other geocacher's comments and notes, a difficulty rating, and a cache size graph, amongst other things.
Users can search for geocaches in a list format or by browsing the map screen.
Once a cache is chosen, the eXplorist will display your current location on a map along with your heading and a line between your current location and the cache's. Simply follow the line to the geocache point and begin to look for the hidden cache. An alternate dashboard view is available which displays the distance to the end, heading, the current time, estimated time of arrival, speed, and a trip odometer. When the search is over, users can mark the cache as found, mark not found, specify that the cache needs maintenance, or enter field note, which takes the user to an onscreen keyboard. Using that keyboard with the rubber joystick can be an exercise in frustration, so make those notes short.