Well first off, welcome to geocachingmaine.org Brenda . . . we're always happy to "see" a new face.
Originally Posted by bmeserve
As Bruce/WhereRWe mentioned I think there was a thread or two with a similiar theme . . . however if the thread that Bruce added does not answer your questions ask away.
To answer one of your first questions . . . you do need a computer . . . but only to access the internet and geocaching.com to get the coordinates for the cache. While some folks may elect to hook directly to the computer and download the cache coords (which many GPSreceivers can do) others may opt to just get the info from the web pages and manually input it into the GPSr.
Beginning cachers often start out going to geocaching.com, plugging in a zip code and finding local cache information and then manually inputting the coords into their GPSr . . . or they'll write down the cache name, coords and clues on a notebook. Eventually, if the geocaching bug snags you as it does some folks, you'll want to upgrade to a PDA (such as a Palm) which can download all the cache info for a specific area (i.e. all of Maine) and update that information every week, day, month, etc.
So . . . in summation to your question . . . no, you do not necessarily need a computer to hook up to your GPSr.
And so now we come back to your original question . . . what GPSr to buy and what should you be looking for in terms of features. Honestly, there are a few different types of GPSrs out there. First and foremost, you will want a hand-held unit and not one of these car-mounted GPSrs which seem to be all the rage . . . because many of these caches are located in the woods (with the exception of some LPCs and GRCs -- that's geo-speak for Lamp Post Caches and Guard Rail Caches -- which you can access almost without getting out of your car -- just ask Hiram357 -- we tried to do just that in a parking lot in Auburn last winter.)
After that it comes down to manufacturer and while there are a few manufacturers out there, for most folks it comes down to the great Ford vs. Chevy debate . . . or in this case, Garmin vs. Magellan (or is it Magellan vs. Garmin.) There are pros and cons to both manufacturers and folks on both sides will vehemently support their manufacturer of choice while simultaneously degrading the other manufacturer . . . but that's just because they are jealous of my Magellan.
All kidding aside, both companies tend to produce some good GPSr units. Garmins have a lot more users and have a well deserved reputation for fantastic customer service and reliability (we believe one of our cachers -- Hiram357 is in fact a field tester for them as he has dunked his Garmin in a snowbank, attempted to drown it in a river and has dropped it more times than he has toes (he's from Ohio which explains the 14 toes ).
Magellans on the otherhand have fewer users, but the units seem to be just as tough and tend to offer more bang for the buck when you buy a "bundled package" including maps, cords, mounts, etc. Magellans also however have a past reputation for poor customer service . . . something I have never needed to check out since my Magellans have worked flawlessly . . . it is also worth noting that Magellan was also bought out by another company a few months back.
Whichever manufacturer you choose there are some basic things you would most likely want in a GPSr . . . but a lot of it is subjective. For example, I'm very much a visual-learner. Because of that I like my GPSrs to have mapping abilities and the ability to upload more detailed maps (the base maps included with GPSrs that have mapping ability are usually not very good). I also like color screens while using my GPSr in the car or on the snowmobile or ATV . . . this said, mapping ability and color screens are not crucial to geocaching . . . you can purchase a GPSr very cheaply without color or maps and find caches just as easily as the high winder fancy models.
OK, I'm tired from all of this typing . . . hopefully this answered some of your questions . . . and maybe some other folks will chime in now with some more advice.
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the realization that there is something more important than fear."
"Death is only one of many ways to die."