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Garmin chirp aims to make geocaching more fun

GPS maker Garmin is tapping into the geocaching community by introducing the Garmin chirp a durable, inexpensive short-range transmitter that geocaching fans can leave in (or near) their geocaches to offer hints and information to geocachers who come looking for your stash. Plus, the chirp keeps a tally of visitors, so folks will know how many hunters have come by.

“With chirp, geocachers have a new tool to enhance the joys of creating and finding caches around the globe,” said Garmin worldwide sales VP Dan Bartel, in a statement. “In listening to and participating in the vibrant geocaching community, Garmin created a one-of-a-kind device that builds on popular innovations such as paperless geocaching and downloading cache details directly to the device.”

For those unfamiliar, geocaching is a GPS-enabled activity where hunters use their GPS devices to find hidden caches of items placed outdoors by other geocaching enthusiasts. The caches are typically in durable waterproof containers, often stashed behind some rocks or in some undergrowth—easily accessible, but invisible to casual passers-by. The range of geocaches range widely: some are few and far between, some contain whimsical items, some encourage trading and replacement of items, while still others run on themes or series of clues.

The idea behind the chirp is that someone creating a geocache puts the chirp in with their items. When someone with a compatible Garmin GPS device comes by—currently that includes Garmin’s Dakota, Oregon, and just-announced GPSMAP handheld—the chirp will transmit information to the GPS, letting hunters know the cache is nearby, potentially including hints to the cache’s location, and coordinates of other caches in a multicache hunt. The latter is particularly useful, since it saves the effort of manually entering a bunch of coordinate sets to continue a hunt.

The chirp itself is tiny—just a bit bigger than a U.S. quarter dollar coin—and is build to stand up to the outdoors, with a user-replaceable battery that should run for up to a year. The chirps are also password-protected so only the owner can see visitor logs and add/update information offered by the chirp—if you use a good password, you don’t have to worry much about someone sabotaging your cache with bogus information…although someone could always leave a chirp of their own nearby.

The chirp is available now for a suggested price of $22.99; if the idea is embraced by the geocaching community—and other outdoor GPS makers—the technology stands to add a new dimension to geocaching…and maybe get a few more technology fiends into the great outdoors.