Geocaching tools in Linux

I just bought a Garmin etrex vista hcx (phew!) handheld GPS unit, in order to use for geocaching.

This post aims to address how to send geocaching information to the Garmin GPS device over USB. We will use the excellent GPSBabel tool to perform this task.

Use either apt-get or synaptic to install gps-babel on your Ubuntu box.

sudo apt-get install gpsbabel

You might need to fix usb permissions on Ubuntu. After doing this, connect your garmin GPS device to your USB port. Check permissions by using the dmesg command.

You will need to get geocaching information by signing up at Once you have signed in, you should be able to save cache information in either .loc format, or .gpx format (paid members only). Save all the loc files or gpx files you download to a directory on your desktop (recommended, not required).

Test if your gps device actually works with gpsbabel. Do this by
gpsbabel -i geo -f geocaching.loc -o garmin -F usb:

If you have a bunch of loc waypoint files to transfer, do this

for GPSFILE in *.loc;
do gpsbabel -i geo -f $GPSFILE -o garmin -F usb:;

If you have a bunch of gpx exchange files to transfer, do this

for GPSFILE in *.gpx;
do gpsbabel -i gpx -f $GPSFILE -o garmin -F usb:;

About robotgeek

Pragmatist, Linux lover, geek, hacker (see and an optimist.
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4 Responses to Geocaching tools in Linux

  1. Kevin Seise says:

    Saw your post on Planet Ubuntu. You might also want to check out GSAK under WINE or VirtualBox. They allow for much more than just waypoint transfers. See you on the trails.


  2. Filip says:

    Hi. I have been using the new Garmin Colorado 300 under Ubuntu Hardy beta just fine. Transferring .gpx files is pretty easy since Colorado is showing up as regular drive. However, I didn’t try MapSource software since it is WIn only but I heard it works under Wine just fine.

    Just my 0.02 cents



  3. Lure says:

    You should install qlandkarte (available in Hardy):

    It has support for you GPS and also replaces lot’s of functionality of Garmin MapSource.


  4. Stephen Griswold (gelfling6) says:

    Has there been any updates to this, since 2008? Using Trusty 14.04, UBUNTU (Actual, LUBUNTU / Ultimate Edition 3.5, with all most recent updates)… Most of my Geocaching, has been with a Garmin Vista HCx for accuracy, and a Magellan Explorist-GC for records/Paperless, But wanting to get back into cache hunting again. My poor Windows Laptop has fallen into massive disrepair, and in storage…


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