Handheld GPS 101: Routes vs. Tracks
This is the fourth in a series of posts designed to help introduce beginners to the use of handheld GPS receivers.
- Routes are about where you are planning to go; tracks are about where you have been
- Backcountry routes typically use straight-line, “as the crow flies” navigation; tracks more accurately reflect the shape of the trail, with all its twists and turns
This can be seen in the image above. The magenta route shows straight-line segments between waypoints, while the yellow track shows the actual shape of the trail.
As I mentioned in my routes post, you need to be aware of the difference, especially when it comes to distance. The route segments above total 4.2 miles, while the track (the actual trail distance) comes in at 6.4 miles.
Notice that there are places where the next waypoint in the route may actually be behind you, due to turns in the trail. It’s easy to get confused if you’re concentrating entirely on the GPS. That’s just one of several reasons to carry a paper map with you, a subject for a future post in this series.
Exceptions to the rule
Garmin’s 24K series maps and DeLorme’s Topo USA are both capable of trail routing, eliminating this “as the crow files” routing problem. A new feature recently added to the Garmin Dakota and Oregon lines allows for this too.
Other posts in this series:
- Handheld GPS 101: Waypoints
- Handheld GPS 101: Routes
- Handheld GPS 101: Tracks
- Handheld GPS 101: Geocaching
- Handheld GPS 201