Sunday, March 18, 2012

Handheld GPS 201: Mapping software

With today’s topic, I’m starting a new series, a follow up to my Handheld GPS 101 posts. Are you ready to move on to the next class? Alright then. Today’s topic is mapping software — and I’m not talking about maps for your GPS here, but rather desktop or laptop software that will turn you into a power user. read more

Garmin intros HomePort marine planning app

Garmin-HomePort-1 Garmin has announced a new marine planning software desktop application dubbed HomePort. After the introduction of this and BaseCamp, perhaps we’ll see a new auto trip planner in the near future. Click here for the full news release.

Transferring features from a PDF map to your GPS

Transfer PDF map features to GPS I learned the other day about a new 10,000 acre tract of public lands near me. There are no trail maps of the area and I am dying to explore it (once all this rain stops). I’ll probably do another post on prepping my GPS for exploring there, but this one aspect warrants its own post.

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Garmin, trails and missed opportunities

When planning a new outdoor adventure, I usually search online for tracks that I can download to my GPS. There are two places I typically look:

The latter is actually my first choice, since it is (IMHO) the best trail database in the US. What continues to amaze me is that Garmin doesn’t seem to realize what they have. We still get maps with plenty of missing trails, and they seem to be based on ancient USGS data.

I see no reason Garmin can’t utilize their MotionBased data to build a better trail map. They could decide how many tracks they would need for a given trail, and how much error was allowed before throwing out a track. A little follow up by hand (and even this could be automated) could establish trail junctions and where they connect to the nearest road (i.e., trailheads).

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Garmin backcountry notes


The folks at Garmin have been quite busy lately, hitting us with software and firmware releases, and even new Oregon models. Let’s start with software…

Garmin BaseCamp

This new mapping software, which we first mentioned when it was announced back in January, is now available for download (there is also a Beta version for Macs). Note this disclaimer from the download notes:

“BaseCamp will only recognize MapSource products that contain digital elevation model (DEM) data. Some examples of products that contain elevation data are Topo U.S. 24K, Topo U.S. 24K National Parks (version 3), Topo U.S. 100K (version 4 and later), Topo U.S. 2008, Topo Australia, Topo Canada (version 4), Topo Deutschland, Topo Great Britain, and Topo products produced by many Garmin distributors.”

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Garmin ecoRoute

Garmin ecoroute

UPDATE: TWICE is reporting that ecoRoute works with 2xx and 7xx series nuvis.

Another Garmin announcement today is ecoRoute, a software update for some nuvi units that adds a "less fuel" route option. Additionally, ecoRoute includes a Fuel Report that tracks fuel usage over time, and a Mileage Report that monitors mileage and fuel usage on a per-trip basis.

You can see if your nüvi is compatible with ecoRoute through a free, downloadable software update at

More free topo maps for Garmin receivers


UPDATE: I’ve posted a more comprehensive set of resources for free topo maps for Garmin GPS receivers.

The list of states for which there are free high-resolution, Garmin-compatible topo maps continues to expand. The following are currently available:

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Magellan Triton custom maps


There’s been a lot of progress recently on making custom maps for the Magellan Triton series. For any of you with these handhelds, here are some resources to check out…

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National Geographic TOPO! adds support for new Garmin units

National Geographic has released TOPO! version 4.5, adding support for Garmin Oregon, Colorado, Edge and nuvi models. A Mac OS X version is also available. This is a welcome improvement, as too few mapping software programs support these models.

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Ten reasons TopoFusion rocks


TopoFusion is my go-to program for planning and tracking backcountry adventures. It’s typically the program I turn to first and there is rarely a day that goes by without me using it. Here are ten reasons that TopoFusion rocks:

1. The ability to toggle between USGS topo maps, aerial photos and hybrid imagery

All you have to do is tap “a” on the keyboard to toggle between these views. The TerraServer aerial imagery includes B/W U.S. coverage to 1 meter/pixel and color urban coverage to 0.25 meters/pixel. TopoFusion also accesses Canadian topos, TIGER street maps and worldwide LandSat imagery. The color urban imagery below is of salt ponds at the south end of the San Francisco Bay (16 meters/pixel).


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