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Cholla





Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 379

PostPosted: 1/4/2007, 4:47 pm    Post subject: GPS map questions Reply to topic Reply with quote

I'm curious what all of you GPS users have found as the most useful map purchases for AZ and the southwest? Aside from topo maps for backpacking and hiking do you find other maps really useful? With a Garmin GPS is it best to stick with MapSource products? I'm brand new to this and just getting started. Has anyone taken the REI GPS four hour class? The cost is $60.00. Is it worth it?

Well, I'll stop with the questions for now. Smile Thank you in advance for any help.

If anyone wants to get out during the week for a day hike and don't mind hiking with a guy around the mid century mark I'm going to check out Tom's Thumb next week. I live in the north end of Scottsdale near Cave Creek.
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Davis2001R6





Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 5591
Location: Italy

PostPosted: 1/4/2007, 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

IGO did an awesome little breakdown on his website with the major brands of maps. It's worth a look.

http://www.thirdrockfrom.org/topos.htm
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IGO





Joined: 08 Feb 2005
Posts: 4144
Location: Las Vegas

PostPosted: 1/4/2007, 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Thanks Tim.
The huge differences in digital topography features is one of the main reasons my new computer is going to have two monitors on it. LOL.
Get a video or a simple book. Most of it makes pretty good sense. Mostly though, unless a GPS is going to be your main thing, use it to supliment your recreation, don't make it responcible for it.
Delorme probably gives you the best sense of the lay of the land when you step back and really look at the land. Transfering it to a GPS is such a pain in the arse that I seldom try. Garmin is probably one of the most useful for planning a trip becasue it will scale up or down many many times AND on any scale you can add detail for precise planning or you can strip away detail down to not much more than trails and place names...that is the NPS 1:24,000 maps. The western US 1: 1,000,000 isn't worth much more than keeping records of travel. Garmins road maps are hugely simple to navigate by and makes a great car travel companion.
Trails Illustrated has probably seen it's day. As much as I've loved that old friend in the past I feel like a trader. They make great paper but probably should have never gotten in the digital business. That's only an opinion. I'm so unimpressed with the digital image quality that I've never bothered looking into it's features.
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"Surely all God's people, however serious or savage, great or small, like to play. Whales and elephants, dancing, humming gnats, and invisibly small mischievous microbes - all are warm with divine radium and must have lots of fun in them." John Muir
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Cholla





Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 379

PostPosted: 1/4/2007, 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Yes, thank you Tim for directing me to Igo's site. Very cool.

Igo, thanks for the pointers. I didn't know about the Delorme maps. I still wouldn't go out without a paper map and compass as well. I've never needed a compass in the GC, though. I have a trip idea for next summer where a GPS would be great to have along to help verify location and progress.

As I said, I'm just getting started and can't do anything until I figure out what I want to do for maps.
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IGO





Joined: 08 Feb 2005
Posts: 4144
Location: Las Vegas

PostPosted: 1/4/2007, 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Well have fun. There are many fun things these gizmos can do.
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"Surely all God's people, however serious or savage, great or small, like to play. Whales and elephants, dancing, humming gnats, and invisibly small mischievous microbes - all are warm with divine radium and must have lots of fun in them." John Muir
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Nighthiker





Joined: 05 Jan 2003
Posts: 1714

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

I use and prefer the 7.5 min. USGS topo maps I also have some of the older 15 min. maps quite use full for finding benchmrks labeled Arizona Territory. I also use the forest service visitor maps and the BLM surface managment maps which have improved quite bit the past couple of years. I use a bse plate type compass and a eTrex GPS base model.
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gpsjoe





Joined: 01 Feb 2004
Posts: 535
Location: Mesa AZ

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Different folks use their GPS units differently. More power to them. I try to use mine proactively. To me this means before I do a hike I try to input into the GPS the track file (if I have one or can create one using a mapping product) or the route or simply a series of waypoints that can be used to keep me on course throughout the hike.

The (mapping) GPS will record the track I am following as I do the hike. The track line will appear on the display and can be used to backtrack if you are doing an out and back hike or if you are desperate to find your way home. After a successful hike, the GPS treasure to be saved forever is the track file. I have been using GPS for 5 years now and have saved several hundred track files. These track files are MORE ACCURATE than any mapping product you will find anywhere bar none. Mapping products have not caught up with GPS accuracy yet, but they probably will in time I hope.

I have redone hikes after 2 or 3 years elapsed since I recorded and saved the track and following the track on the next hike is close to a no brainer. It is my perfect memory and thatís good since my memory is quite imperfect and getting worse. And analyzing a track file is fun as well since you can tell the exact time and date you started and finished a hike as well as the exact times and places you stopped for rest or lunch or whatever. And all of this can be done years after you actually did the hike.

Maybe I donít have a track file for a particular hike. What then. Well then I use a mapping product to draw your intended path or just punch (mouse click) in waypoints along the intended path. I like the USGS 24K (7.5 degree) maps best since they are the most detailed. The two most popular software products are by National Geographic (NG) and Maptech. Both will cost you some bucks since the 24K maps go for about $99 per state covered. Both softwares start with the 24K maps and add menus that allow me to draw tracks (not NG), routes and waypoints on the maps and then download them to my GPS and use them to guide me along the way. I have used both and prefer Maptech because itís software added to the 24K maps is better and more flexible.

I also use Delorme sometimes because it has routable trails. This is a wonderful feature that allows me to specify a start and end point and only a couple of points along the way (via points) and the software generates the entire route automatically. Many (not all) trails have been vectorized by Delorme to do this. The 24K maps are raster files and you must do your own drawing to create the vector data to download. It is still a pipe dream but I would hope the forest service someday would provide vector files on all trials that ever there were based on someone walking the trail and recording it with a GPS.

A problem with ALL of the mapping products is that they contain errors and omissions, sometimes big ones and they most certainly are old and out of date. The forest service re-routes trails. The 24K maps are 20 to 50 years old and do not have trail re-routes or other recent feature changes (e. g. roads). Creeks, mesas and other natural features are usually accurately located on the 24K maps. So when your out there navigating with map based data you must recognize that these can be dead wrong at times. And thatís why a recorded track file is the closest thing to Nirvana.

The 100K maps contain even bigger errors and sometimes grossly mis-locate peaks, towers and other POI. And thatís why I love recorded track files if you get my drift here.

If you want to download topo maps to your GPS you are stuck with the maps sold by the GPS manufacturer (e. g. Mapsource). Mapsource topo (100K) sucks big time but it is almost the only game in town for Garmin GPS units. With it you will have some topo lines (not very useful) on your GPS display and a few points of interest that may or may not be accurately located. There are some ways that people have devised to create custom maps that can be downloaded. I have read that they are for the very technically oriented and very labor intensive to build and although I am partially a techeeeee they exceed anything I am willing to do.

Hope this helps and I apologize for waxing on so long. As usual there is no good simple answer to your question. That said, I love my GPS and I would not be doing aggressive off-trail stuff without one!!!!
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Cholla





Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 379

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Joe - thank you for your help and advice. It's a bit of catch 22 on the learning curve. Until I figure out the most suitable map requirements and what to buy it will be hard to learn how to use a GPS.

I would like to do what you do with your GPS. I'm still a bit confused on what map to purchase for a Garmin GPS for hiking in Arizona. If the maps are propriatory and Garmin does not make 24K topo maps what do you use? I'd like to proactively chart a course and also be able to upload a completed trip back to my PC.

Next week I'll go to the GPS intro class at REI. I notice that MapSource maps are sold on microSD cards. Any advantage or disadvantage in your opinion?

Thanks again for any pointers. Smile
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thesuperstitions
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PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Joe... All great points and, as usual, my feelings exactly! I would add one other piece of information... There's a piece of free software called "GPS Babel" which can convert track and waypoint files for use on just about any GPS software out there. I use it to convert my Garmin and/or Magellan GPS track files to Delorme drawing files which I can then add into Delorme maps. You can go the other way too... creating a route or waypoints in any software you like and then convert their output files to a format that your particular GPS can understand.

I will always treasure the track file that you sent me of the first hike I did with AZH (Haunted Canyon). It certainly brings the hike into perspective when you can match your memories of the hike with plotted track on a nice map!

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gpsjoe





Joined: 01 Feb 2004
Posts: 535
Location: Mesa AZ

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Ken, always good to hear from you. Glad you like the Haunted Canyon track file.

Cholla, I'm sure the information is a bit overwhelming right now but if you enjoy techeee toys like I do the learning will be fun and you will be up to speed quickly I'm sure.

You can start by buying a mapping GPS unit and the company's mapping software, specifically Garmin's mapsource topo product for hiking. Then go to the REI class and learn and play with the unit and take it out on some hikes. You can use mapsource topo to draw tracks, routes or waypoints before the hike and download these to your GPS unit. After the hike is over you use mapsource to download the track you recorded on the hike back to your PC and save it there. It can be reloaded on the GPS anytime after that.

If you can afford it consider buying one of the 60CX, 60CSX, 76CX or 76CSX models. These are more expensive but give superior results while hiking under forest cover or in canyons where satellite signals are partially blocked. Less expensive units will give good results as well but will loose satellite reception more often.

After you are comfortable with your unit, then you can think about other mapping softwares which are better than Mapsource topo for developing tracks, routes or waypoints for a hike before actually doing it. You will need mapsource topo to download the topo map itself to your GPS unit so it's almost a must buy product. Only mapsource topo will allow you to download the entire topo map to your GPS unit. Other software will allow the downloading of tracks, routes and waypoints but not the map itself.

I think the preloaded microSD cards are a Garmin money making gimmick. It's cheaper to buy to Mapsource topo and find a good buy on 1 or 2GB microSD cards and download maps to the card from Mapsource. That's how I did it.

After your introductory learning you can consider which better mapping softwares you want to buy. Most of us look at

1. Maptech or NG 24K maps
2. Delorme Topo
3. EasyGPS which is free but limited and if you like it you then buy ExpertGPS
4. GPSBabel, a free utility Ken mentioned that allows you to translate for one file format to many others so you can use Garmin tracks in other software of vice-versa.
5. Other software you will find in the internet.

I own them all, but that is overkill. But I'd rather that then underkill.

You can an maybe should delay your decision making on these ancillary products until you are comfortable with using your GPS. Good luck!!!
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KFarm





Joined: 30 Jan 2006
Posts: 98
Location: Phoenix, Arizona

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Along the same lines,

Has anyone used Google Earth Plus (plus stands for $20 extra dollars). It claims to have a GPS data import that can read in tracks and waypoints from select GPS devices (Magellan and Garmin devices only). If you have, what has been your experience with it?

Thanks,
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Cholla





Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 379

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Thank you again for your replies. Ken, I checked out GPS Babel and as I understand it that solves the compatability problem.

Although popular and useable it seems to me that National Geographic maps are second choice here. As I understand now, with Maptech you can draw tracks, routes, and waypoints on the map and download them to a Garmin GPS, but only if you use GPS Babel first? Is that correct? If so, once you download a Maptech map converted with Babel can you record waypoints on a Garmin GPS while out hiking and then come back and upload the map back to a PC?

I'm getting the impression that a Maptech topo of Arizona is a better choice than a NG Arizona topo? I went to REI this morning and spoke with someone that teaches the GPS class. He was recommending the NG map. If it is only a matter of converting the Maptech map then perhaps I'll order that directly as long as I can convert them with Babel. I also signed up for the class on the 27th and saw that nearly everyone else has the 60CSx, so that should make it really fun. I hope to put on an Arizona map first and go out and practice myself first. Hands on will pull it all together. I seem to learn best that way.

Thanks for you patience with me and your help. I don't want to blow money on maps I'll end up not using.

I wasn't trying to be sneaky or anything but my wife had done some research and gave me a Garmin 60CSx for Christmas. I just wanted to hear some unbiased feedback as she said to exchange it if it was not suitable. She also printed out a link to Topofusion. Any experinece with that? I also found another site called Topozone.

I had been sort of making comments in the past about wanting a GPS unit someday, but felt sort of guilty as over the past 3 years I have spent a bit of money on new backpacking equipment.

Again thank you all for your feedback.
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gpsjoe





Joined: 01 Feb 2004
Posts: 535
Location: Mesa AZ

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

GPSBABEL is not needed for Maptech or National Geographic. Both those programs will recognize the 60CSX and upload and download directly to it. GPSBABEL has been very useful to me for converting tracks recorded on my previous Magellan Meridian to my new Garmin unit. Ken uses it for converting tracks recorded on a Magellan to the file format used in Delorme topo. It can do many other conversions as well. Best of all it's free so you can't beat the price.

Your wife got you a winner. The 60CSX is maybe the best handheld on the market today for hiking. Everyone should have a wife like that.

I think Maptech and NG have the same 24K maps. There are some differences in the software however. Maptech will let you build a downloadable track, NG only allows waypoints and routes. I prefer tracks because there is less screeen clutter with them. You will notice eventually that Garmin Mapsource will read and write files in .gpx format. So does Maptech but NG does not. Maptech has a few more tools for annotating the topo graphic than does NG. All that said, the underlying 24K maps are the same. It is the software that reads the maps in Maptech that I prefer. REI sells NG and it's a fine product but I give the edge to Maptech for my uses.
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george.steel





Joined: 15 Feb 2004
Posts: 8
Location: Scotland

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

I use normal Google Earth(3.0.0762) and view the Garmin GPS tracks on it, Through Garmin's Mapsource, Some of the areas are better than others

http://www.picturehost.co.uk/links/versailles-google-gps-trail

I have used all the old tracks that I have even from the first GPS that I had Garmin GPS 3 Plus.
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IGO





Joined: 08 Feb 2005
Posts: 4144
Location: Las Vegas

PostPosted: 1/5/2007, 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

I like to take off into the un-known. Having recorded that outward march I am more confident to venture further or along more twisted lines as I know I can always backtrack with the GPS. Other than not having a plan when I head out, Joe and I use our GPs for pretty much the same reasons. Mine is a great toy and an impressive research tool.
Another thing I really love to do is make a record of travel for a region. I have a Lake Mead Area Record where I've copied a single hikes track and pasted it on the same map as with all other hikes I've done in an area. When it splays out on my computer map, there is a fantastic gist of the travels I've made in one graphic representation. Really cool.
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"Surely all God's people, however serious or savage, great or small, like to play. Whales and elephants, dancing, humming gnats, and invisibly small mischievous microbes - all are warm with divine radium and must have lots of fun in them." John Muir
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