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I got a Garmin handheld GPS unit for Christmas (eTrex Legend) and now I'm wondering how best to use it on the trails.

It's not obvious to me yet which software package is best for me needs. The National Geographic TOPO! stuff is the most widely used, but I can't tell if it'll load maps to my unit.

I plan to use the device to track my riding (routes, elevations, etc) and also have a digital map to follow. I can't imagine that I'll look at it the whole time I'm riding, but if I'm exploring a new area and come up to a crossroads, it'd be nice to have some type of map stored so I know which way to go.

How do others out there use it? Which software is best for this?

Any pointers would be great!

Thanks,

Chris
 

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I've used a combination of mapsets with my garmin GPSIII+. Mainly I use the garmin mapsource TOPO for off road and mapsource roads and rec for road rides and driving. as far as transfering maps to and from the computer goes I think mapsource is the easiest to use with garmin handhelds (with mine at least). I just got Microsoft streets and trips but have yet to try it out.
 

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bovardc said:
I got a Garmin handheld GPS unit for Christmas (eTrex Legend) and now I'm wondering how best to use it on the trails.
I got the very same model for Christmas. So far I've used it for a bit of geocaching, but I'd really like to produce those cool route maps and elevation images that I see on this site from time to time. Would the MapSource Topo software do that? I tried Garmin's website for information on the MapSource software, but for such an expensive program, they really don't tell you a whole lot about it.

Any more hints and tips for a newbie with a GPS?

Thanks,

- Jen.
 

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bovardc said:
I got a Garmin handheld GPS unit for Christmas (eTrex Legend) and now I'm wondering how best to use it on the trails.

It's not obvious to me yet which software package is best for me needs. The National Geographic TOPO! stuff is the most widely used, but I can't tell if it'll load maps to my unit.

I plan to use the device to track my riding (routes, elevations, etc) and also have a digital map to follow. I can't imagine that I'll look at it the whole time I'm riding, but if I'm exploring a new area and come up to a crossroads, it'd be nice to have some type of map stored so I know which way to go.
Being that you want your GPS unit to display maps as a reference while out on the trails, you'll need to buy Garmin's Mapsource. There is no way for National Geographic's TOPO! map data to be used on any GPS, since they are raster-based (aka pictures) as opposed to vector-based (aka models). (http://makeyourownmaps.com/GPSmaps.htm)

mahgnillig said:
I got the very same model for Christmas. So far I've used it for a bit of geocaching, but I'd really like to produce those cool route maps and elevation images that I see on this site from time to time. Would the MapSource Topo software do that? I tried Garmin's website for information on the MapSource software, but for such an expensive program, they really don't tell you a whole lot about it.
Mapsource can produce images like this:
 

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For most of what I do, I use Mapsource topo for the map data alone, and NG Topo for printouts, waypoint management, and everything else. While I record tracks on my GPS and download them to the computer to check elevation change and such, I don't tend to transfer old tracks back to the GPS for nav aids later (partly b/c NG topo doesn't let you do this). I usually just make a few critical waypoints for intersections, vistas, and other important or neato trail features and use those. Occasionally, I'll print a map with my old tracklog on it to use, as it's a quicker reference than the gps itself.
 

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mahgnillig said:
I got the very same model for Christmas. So far I've used it for a bit of geocaching, but I'd really like to produce those cool route maps and elevation images that I see on this site from time to time. Would the MapSource Topo software do that? I tried Garmin's website for information on the MapSource software, but for such an expensive program, they really don't tell you a whole lot about it.

Any more hints and tips for a newbie with a GPS?

Thanks,

- Jen.
As previously explained, a Garmin unit will only display Garmin maps and any other gps manufacturer will only display their propriatary maps as well. for working with waypoints, tracks or routes on your PC there's a lot of choices that are available for downloading - Topofusion.com is an interesting choice.

If you plan to ride with your gps, be sure to secure it to your bike or person with the included wrist lanyard because they will come out of a handlebar bracket when you dump. The lanyard will at least keep it with you and save you a search for a flying gps. You also might consider protecting the screen with a piece of clear mylar available where digital cameras & camcorders are sold.
 

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Don't worry, be happy!
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mahgnillig said:
I got the very same model for Christmas. So far I've used it for a bit of geocaching, but I'd really like to produce those cool route maps and elevation images that I see on this site from time to time. Would the MapSource Topo software do that? I tried Garmin's website for information on the MapSource software, but for such an expensive program, they really don't tell you a whole lot about it.

Any more hints and tips for a newbie with a GPS?

Thanks,

- Jen.
jen, check out the demo of topofusion which is 99% functional before you go buying software. The full version is on $40 anyway. The main thing you get with the expensive softwares is topos on CD but many of the other programs like Topofusion hook up to servers that have all the maps anyway.

formica
 
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another cool use of GPS data is to log it on a site like www.geoladders.com

i log my rides and it allows me to view profiles and stuff. very cool site and i think it will expand slowly to include areas outside of socal.
 

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How I use GPS in MTB

1. Find Trail Head - On new trails located by reading books or web descriptions, it's often hard to even find the trail head in remote areas. By reading the directions and looking at online maps, I can usually figure where the trail head is located on the computer maps. I usually do this by using Garmin's MapSource and flipping back and forth between the street maps (MetroGuide) and Topo on the same area. Downloading the MapSource street maps helps in navigating ot the trail head.
Software: Garmin MapSource MetroGuide (All of US for ~$85)

2. Navigate New Trail. - Same thing as above. First, I use online maps and Garmin's Topo to figure out where the trail juctions are located and waypoint them. I look at available online maps of the park from various sources and use peaks, rivers, and countour shaps to figure out where the trail junctions are located. I'm usually right to around 100'. I create routes by connecting trail junctions. Having a mileage count down to the next waypoint is reassuring that you're on the right trail, as well as a motivator. I mostly use Garmin's MapSource Topo for trail navigation, downloaded to my eTrex Vista.
Software: Garmin MapSource Topo (All of US for ~$85)
Topofusion or other satellite software may help here too - haven't tried yet myself. But others said they can find trails from satellite photos and waypoint critical junctions from the satellite map.

3. Points of Interest. - If you need a replacment bike part, money from an ATM, after ride eats, or gas, it's nice to have the Points of Interest on your GPS. Shows the nearest feature of interest (bank, dept store, restaurants by type, ...) along with address and phone number to check if they're open. Like a Yahoo Yellow Pages in your palm, sorted by your location at that instant.
Software: Garmin MapSource Metroguide

4. Recording Rides - For personal use, I use the Garmin MapSource software as it's easiest and fastest. I can create new waypoints and correct waypoints in relation to recorded tracks. Tracks of previous rides help in planning new routes. Either MapSource Metro or Topo will work for this.
Topofusion also seems to have some nice features from what I read in Rich Owing's book

5. Showing Ride Profiles, (3D) Topo Maps with Tracks. For planning or showing ride profiles, National Geographic has worked best for me. The automatic profile software has improved and projects climb within 10% of the actual ride, as good as you can get anyway. This is important to make sure my planned ride is not beyond my ability and I can get back before dark. National Geographic has the nicest profiles, so most people show post ride profiles using NG. You can get a great 3D package for only $25 more. It works with the eTrex line directly using the serial port.
Software: National Geographic TOPO! (Each state costs ~$85, 3D another $25)
Topofusion may also offer some 3D maps

In general, I find the plots of tracks on satellite maps are not as readable or pretty as the Garmin or NG software. But Topofusion has some nice 3D plots, from what I see in Rich Owing's book.

Also, you need the Garmin MapSource software if you want to download maps to your GPS. I flip back and forth from street to topo maps on my computer and GPS. With 24 MB on the eTrex Vista, I can store all detailed street and topo maps of the entire SF Bay area. If you have the 8 MB (non-color) Legend, you may need to carefully pick your maps to download.

Like Formica, I suggest you first get Rich Owing's book and see what software can help you with the functions you find most useful. His book is very current and can direct you to the free or low cost web software (like topofusion and many others) coming out now and the various advantages of each.
 
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