Best Mac GPS mapping software and hardware?
November 7, 2008 12:26 AM   Subscribe

What's the best GPS mapping system for making trail maps (software/hardware)? I'm an Apple person.

More explanation: I want to map out and publicize a route I've been exploring that links my town to the regional trail system (which is about 50 trail-miles away, probably taking three or four detail maps). I'd like not to spend that much. And I REALLY like the "Terrain" view from Google Maps, any way to use that for my topography graphics?
Who can recommend the best (Mac) software? And cheapest hardware? Don't really need a good display, as I really just need the GPS to record the trail route and the elevation gains, I guarantee I'll never use it for actual Navigation, I think they pretty much suck for that purpose ;-].
Any way to use an iPhone's GPS with mapping software by the way?
posted by wavejumper to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How about getting a GPS data logger like the AMOD AGL3080. This allows you to capture your route into a log file in NMEA format (readable ascii text). Then when you get home, you plug the data logger into a computer as a USB device, and copy the file over to your computer. Convert the NMEA file to KML format via GPSBabel. Then upload the KML file to Google Map for display. Or open in Google Earth (which is what I do).

Besides creating routes, I use GPSBabel to convert the NMEA file to GPX format, then use GPSPhotoLinker to geotag photos taken with my digital camera.
posted by jaimev at 1:16 AM on November 7, 2008

Your iPhone will work for this if we are willing to fiddle around with a couple of different software packages and file formats.

There are a few apps in the iTunes store that will allow you to save or export to GPX format. This is an XML format that describes tracks and waypoints. Once you have a GPX file with your track(s) you can import these directly into Google Earth and most geo-aware web and desktop apps.

A quick google for "gpx google maps" turns up a number of options. GPS Visualizer is quite popular and exports to almost anything you would want, including Google Maps.

If you want less tinkering and are willing to trade off control, choose one of the iPhone apps that has an integrated web site to save your tracks to. Path Tracker is fairly basic and might do the trick.
posted by stp123 at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2008

Take a look at the Cycle Map fork of OpenStreetMap. They use the NASA high-res elevation data to generate elevation gradient maps. It is very easy to add your GPS track as a footpath/hiking trail to OpenStreetMap. Once you've got the data into the system, you can then ask Andy Allan, the guy that runs the Cycle Map, to include hiking trails on his map.

Alternatively, send me a MeMail and I will try and help you out with mapping your data. It is a hobby of mine and personally, I would find it to be an interesting problem to solve.

Sorry for the round-about answer, but it should be useful to you eventually...

Also: handheld GPS units are usually very bad at receiving an accurate vertical lock, meaning that their altitude readings are wildly inaccurate. This will be especially apparent when you are under tree cover without direct view of the sky.

The iPhone's GPS will usually not work very well for hiking use because it uses an assisted GPS chip, meaning that it is only accurate when it can talk to cell tower to get help with the GPS lock.
posted by yellowbkpk at 8:24 AM on November 7, 2008

Did you have a look at RouteBuddy ?
posted by KimG at 4:41 PM on November 7, 2008

I use a Holux M 241 GPS datalogger and then upload the log to my Macbook using BT747. I then export a kml file to Google Earth.

Works well for me. The Holux was cheap and is accurate enough for my basic purposes. The work flow is very similar if you want to geocode photos of the trails.
posted by dantodd at 4:25 AM on November 8, 2008

« Older My soul was filled with crystal light.   |   Help me find a suitable wiki Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.