I’m often asked to explain how I create the maps of my trip so I thought I’d write a post about it. Besides producing the maps, I also use the data to geotag the thousands of pictures I’ve taken during the trip. Correctly naming and cross-referencing everything makes it easy to find what I’m looking for and also serves as a sort of diary of my travels.

The GPS device.

I use a Garmin Dakota 20. Bought more than 10 years ago, this small handheld GPS has served me well. It has some powerful features normally only available in larger devices. It uses standard AA-size batteries which last for up to 20 hours, ideal for extended hikes where there’s no access to power. Spare batteries can be taken along to last for the duration of the hike. In the car it stays connected to a USB power socket.

Many people will find the small screen of the Dakota difficult to use but for my purpose it’s ideal. For navigating I’m still old school and prefer finding my way around with the help of maps and roadsigns. Before I set out I have a pretty good idea of where I’ll be going. Occasionally taking a wrong turn adds to the adventure! The GPS is mainly for confirmation when I’m in doubt and it tells me how far still to my destination. (How I plan my route and navigate – perhaps a topic for another post?)

Collecting trip information.

The feature that gets used most on the GPS is its ability to record my tracks as I go. Information such as location, elevation, speed, time of day and direction are all recorded at set intervals. At the end of each day the device automatically archives the track and begins recording a new one. Up to 200 days’ worth of tracks can be stored on the device.

Information recorded by the GPS, displayed in Basecamp.

Importing the data to my computer.

As frequently as possible (to avoid the risk of losing my data) I connect the GPS to my laptop and copy the recorded tracks from the GPS into Basecamp, Garmin’s free software available for both Windows and Mac.

Below: The imported tracks in Basecamp before they’re renamed

Above: To make it easier for myself, I rename each track with the date and a short description.

Using the tracks to create a map

A typical day’s track recording.

When all the tracks have been imported to Basecamp and renamed the next step is to join the tracks to display one single line on the map. This is a simple procedure done by first selecting all the required tracks. Once the tracks are selected, a right-click of the mouse will pop up a menu with an option to “Join Tracks”. At this point the tracks can be rearranged if they’re not in the correct sequence. If the tracks are out of sequence, the new track will display some odd straight lines between points. Naming them by date as I’ve described helps as Basecamp will do the sorting. After joining the tracks, confirm to keep the original tracks and give the newly created track a descriptive name. Keeping the original tracks will be useful later if you need to refer back to specific day’s activity.

Select tracks to be joined and right-click.
Confirm join tracks.
Keep the old tracks.

The colour of the track can also be changed. In my case I’ve chosen bright green as it stands out against the pale yellow background.

Double click on any track to open the info box and change the colour.

The final result.

Once the tracks have been joined and the new track created, I then “print” the map as a PDF file. Still in Basecamp, select the track you want to print. Go to “File / Print a map of Selected Data” If you don’t select an individual track Basecamp will print the map with all the data in your collection.

In the final step I open the PDF file in Photoshop Elements, convert it to a Jpeg and add a text box with the necessary statistics.

A total of 288 individual tracks were joined to create the final map.

Backup! Backup! Backup!

Always remember to make backups of your data as often as you can. It’s too easy for a device to get lost / stolen / damaged causing you to lose all your precious information.

In a future post I’ll explain how I add geotags to my pictures so I can easily see where each picture was taken.

Geotagging Pictures.


Frikkie Potgieter · June 29, 2021 at

Duisende dankies. Ek gaan dit nou probeer. Ek het laaste keer wat ek probeer het nie baie lekker reggekom nie maar ek glo dit sal nou makliker wees. Mooi dag

Hulda Heiberg · June 29, 2021 at

Frank, dis uiters insiggewend. Ek het al gewonder hoe jy dit doen maar nooit gevra nie. Sien uit na jou geotagging van foto’s. 110 % steun vir jou roetebeplanning en navering idee vir ñ ander post.

    Off The Hamster Wheel · June 29, 2021 at

    Baie dankie, dan beter ek nou aan die werk spring. Lyk my ek het nou sommer baie om oor te skryf!

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published.