GPS Wizardry & Navigation

Since we were used to touchscreen GPS and Google Map we were ill prepared to the complexities of route plotting and offline navigation. It took us several hours to understand the lingo and decide on what solution to use. We hope this page will help you getting started.



  • Waypoint: a point defined by its coordinates expressed in latitude and longitude. To make things simpler, coordinates have several formats.
  • ico_museum

  • Point of interest: is a waypoint augmented with relevant information such as name, category, physical address, etc. POI are typically created by the map editor and require a bit of legwork to be edited.
  • ico_route

  • Route: path connecting multiple waypoints. By default a route connects waypoints using straight lines, that is unless it is combined with a Routable Map
  • ico_tile

  • Map: picture tiles representing roads, trails, relief and whatever other information the map editor elected to include. Just like a paper map, a basic digital map is just a picture
  • ico_tile

  • Routable map: Digital Map that includes routing information, allowing Routes between Waypoints to automatically snap to physical roads.
  • ico_track

  • Track: log of coordinates sampled at a given interval. If you carry a GPS and set it to record your position, it will create a Track of your movements.
  • ico_gpx

  • .gpx: the file format used by Garmin to save and export waypoints, routes and tracks
  • Ico_kml

  • .kml: the file format used by Google to save and export waypoints and routes

Our setup

Here is the setup we ended up taking on the road with us


GPS_basecamp Being on the road meant we would not be able to count on an internet connection and online resources. We therefore begun searching for a desktop app that would allow us to keep track of the places we wanted to visit, plan our itinerary, document our actual route. Garmin Basecamp seemed the only viable solution. Despite being quite prone to crashing and sporting a 80’s interface, this software presents several key advantages:

  • It accepts both Garmin expensive maps and OSM free maps as well as a variety of other maps allowing the user to switch maps as needed
  • Basecamp is also the preferred way to exchange data with Garmin GPS devices
  • Waypoints, tracks and routes created in Basecamp can be exported as .GPX files compatibles with OsmAnd
Google Maps
logo_mapengineWhile OSM maps include a wealth of Point of Interests including hotels, restaurants and local attractions, we still found ourselves relying on the Web to find information on places we were considering visiting and on Google Maps to get a sense of their location. From there, we begun saving or “starring” the places we wanted to visit. Our challenge was then to export that list to both OsmAnd and to our Garmin GPS.
Fortunately we found this excellent article Google Starred items to OsmAnd Favorites that suggest the following solution:

  1. Create a new map in either Google Classic map or in Google Map Engine
  2. Each time you “star” Icon_star a place, also add that place to your recently created map
  3. Once done click on the “export as .kml” link and download the file
  4. This .kml file can then converted to a .gpx file and imported into OsmAnd and Basecamp
OsmAnd (Open Street Map for Android)
logo_osmandThe several months it took up to tame our Garmin GPS gave us a chance to play and fall in love with OsmAnd. We loaded the $9 version on an old HTC Incredible 2 and soon realized that the accuracy of the phone GPS was more sufficient for our needs. OSM maps can be directly downloaded from the app, along with wiki articles on a ton of Point of interests. The phone screen is large enough to actually browse maps, and tracks created in Google Map Engine read and followed. Today, we came to question our decision of purchasing our Garmin GPS.


GPS_garmin62scGarmin devices, just like Basecamp, accept OSM maps, we therefore decided to stick with that brand. We went for the Garmin GPSMAP 62sc mostly for ruggedness, price and size. The small screen however makes it damn nearly impossible to use the device for route planning or map reading. We always planned our route on our desktop first, then uploaded the data to our 62sc and followed the directions.
For a higher price, the Garmin Oregon and Montana offer the convenience of a large touchscreen. We decided that an Android phone with OsmAnd would meet our needs just as well.


GPS_OSM_dowloadWe learned that a GPS primary function was to track your position and locate coordinates, not display maps. Naturally being able to visualise a coordinate in relation to a map is very useful. Maps can be purchased at a fairly high cost from your device’s manufacturer, or downloaded for free from the very cool Open Street Map (OSM) project. There are also several country specific open source map projects that offer a greater level of detail than OSM. We ended up doing the following:

  • Load Basecamp and our GPSMAP 62sc with OSM maps downloaded from
  • Use OsmAnd Data Management module to directly download OSM maps onto our Android phone
  • Take advantage of the “make available offline” function available on the Google Map app for Android to download the often more detailed Google Maps.
    Note that Google Maps can also be made available offline on iPhone by typing “okay maps” into the app search field after having zoomed to the map area you want to save

Our process

In the end things ended up being a bit more complex than we had envisioned. We settled for the following process and have been quite happy with the results so far.

  1. Start with the new Google Map Engine. Google replaced Map Engine with My Maps, different name, similar functionality.
  2. Create a new map, rename the map and the layer to something meaninglful
  3. Search for all the places you want to visit and add them to the current map. Search results are shown on the map with a yellow marker
    GPS_result, places added to your map with a red marker GPS_marker
  4. You can also add a Marker anywhere on the map using the Marker tool GPS_marker_tool
  5. Next step is to create directions using the directions tool GPS_directions_tool to connect all your markers, keep in mind that the free version of Google Map Engine can only connect a maximum of 10 markers.
  6. Drag the line representing your route according to your preferences
  7. You now have what Google calls Markers and Directions, otherwise known as Waypoints and Tracks
  8. Click on the folder icon GPS_folder and select export to KML, then Directions to whatever you are heading to
  9. Go to and convert your Google KML file into a GPX file making sure you export both Waypoints and Tracks.
    We found ourselves using a free desktop software called GPS Babel to perform various conversions on our GPS files.
  10. Download the converted GPX file and import into basecamp
  11. You an also copy the GPX file directly into OSMAND track folder and view it by enabling the GPX layer in the Layer menu

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