GPX files for use on portable devices

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Tech' started by Hugh Westacott, Apr 6, 2018.

  1. Hugh Westacott

    Hugh Westacott Trekker

    I’ve written, and posted on the town’s website, a series of short local walk descriptions that can be downloaded and printed. They are aimed for use by the general public not dedicated walkers.

    I’m considering adding the gpx file to each walk but need some advice on how to do it as my experience of GPS receivers is limited to a Garmin Foretrex 401. This does not support maps and only provides a pointer and a breadcrumb trail. I use Grough mapping software.

    I’d be grateful for information about the kind of portable devices that can be used other than stand-alone GPS receivers. I assume that most portable devices are unlikely to have OS 1:25,000 maps loaded but do they have a basic map onto which the route, in gpx format, can be loaded that will show the route together with a symbol that moves with the walker along the route?

    I appreciate that I’m asking some elementary questions but I fear that I have never fully embraced computer technology and I don't own a smartphone. Your help will be much appreciated.

  2. ColinHawke

    ColinHawke Ultralighter

    Hi Hugh,

    I’m with you in that I own an old Garmin Foretrex and never really saw the need for anything else for walking. A lot of people nowadays use smart phones and their inbuilt gps for their navigational needs. Basically you download a mapping “app” and you can then add various maps e.g OS 1:25000 map tiles that cover your area of interest. You can then see a moving map when out walking. As you say you can load .gpx files (for routes, waypoints or tracks). I use the viewranger app on my iPad for planning and it’s really very good and I’m sure it’s great out in the field so to speak.

    Actually I have used a lot of mapping gps devices but mainly for aviation (autogyro and paraglider) and it’s basically the same except we’re less worried about maps of the ground but more maps of restricted airspace etc - but the same applies a “moving map” with an arrow and if a route is loaded you can get info on bearings to the next waypoint and all sorts of other info.

    I’m sure others will chime in who aren’t such a Luddite as myself.

    Edit : but of course you know about routes as the foretrex does it fine - it just doesn’t have a map ..
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  3. Diddi

    Diddi Section Hiker

    Make route on ( its as easy as clicking route intended)
    Save route gpx to pc/laptop.
    Link that gpx file to your walk.
    They then will have their own mapping / software to open and read/store gpx route.
    If thats what you are asking ?
    Padstowe likes this.
  4. ColinHawke

    ColinHawke Ultralighter

    Oops I don’t think I answered the question that was asked o_O - too many wines in the business lounge at Heathrow.
    JKM and Diddi like this.
  5. Diddi

    Diddi Section Hiker

    Not sure i have yet :laugh:
    ColinHawke likes this.
  6. NEEpps

    NEEpps Trail Blazer

    Hi Hugh,

    I tend to use an Iphone most of the time which is loaded with the applications OS Maps and Viewranger. Both apps allow you to download onto the device gpx files. With OS Maps I have a yearly subscription which allows me to download the 1:25000 or 1:50000 map for that gpx route. With viewranger I can choose tiles of map along the route at a cost. Both then allow you to follow the route with an arrow and comapass direction if required.
    Both of these apps also run on the android operating system. Again both apps allow you to post routes for public use. When you search for routes in a specific area, public routes are then displayed and can be downloaded. Both are very similar to the garmin etrex etc and garmin basecamp.
    I also have a Suunto traverse watch which also allows me to download gpx files but this has no maps, just an outline of the route. It will however 'alarm if you are off route.
  7. Hugh Westacott

    Hugh Westacott Trekker

    Thanks chaps, I’m beginning to get the picture.

    In order for you to understand what I’m trying to do it might be helpful to open this link (but ignore Walk 1).

    Am I correct in thinking that the only portable devices, apart from stand-alone GPS receivers, that can read gpx files which can be used for following routes on the ground are smartphones?

    If so:

    1 Do all smartphones have a pointer and breadcrumb trail that shows the direction of travel?

    2 Do all smartphones have built-in maps on which the gpx routes can be displayed. Or in some cases would it be necessary to use the method suggested by Diddi)
    'Make route on ( its as easy as clicking route intended)
    Save route gpx to pc/laptop.
    Link that gpx file to your walk.
    They then will have their own mapping / software to open and read/store gpx route.'

  8. bumbly

    bumbly Section Hiker

    I don't have time for a detailed explanation but it might clear up the concerns you might have if I tell you that GPX is an "interchange format" and so, in essence, universal. For example it would never be tied to UK gridRef units but will always use lat and long, nor will its use be reliant on any proprietary device information, though usually it will identify the files provenance within the markup. (Incidentally, time is also not local time in track recording via gpx).

    In short: if a device/service/software can either create or make use of a gpx file then it does not matter at all as to where or how that file was created if it adheres to the format's specification. The file is xml. If a device (etc.), or representation via such, does not make use of a particular property that property will not be utilized and those unused properties will not affect the salient properties of that datum.

    Some links: and
  9. Hugh Westacott

    Hugh Westacott Trekker

    Thank you, Diddi, for the link to hug-net which at first looked like the answer to my problem but, unfortunately, I can't use it because of a copyright regulation that prevents the downloading of multiple copies.

    Instead, I shall just provide the gpx files and users will have to follow a track or use the pointer on their smartphone.

    Diddi likes this.
  10. Diddi

    Diddi Section Hiker

    It may be worth contacting the owner of the as if i am right they were fellow OMer's ( Jules ?? ) and you may be able to come to an arrangment?
    It does state on the site they can help a commercial site..
    Screenshot_20180408-125122_Samsung Internet.jpg
  11. Hugh Westacott

    Hugh Westacott Trekker

    Yes, I'd already read the document you posted and it's pretty clear that, like similar websites, it would cost money to reproduce the maps other than for private use.

    I've surveyed the routes and written the walk descriptions on a pro bono basis but I'm not prepared to invest my own money in the project.

  12. Scottk

    Scottk Summit Camper

    I can download a GPX file to movescount (suunto software) and then upload to my watch. So if they have a suitable watch they can follow the trail. Suunto and garmin can both do this and some of the garmin watches have maps.
    If it was a short walk, I would probably use viewranger but I don't do that on longer walks as it uses too much power.
  13. tom

    tom Section Hiker

    Hugh, I'd second @bumbly points. I use various android map apps since
    electronic maps for the areas I am hiking are often only available on one particular platform (app). Some of these apps let you import gpx track format (which is indeed universal), others do not. As a backup, there is the open street map (OSM) format which always accepts gpx files and, while not the best maps, these are always useful for info not available on any other maps. In some locations, OSM are the only maps for hiking available and save the day...
  14. Hugh Westacott

    Hugh Westacott Trekker

    Thank you for your replies but I don't think I've explained sufficiently clearly what I'm trying to do.

    1 I have a Garmin Foretrex 401 which does not have a mapping facility. Instead, I have to upload GPX files of routes I’ve manually created on Grough software. In order to follow a route that has been installed in the Foretrex I have a choice of switching between a track with a symbol showing my progress, and a pointer which indicates the direction in which I should walk.

    2 I don’t have, nor ever used a smartphone, but I understand that most models have a GPS facility. What does this mean?

    a) If a GPX file is transferred to a smartphone, will it show both a pointer and a track with a moving symbol similar to what appears on the screen of my Foretrex and other entry-level GPS receivers?

    b) Do most smartphones have an elementary built-in map of some sort? If so, would the route contained in the GPX file appear on that map?

    Sorry to have to ask such elementary questions. I much prefer to use a map and compass and only carry my Foretrex when leading walks just in case something should go wrong. (A few years ago a guide was accused in a coroner’s court of lacking an essential item of equipment, a mobile phone, even though no signal could be received in the area in which the incident occurred.)

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  15. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker


    As you know, we now live pretty close to one another.
    I'm okish with smartphone mapping and pc/web based mapping software/websites but have never used a dedicated GPS like a Garmin in my life.

    If you want to meet up and exchange knowledge and try and make some sense of things, give me a message.
  16. tom

    tom Section Hiker

    Short answer, phones do not have build in maps other than abilities to download "google maps" and such which are irrelevant for hiking. If you import a gpx file into an app with hiking maps the information about the route is displayed in the map as a track line. If you switch on the phone GPS, it will show your location on the map and you can see if you are on the marked track or somewhere away from it. Some apps like Locus can show you the direction you a facing for orientation purposes.

    The bright red line is an imported gpx track:
    Mole likes this.
  17. tom

    tom Section Hiker

    The same track on a classic OSM map:
    Mole likes this.
  18. ColinHawke

    ColinHawke Ultralighter

    Hugh - I think I explained it in my previous post, but you obviously didn’t get it. So I think I understand the issue now so I’ll try again.

    In a computer you load software and you run the software which does something, the computer itself is pretty dumb. Think of a smartphone as a computer, except the software you load is called an “app”, without apps the phone is pretty dumb and can only be used as a phone to make calls etc. There are lots of navigation apps (the software) you can download and run on your smartphone and these will have moving maps and arrows etc. I like the ViewRanger app and you can load OS 1:25000 maps on it and upload gpx routes etc. Does that help any?
  19. Hugh Westacott

    Hugh Westacott Trekker

  20. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    You need someone to put the.gpx files on the same web pages as the walks.

    Forget the rest; it's up to whoever chooses to download them.
    tom and Mole like this.
  21. Balagan

    Balagan Thru Hiker

    Or get someone to upload the gpx file to Wikiloc and then use the HTML export code to display on the town website.

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