Table of Contents
What is a GPX file?
A GPX file is a structured text file used to share geographical information about a route or track, and places along the way. Following a track in a GPX file makes navigation easier.
- GPX is an abbreviation for GPS eXchange Format, an open standard. GPX files can be used on most GPS enabled devices or apps.
- A route is a navigation path from one place to another destination. Routes are good if you want to get somewhere quickly, but the path you take is not that important. If you go off the route, then your app may re-route you along a different path to your destination with sometimes surprising results.
- A track is a detailed sequence of data points collected in the field, a breadcrumb trail showing the way. Tracks are best if you want to follow a very specific path. We use tracks in our GPX files. If you go off the track, you are on your own.
- A waypoint is a specific place like a campground, or a waterfall.
Where do I download the GPX files?
- For access to book resources (thanks for your purchase!) please first create an account on our website. Then login and select the book you purchased, for example Best Walks of NSW Mid-North Coast. The GPX files are listed, click the button to download the file for your chosen walk.
- GPX files are also available for download for other trails on our website, without needing a member login. Simply accept the terms and conditions and click the button to download the file to your device or computer.
How do I use the GPX files?
To use the GPX files, you will need an app on your GPS enabled smartphone.
Download the GPX files directly on the smartphone you will be using. Otherwise, if downloading the files on your computer, store them in a cloud folder where you can access the files from your device, or email them as attachments to yourself so you can open the email attachment on your phone or tablet device.
Finally, you need to upload the GPX file into your app, ready to use.
We can’t possibly describe how to use GPX files on all apps and devices, so the instructions below apply to GaiaGPS, which is our recommended app. You may be able to adapt this to other apps.
<< further instructions to come, still under construction>>
Once you’ve the GPX track is available in your app, check the track and waypoints are showing on your map as expected.
Now is a good time to make sure you fully understand how to use your app, before you head out to explore (there are tutorial videos on the GaiaGPS website).
Don’t forget to download offline maps for the area before you leave home. And share your route with your emergency contact and your expected return time.
What GPS device and app do you recommend?
We recommend GaiaGPS Premium for use on a GPS-enabled smartphone or tablet. GaiaGPS also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
For offline use, you will need to subscribe to GaiaGPS Premium version. The Premium version also includes the NSW state government topographic maps, and other useful map layers.
For a more detailed discussion on our reasons for using GaiaGPS, see these articles:
- Why we use GaiaGPS for hiking
- Our review of devices and apps to use for 4WD
- Navigation for adventure motorcycling
We also carry a Garmin InReach Mini for safety when we go exploring in our 4WD or on foot. This device supports GPX files, however we rarely use it for navigation.
Why can’t I use Google Maps on my phone?
Google Maps are great for driving about town, and usually reliable to get to the start of a trail.
But Google Maps are not as useful for navigating on a remote hiking trail or 4WD adventure tour.
- Google Maps are not designed for outdoor activities like hiking, and the information presented on the map is limited.
- We’ve found Google Maps has inaccurate and missing information for trails and tracks in remote areas. The walking directions are often wrong and sometimes dangerous.
- You can’t import a GPX file into Google Maps.
I have the GPX file, do I still need a map?
A GPX file is not a map. It is a collection of data points describing a track or route.
You can follow the GPX track, much like Hansel and Gretel followed their dropped breadcrumbs when they were abandoned in the dark forest. Except of course, the breadcrumb track didn’t work out too well for Hansel and Gretel, so having another plan, like a map, is always a good idea.
Apps that display GPX tracks come with various map layers, including topographic maps, open source maps, and satellite imagery. As many of our routes are in remote places with no mobile coverage, it is important to use an app that allows you to download the maps for use offline.
Our books also contain a print map.
I have the GPX file and app, why do I also need the guide book?
A GPX might show you where to go, but it doesn’t tell you why you should go there, or what you might find when you get there.
In our guide books, we share stories about the history of the place, the geology, flora and fauna. We include details of campgrounds, picnic areas, alternative routes, and many photos. The guide book also describes the standard of the route – is it easy or hard?
We find GPX tracks invaluable when exploring, which is why we make our GPX files available for your use too.
We hope you’ll support our work and buy our books. Use the discount code YVONNE15 for purchases direct from our publisher.
Can I just follow the GPX track on my phone app?
A GPX track is an aid, but you should still keep your wits about you as you navigate. Look up from your phone and and enjoy the countryside! If you are unsure about directions, your app can help you figure out where you are, and suggest where you should be heading.
Even with a GPX track and app, you will need some basic map reading skills. The topic of how to read a map is too big for this post. We recommend the free booklet Map Reading guide: How to Use Topographic Maps Edition 4. Geoscience Australia, Canberra and the Lotsafreshair series of posts How to navigate with with a map and compass or her book.
- While phones have excellent GPS abilities, recorded tracks and your phones determination of your current location can still be out by 10 metres. Tree cover, ravines, buildings and satellite positions all impact the accuracy of a GPS location and track.
- Sometimes maps are wrong. New roads may have been built, buildings demolished, or there may be a rare mapping error.
- Also, conditions may have changed from when tracks were recorded. A path may have closed, perhaps a bridge has been washed out or treefall might block progress.
So always look around you at the land itself, stop and think about your navigation decisions.
Remember to charge you phone before you leave, and always take a backup paper map.