Make your own map tracks

Published on May 8, 2010

Hand-held GPS devices are a standard piece of kit found in hiking shops and are used by most outdoor enthusiasts from anglers to geocachers. These are fantastic for keeping track of your position and where you've been but you would likely be an enthusiast to buy one. However there is another way to take advantage of the growing (invasion?) of GPS technology and nowadays you don't have to be clad in goretex with a special GPS shoulder pocket to keep your own tracks of where you've been. The last two Nokia phones I've owned included GPS as of course does the ubiquitious iPhone.

I still enjoy checking out the onboard Nokia maps applications and zooming to the little red dot when out and about. Very Roger Moore, though from a practical point of view it doesn't really tell me anything other than giving me context on a map. Usually the only time I tend to check out the map is when I'm lost or find something interesting. Both cases are valid reasons to record where I am so I can retrace my steps back to a particularly good walk or update and add to a map to an area of interest if so inclined.

Online mapping applications like Google Maps or Bing Maps allow you to place your own waypoints / points of interest and tracks ontop of maps they provide through their free platforms. Projects like Open Street Map go one step further and allow you to contribute to a user defined map, that is free to use under the Creative Commons licence

The following notes illustrate how to get GPX tracks from both a handheld GPS and the Nokia Sports Tracker application.

Please note that is not a definitive review for either GPSBabel or Sports Tracker both of which have numerous additional features that are described in detail on their respective sites.

GPX tracks from a hand-held GPS


Hand held GPS devices are great but older ones do feel rather self contained. Perhaps this is simply a reflection on what they were originally designed to do which was to provide an accurate location. Today you would expect a GPS to include some kind of output port to connect it up to a computer - mine has a mini USB.

Not the end of the story though as somehow the GPS has to interface with the computer for the data transfer, particularly if the GPS does not have a separate memory card and can't be treated as mass storage device. Most suppliers will provide software to connect your device but there is a great piece of free software GPSBabel that makes this step easy and can be used with all major hand held GPS suppliers.

Set up:

1. Download and install GPSBabel. Their site explains how.

2. Connect your GPS to the computer.

3. Fire up GPSBabel and check the box to import data from device instead of selecting a file format.

4. Select a location to download the tracks and select the type of data you wish to extract from the GPS - In this image above GPX was selected but GPSBabel is an amazing piece of software that lives up to its name and numerous formats are catered  If you want KML simply select it from the options in the output drop down.

5. Run the command and wait for the message.

For more information about obtaining data from hand-held GPS devices for Open Street Map click here.

GPX tracks from a Nokia phone with Sports Tracker

- GPS enabled Nokia phone
- Sports Tracker
- A PC that can your phone can interface with

So you don't have a GPS hand-held but you do have GPS on your phone. You're also interested in doing things with it other than simply viewing and reading your lat long. Then download and install Sports Tracker for the version of your phone.

1. Fire it up. I haven't yet got into jogging so my activity of choice is walking.


2. Wait until the GPS has locked onto position and click Start. When finished your activity click Stop.

3. Go back to the start screen and click on Training Diary. From here you will be able to click on the calander to display all the tracks saved on the phone.

4. Double click your selected track and locate the option to export it.


5. Connect your phone to your computer and locate and upload the GPX file.


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An entry posted on May 8, 2010.

Categories: Data and GIS

Tags: gps , gpsbabel and nokia