Navigation Tips 1

For this post I’ll touch on the basics of navigating using offline maps on an old android tablet. Whatever devices you use will no doubt be different, but there should be a few common areas where the same advice will apply. We’ll start slow and go from there.

The first thing we need to know is the difference between a route and a track.

A ‘track’ is a series of digital breadcrumbs that can be used to record your route, or retrace your steps.

A ‘route’ is a series of two or more points, normally a departure point and a destination and any via points in between.. and your GPS will decide the best way to navigate between the two.

If I put a route onto five GPS devices, it’s likely that each device will decide to navigate that route differently, depending on the installed maps and navigation settings / avoidances.

If I put a track onto five GPS devices, it will be displayed exactly the same on each device, regardless of what map or device settings are used.

Creating a track from scratch on a computer is tedious & time consuming. But routes on the other hand are quick and easy to make.

For these reasons, we use tracks to record our trips, and retrace our steps if required. And we use routes on the computer to save time when planning rides. And to make it even more complicated, we convert the finished routes back into tracks again before exporting to our navigation device. (creating a track from a route is a simple one click ‘create track’ button)


Having the right map. The following are a number of screenshots of the same area, using the various different map options:

Google Maps – hands down the absolute worst option when trying to find trails. The satellite view is handy though.

OpenStreetMap – the OSM data is very good and is the basis for most of the open source maps out there.

OSM Layers – the ‘Cycle Map’ option on the right panel gives better definition to trails.

When editing routes on Garmin Basecamp (free download), you can choose various map options, all available here to download for free.

I suggest you download the Routable Bicycle (Openfietsmap Lite) option for your chosen region.

This is how the OFM downloaded maps look in Basecamp:

A non-routable map can be handy to switch to/from if you need to insert a section into a route that leaves the mapped trail network, only to rejoin it later. It’s a faster alternative than saving your progress, starting a 2nd route, and joining them up later. One click on the maps dropdown menu and maps can be changed over and back on-the-fly.

These garmin fenix compatible maps are non routable versions and can be downloaded for free here.

Using an Android device to run OsmAnd there are several map style options available, and these are not very different than what you’ll find on the openstreetmap website.

Normal (Similar to OSM):

Normal (night theme):

Offroad (Probably the most striking way to identify trails – note: night mode does not work on offroad mode)

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