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Tracks and Basecamp – downloading data from the Garmin Dakota

Welcome to Day Five on Garmin Week with Survival Skills, where we’ve been looking at alternative inexpensive GPS units and open source maps to the dedicated and expensive Zumos. Today, we’ll see how to link to a PC and download tracks.

First we’ll answer the question “Why do you need to connect to a PC?”. As we showed yesterday, you can turn the GPS on or use the routing function to find your way from A to B with the unit as it stands. But having a PC link makes a lot of tasks, from reviewing rides to creating new ones, much easier.

We’ll start by looking at the track feature which records where you’ve been. It’s a series of connected points that contain position and elevation information. Press the ‘Track Manager’ button on the menu and you should be presented with a button marked ‘Current Track’. Press that and you’ll see a bunch of further options including the ability to save all or part of it. For the moment, press ‘Save All’ and give it a memorable name. Then press the ‘View Map’ button. You’ll then see a trace of where you’ve been on the map screen. There’s also a ‘Tracback’ option available which allows you to reverse your route – a quick way of finding your way home over the same route.

Note: if your unit’s not showing any recorded tracks, you’ll need to enable them in the menu, press ‘Setup / Tracks / Tracklog’ and choose ‘Record, show on map’. Set ‘Record method’ to auto.

It’s worth noting a couple of points here. There’s a limit to the total number of data points saved so by default Garmin units record continuously and replace the oldest data with current points. So it’s a good idea to save and clear the active route at the starting point of your ride if you want to record it. Alternatively, you can simply continue the active log, but you’ll need to select the right portion when you save it or edit on the PC once it’s downloaded.

OK, so now we need to get the PC set up. We’re going to use Garmin Basecamp, which is free software. You can transfer tracks created on your Garmin into BaseCamp. Tracks can be viewed, created and edit tracks on the map. BaseCamp also stores saved waypoints and routes.

You can head over to Softpedia and download from:

or of course get the software direct from Garmin. It may need to install .NET framework updates from Microsoft before it will run, but once installed get it running and plug in your Garmin. You’ll see something like the screen below.


The Library and Devices area appears on the left side of the BaseCamp window as two panes. The upper pane displays lists and connected devices. The lower pane displays the contents of the selected list or device. You should see your GPS appear as a device, with a folder called “All Data”. Click on that and the lower pane will fill up with waypoints, tracks, routes and anything else stored on the device.

I’ve selected a route called AUG-15-12 11:35:42 and you can see that in the highlighted in the close-up


The label in the screenshot above is active – hover over it and right click and a box appears with information about the route.


The graph allows you to see either elevation (I told you I like to know how high hills are) or speed plotted against distance travelled, and notes are… notes! You can also rename the route or change the colour here.

If you right click on the track over on the lower pane, you can also access this properties panel together with a host of other options.

However, you’ll also notice that the map isn’t very much use, with only major roads marked and not very accurately at that. So we need to install the open source map we downloaded a couple of days ago. For the UK map we need to head over to TalkyToaster again and scroll down the page till we find “Mapsets For Use With PC ONLY (MapSource or BaseCamp)”. Grap the .zip file called, unzip it to a folder in your Garmin directory and exit Basecamp and run the install.bat file (just double click on it) and restart Basecamp. You should now be able to click on ‘View’ in the Basecamp menu, then ‘Select Map Product’ and see ‘British Isles and Contours’ as an option. Select it, then zoom in and adjust the detail level as necessary (I usually set it on high).


Here’s a more detailed view of part of the route we looked at earlier, but now it’s actually following roads!

If you’ve purchased commercial maps, then the same basic install procedure has to be followed, but you’ll also need unlock keys to get them to work.

Remember we downloaded an .exe file with the map of Belgium? Shutdown Basecamp, double click on that file and when you reopen you should also find ‘OSM generic routable’ as an option. Select that, and you’ll find the detail map now starts in East Kent and covers the area we selected the tiles for; a small part of NE France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the small part of Germany around the Nurburgring.

I think that’s enough for today. Have a play around with the various tools and options and get used to using it. We’ll have a look at creating routes and uploading them to the Dakota tomorrow.

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