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Tracks, routes and waypoints on Basecamp

It’s Day Six and the penultimate day off Garmin Week with Survival Skills, where we’ve been looking at what’s available as alternative and inexpensive GPS units and maps to the dedicated and expensive Zumos.

Yesterday we looked at how to tranfer tracks which are records of where you’ve already been to Garmin’s free Basecamp software. Basecamp allows us to view existing tracks much more conveniently, and we can edit them and save them for future reference too. Unfortunately, Basecamp isn’t the most intuitive piece of software I’ve ever encountered as it does tend to make things more complex than need be but it will do most basic jobs. Today, we’ll see how to use a PC to create routes and waypoints, and then upload to the GPS, so let’s get Basecamp running and plug in our GPS.

It’s important here to understand that the panes on the left of the screen show both your ‘library’ of files (labelled ‘My Collection’ which is stored on the PC) and the contents of your connected ‘device’. Click on each in turn and you’ll see the contents of the lower pane change with the details of what’s stored where. ‘My Collection’ behaves like any other PC folder and you can create sub-folders and lists within that folder – for example, for this project I’ve created one called ‘Garmin Week’.

The key point is that whilst you can drag and drop data either way between the library and the device, only data which is stored in the ‘LIBRARY’ can be edited – I wasted quite a lot of time when I first installed Basecamp trying to figure out how to edit data directly on the GPS.

So to work with data, select your GPS, click on ‘All Data’ and drag what you want to work with to ‘My Collection’. Now click on ‘My Collection’, the contents of the lower pane will change and you should find the data you just moved there.

The easiest way to create a route is to take a track and convert it to a route. So we need to move a recorded track to ‘My Collection’ and then click on ‘My Collection’ to see the track in the lower pane, then click on the track to highlight it on the map.


A double click is another way to bring up the properties box – if the track doesn’t appear centre screen, make sure the tick box bottom left is enabled. Now you’ll find you can edit the name of the track (I’ve called it Round Ashford), change the colour (I’ve highlighted the route in red) and you’ll also see a couple of other options. The one we’re interested in is at the bottom right, called ‘Create Route’.


Click on that and another dialogue box pops up. We need to set the number of via points to a maximum of 50 as that’s all the GPS can handle, so deselect ‘Choose number of points automatically’, type 50 into the box and press OK.

A progress bar appears, then the properties box changes to display route information. Close that box and you’ll see the map has also changed to display a route, in this case a series of straight purple lines with a series of blue flags marking turing points.


To move that route back to the GPS, simply drag it from the lower pane to the ‘All Data’ folder on your device. A little green tick will appear when the transfer is complete – remember not to disconnect your GPS whilst transfering data. Unplug the GPS, turn it on, press ‘Where To? / Routes’ and scroll down till you find your new route. It’ll show on the map, with a ‘GO’ button bottom left, so press go and the GPS will direct you to the first point on the route if you’re not there already.

OK, that’s quite useful if you want to record a route for a regular trip, but not so helpful if you want to create a route to somewhere you’ve never been. So let’s create a totally new route. Routes connect either waypoints or search results. Let’s create one via a search. You’ll probably need to zoom out on the map because of the weird way search works but then use the ‘Find’ bar to search for a town or village. I’m centred on Kent so I’m going to use Hollingbourne and Tenterden as my two ends of the route. Enter Hollingbourne first of all, and you’ll see a third pane appear far right with a list of search results. There’s only one place called Hollingbourne, so right-click and select ‘Create Waypoint’. You’ll now see a new location appear in the lower pane on the left of the screen. Now, zoom out again, search for Tenterden and create a second waypoint.

Now we have the start and finish points of our route, so click on the icon bar, on the arrow beside the little red flag icon with ‘New’ next to it and you’ll see options to create new waypoints, routes, tracks and birdseye imagery. You can also get there via ‘File / New’ from the menu. Select ‘Route’ and into the box that opens up drag your start and finish waypoints. The route will automatically calculate and be shown on the map. You can drag and drop this onto your device as we’ve already shown but the problem is that it doesn’t take the most obvious route – you’ll get there, but there’s clearly a better route via the A274.


Why hasn’t it routed along the A274? Have a look under ‘Utilities / Options ‘ Activity Profile’ and see how the options are set. There’s one for motorcycling but it seems I’ve ticked ‘avoid major highways’ so let’s untick that. A warning pops up but don’t allow the automatic recalculation – press ‘No’. We’ll do it manually. Select the route again from the lower left pane and use the ‘Recalculate’ button bottom right. And nothing happens!


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It turns out that if you check the route properties box, there’s a tab called ‘Route Options’ and as we didn’t make automatic updates we have to go here to change the route. I told you it wasn’t intuitive. If we untick avoid major highways, the route changes! If we choose ‘Shorter distance’ then it alters again, along some narrow lanes.


There’s a better route via Sutton Valence so let’s create another waypoint there. Now we get to the next non-intuitive bit. Take the new waypoint called ‘Sutton Valence’ and drop it onto the ‘Hollingbourne to Tenterden’ route – the route dialogue box will pop up again but now the route will finish at Sutton Valence, so we need to use the up/down arrows on the far right of the properties box to reorder the route, to recalculate using ‘faster time’ as a route option…


…and we end up with the route looking like:


That’s clearly a far better route for getting from Hollingbourne to Tenterden but there’s still a slight glitch at the Hollingbourne end, where I happen to know it’s sending us along a very narrow lane, but at least we’re now on main roads most of the way, and it’s something we can adapt simply by looking at the map on the GPS when we’re riding – the unit will recalculate if we avoid a turn. If we feel the need to finetune on the PC we can just zoom in on the map and add a manual waypoint which I’ve done here by clicking on the road at Eyhorne Street, and then try recalcuating.


In this case it doesn’t fix the route – as I said, the open source maps aren’t perfect, so tomorrow in our concluding session, we’ll look at using routes calculated via Googlemaps and how to share routes online.

An alternative to using waypoints is to use the pencil with a “+” on it called the ‘Insert’ tool. Select the route to highlight it on scren then select the ‘Insert’ tool. Move it over the route and a dark gray “rubber band” appears between the two waypoints either side where the rubberband will attach. Click on the place on the map where you want to insert an intermediate point, and the route will recalculate past the new point and these new points will also appear in the route properties. Note thse points won’t appear as via points on your route when using the GPS. The ‘insert’ tool is a little tricky to use so it’s worth experimenting with it. There’s also a ‘move point’ and ‘erase’ option. Routes can sliced if there are mid-route waypoints, and can also be joined but note that the two routes you’ve just connected will be deleted, and it’s important to join them in the right order!

It’s also worth exploring the ‘find’ tool. For example, click the drop down list that shows ‘Cities’ and replace it with ‘Fuel’ and press search. It’ll come up with all the nearby filling stations in the map database. It’s also possible to create waypoints on the GPS by pressing and holding the screen in map view or using the ‘Mark Waypoint’ button on the menu, and these can be moved to Basecamp and used in the same way as other waypoints. Don’t forget you can also change icons on waypoints, which makes it easier to find specific things on the map, although rather annoyingly of all the icons that are provided, there’s no motorcycle.

I’ll just finish by talking a little about keeping ‘My Collection’ uncluttered. This is where the folders and lists come in. If waypoints, tracks and routes aren’t kept organised both the lower pane and the map in particular quickly become cluttered in the ‘My Collection’ view – even when you highlight one track or route all the others are still onscreen. So the answer is to move the waypoints, tracks and routes you’re working with to a new sub-section and archive tracks and routes as you finish with them. Lists don’t actually contain data, but shortcuts to the items, which can be added to or removed. Once again, moving items isn’t entirely intuitive. In this case drag and drop doesn’t always seem to work, but alternatively you can copy / cut and paste to move data around. Don’t forget there’s also an ‘undo’ option in the menu (or the standard [control][z] keystroke combo)to reverse any changes you’ve made along the way. But your undo history will disappear if the program shuts down. And just like any data, taking backups of routes you’re working with is always a good idea.

There’s more info on the internet that a Google search will through up but that should be enough to get you started with Basecamp. Have fun!

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