I like maps. I like looking at them during trip preparation. I like looking at them on an unfamiliar trail to get myself oriented. And I like looking at them after the trip to see where I went and to help relate the trip to my wife. But as I have been preparing for some extended section hiking of the PCT this year, the shear volume of maps required has been daunting. So I have been looking into electronic mapping this year, both for ‘on the trail use’ as well as post trip to document the journey. And I think I have found a pair of tools that offers some real promise.
I have a Droid Bionic phone and have bought a couple of extended batteries for it. Initially the phone was going to just be used for occasional entertainment and control of SPOT. But I have Backcountry Navigator (BCN) installed on it now and like the way it works. I have had it out for a couple of trips so far and it seems to be able to track my course even when in the woods and the phone is in a hip belt pocket on my pack; much better than my previous phone. I like being able to open my map and have the little ‘you are here’ mark at my current location. While the screen is much small than a printed map, I can zoom in or out as necessary, as well as shift the displayed view to see what might be coming up. It is actually pretty convenient. I do need to take the time to cache the maps I will need onto the phone before I go out, at all the resolutions I think I will need; but not a great deal different than locating the correct map from the pile. I have also download the PCT half mile maps onto the phone and will be able to use that now instead of printing out a hundred or so pages of maps.
On the last trip I went a step further and created a trip file in BCN and then recorded a track and set some waypoints along the way. This requires the GPS to be running all day, but it appears like an extended battery should be able to handle at least two days of this. I have a second battery already that I can swap out, but may need to get a third for longer trips. I was able to pause, restart and stop the track as needed and when the trip was over I had a blue line along the trail showing where I had gone. I used this primarily to document the trip, but it would also be useful for backtracking to a particular spot along the trail. Within BCN you can save the trip and then reload it later as desired.
Once I got home I began looking for ways to get the map out of BCN on my phone and be able to embed it on a web page along with trip pictures and a trip journal. A quick search on the web produced several options, including EveryTrail. EveryTrail requires you to setup an account, and then allows you to import gpx files, pictures and words to create a trip that can then be shared with other users of the site. The neat thing about this site is that once you have the trip documented, they provide you will all of the HTML code you need to be able to embed a Google Map of your trip into your own web page, either as a plain map, or as a flash image.
Above is an example of the plain map option, while below is the flash enabled map.
EveryTrail – Find the best Hiking in Olympic National Park
BCN can export a loaded trip to a gpx file, and from there it can be transferred to my laptop via a USB cable. Log into your EveryTrail account and then select ‘Create Trip’, select and upload your gpx file, and then fill out as much of the trip info as you desire. Note that if you are going to show the map on your own site, the trip will have to be public. Once you select Done, you will get your trip page, and on the bottom right of the page will be the information you need to link the map onto your own site. You can edit the HTML to change the titles and map size if desired. Once you have done this you have a Google Map of your trip embedded into your own web page to share with the rest of the world.