After filling out a few notebooks and emptying 5 boxes of thumb tacks on the wall, we had the first trace of our thru-hike of Europe before us! What a satisfaction! Our hiking trip was right before our tired eyes and much clearer. But we did not want to stop there!
Of course, we could have highlighted paper maps but, as human and simple as we imagined this adventure, we wanted to use the most modern and intuitive tools. It is also the means for us to offer you an immersive experience and lighten our bags on the journey.
Allying technology and ecology by avoiding printing binding paper maps was imperative for us, so we had to re-transcribe this course in a format that is practical and accessible to everyone.
Here is what we did in 4 steps:
1. Building the track
Because drawing a GPS trace in .gpx format does not pose the same problems for a 30 km day hike or a 10,000 km thru-hike route, we quickly had to find solutions.
The discovery of the year is Wandermap
Wandermap is a web-based tool for walking itineraries, preferably using the smallest paths, thus always giving priority to paths over roads. Kind of a revolution for hiking trip lovers !
With Wandermap we were able, country by country (the size of the files does not allow us to do everything at once), to draw the gpx track respecting the trails that we wanted to use and ensuring the consistency of the route kilometers after kilometers.
Wandermap traces a route between points based on Google Maps data but also on open-sources maps updated daily by thousands of users. Thus, the more we advanced towards cartographically less-documented countries, the more we had to juggle between the paths known by the software and what we could see with the satellite.
Only ten hours were enough to digitize our itinerary of more than 10k kilometers in 17 gpx files, one per country exactly.
Now the work with Wandermap stops and we enter the jungle of the gpx tracks edition tools.
2. Getting precise data
While under Wandermap the exported gpx files are particularly accurate, they are also very heavy and therefore, in our case, posed reading problems on most gpx online editing tools.
The only web-based tool able to open the entire course at this point was MyGPSFiles.
MyGPSFiles is of all, the least capricious of gps online tools. It accepts several tracks uploaded separately even of a consequent size (20Mo +), displays them together on a background of map of your choice and makes it possible to accumulate the statistics of the tracks.
With this web app we have been able to calculate the distances and elevations of our thru-hike of Europe in the most precise way possible while preserving the most complete and exact tracks.
3. Compiling and Lightening
A last step in editing the gpx was to gather all these tracks into a single track that still retains the sections.
Here, we used the free GPS Track Editor application. Thanks to this software, we were able to merge all the tracks and lighten the weight of the file by keeping a fairly accurate route.
Download our GPX files
The software allows, among the other tools and features, to apply on the track a data filter which keeps the waypoints every x meters only.
For our route, a waypoints occurrence of 140 meters made it possible to obtain a file of less than 5 MB what is less difficult to use.
4. Making it accessible to as many people as possible
To allow everyone to have access to a simple and detailed map of our journey, we could not simply offer you a matrix map or ask you to install obscure softwares to read our file. So we decided to use a Google Maps module.
Google Maps comes in thousands of forms, almost sprawling, the platform is above all flexible. Google Maps allows you to create custom maps and add tracks, among other things. The prerequisite for our trace here was a weight less than 5MB.
Google Maps also allows you to include information about each step of the path and to choose the visual parameters of segments independently for maximum clarity.
Finally, this platform allows us to add pictures on our map on precise locations, and with somewhat more complex tools, to program via the Google Maps’ API a precise geolocation in real time, allowing you to instantly see our position on the course, but we'll talk about it soon!
See the whole track on The Path.
Read the Part 1 of the article: Knowing what you want
Read the Part 2 of the article: Where to find the information? A lot of research and...a bit of chance!