GPS information

GPS & Maps and how do I navigate this route???

Hopefully this page will shed some light on all of the options that are out there for navigational aids to navigate routes like the Trans Wisconsin Trail. This is a HUGE can of worms I'm about to open up, so hopefully it all makes sense..not even sure if I understand it honestly, but here is what I know so far.

As you may have read before, I suggest that anyone trying to do this route invests the time and possibly money into purchasing and learning how to use a GPS.  With a route of this length, GPS is the most logical and easiest way to follow the route, and its also quite a bit easier for me to make changes to the route. 

I am a map guy, I own hundreds of maps and I like looking at them to plan trips. While on the trips, its nice to be able to look at a map and see where you are, how far you need to go, etc. But for this route, a GPS is your best option.

So, the most common question I get asked as far as GPS goes is how do I get the file?

The easiest way to get the GPS file now is to email me at and let me know which version of the file you want.  I'm often times quite busy, so please allow a few days for me to respond.

If/when you get on this page the thing to do once you find the file you want is to Right Click the link (or whatever you Mac guys do) and save the file to your computer. That is the first step.  Now that you have the GPS file on your computer, you may notice that it is a file format called a GPX file. This is the universal GPS file format that works on most GPS units.  So, you will need to get it opened on your computer to view the route, and/or transferred to your GPS unit in order to navigate the route.

Unfortunately, with all of the GPS units and such out there, I can't tell you exactly how to get the GPS file into your GPS and ready to navigate the route, so a little work is required by you to figure that part out. I recommend to search it on Google, the answer is there!

There are quite a few programs, tools and Apps out there that will allow you to view the GPS file.
Garmin Mapsource (Discontinued)
Garmin Basecamp (This is the program you use to get the GPS file into your Garmin unit).
GPS Visualizer website:
Google Earth
I could go on and on, but someone else has already done the work, so here is a list: 

Here is an example of the type of redundancy that you should have on a big trip. My Garmin Zumo (center) died on me in Albuquerque and almost made me take a wrong turn there..kinda strange huh?
Well, I had another GPS, a Garmin 60CSX, my smartphone with GPS capability, and maps.

So back to the route.

What type of device do I need to navigate this route?
Well, there are a few options, and here they are.
1. Map
2. GPS Unit
3. Smartphone

1. Map
Like I said above, I like maps.  Unfortunately, I lack the ability to create maps and not get sued for copyright infringement, and since I'm doing this for free, paying to have maps made also doesn't make a lot of sense. Now if you have the GPS file and a program to view the file, you can use that and a map that you own and trace the route onto the map.  This is a lengthy procedure, and there aren't that many maps out there that show all of the roads that are on this route.  I would suggest a Delorme Gazeteer. Here is the link:
Navigating a route like this with maps is nearly impossible on a motorcycle, but a possibility in an automobile if you have another person to navigate for you. GPS is WAY easier though.

2. GPS Unit.
There are hundreds of GPS units out there, so if you have one you will want to see if it can accept GPX files, again Google is your friend!  When it comes to GPS unit you have a few different styles.
Automotive, Motorcycle and Handheld. 
Automotive: Most automotive GPS units, whether built into the vehicle or aftermarket, like the Garmin Nuvi and Tom Tom units are no good for this.  BUT, like anything Garmin, there are exceptions.
Motorcycle: Most motorcycle specific GPS units will accept custom routes
Handheld: These are the most versatile GPS units out there. They work well as automotive GPS's, on a motorcycle or any other vehicle, or just for hiking and geocaching. Some handheld unit include the Garmin 60CSX, Garmin Montana and Oregon. 

3. Smartphone.
With the great advances in technology in the past few years there have been some excellent Applications to come along for using your smartphone as a GPS. As with anything, there are always positives and negatives for anything and nothing is perfect, but this can be a great compromise. For only a few dollars you can download a program for your phone that is comparable to a very expensive GPS unit. Most of these programs allow you to navigate with the phones built in GPS, so no cellular data signal is required. So, on a trip like this you will most likely have a cellular phone with you, so if you have a smartphone, it's a logical choice to go this route.

The negatives of using a phone as a GPS are mainly for those on motorcycles as you need to use the touch screen to use the phone and that is hard to do with motorcycle gloves on. The other problem is the phone screens seem to be difficult to use in direct sunlight.

My favorite app for using a phone as a GPS is OSM AND+  It's around $6 for the full app, and you can download maps for the entire planet for free, so it really is a bargain.  I can't get into how to use the app to navigate that route, as all the info you will ever need is out there if you search the web.

My Garmin 60CSX and my navigational sparrow.

OSM AND+ Smartphone Application

So which is the best option? Well, if you plan on doing a lot of routes like this, then investing in a good GPS might be your best bet. I personally prefer the Garmin handheld GPS units. Now if this is just something you are going to do once or rarely, then the application might be your best bet.

What a lot of us dual sport and adventure motorcyclist do is we follow GPS tracks versus GPS routes. A route usually is a program that your GPS uses to tell you which way to go. A track is more of a breadcrumb trail, and what I mean by that is that if I record tracks as I ride, you will see the track as a dotted line on the map on the GPS and the GPS software. So it's kind of like highlighting a path on a map, and you have to follow that to figure out where to go.  It really does work quite well and I prefer it to the GPS trying to tell me where to go, I get enough of that at work!

Here is an example of what I'm talking about.


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  2. GPS Tools app is one stop shop for all your GPS related uses. If you want use different GPS Tools then you need to download different GPS Apps but our GPS Tools app will equivalent to more then 10 different GPS Apps.

  3. Hi Chad. Is there an adventure rider group, official or not, in the Vernon County area? I’m looking for others in the region.

  4. Thanks for this! I found a handy app for iphones (GPX tracker). Trying it in a few weeks.... wish me luck