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GPS for the Overland Track

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Melbourne, Australia
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GPS for the Overland Track

It has been awhile since I posted here, but I think this is the ideal place to ask about GPS's.

We have done nearly all of the 60 Short Walks since we started travelling here and we want to tackle some of the longer hikes. The Overland Track looks ideal but we want to do it by ourselves rather than with the guided groups. You don't need maps and things like that for the short walks but we think it might be a good idea for the Overland Track.

I also need some advice on using a GPS instead of maps. Is it a good idea? Do I need to have a haking GPS or is a phone OK?

Looking forward to some advice from the bushwalking experts here. :-)

Sydney, Australia
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for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
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1. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

Who does your coverage….

telstra is best but…….

the one thing I would consider essential would be a beacon

South Pacific
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for Hobart, Tasmania
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2. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

It depends on what you want to do.

If you just want to do the Dove Lake circuit or Ronny Creek track and know where you are, a phone is fine. And you can also use it to take a selfie in front of the mountain and instagram your trail mix. But if you want to use it for navigation - like plotting a track and then following it beyond Telstra coverage, you need a proper hand-held GPS or a suitable map app on your phone.

And then there are issues like ruggedness, waterproofness and battery life. If you intend to use it regularly, look at Garmin's range of hiking GPS units.

Although you don't actually need anything beyond a map in your backpack to do the Overland Track, it's a good way to learn how to use a GPS to navigate as you can't possibly get lost.

Even Telstra doesn't have coverage of the full length of the track unless you climb to the top of the nearest mountain. The best place for a phone is therefore turned off, in a ziploc bag, in your backpack.

You can rent Epirbs from Service Tasmania. Details here: www.parks.tas.gov.au/indeX.aspX?base=7364

You might also be able to hire a GPS from a bushwalking club, but my experience is that you need to spend a lot of time with your own one to work out how to use it properly.

Good advice on doing the track here: www.parks.tas.gov.au/indeX.aspX?base=7827

Luigi

London, United...
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3. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

The trails are well marked so it is unlikely you need serious navigation or that you will get lost so map and compass would be a lighter option. There is nothing inherently wrong with using a GPS but if you need a GPS then you will also need a topographical map and a compass as backup. There is a single Tasmap covering the entire route so it is quite convenient.

Perhaps I'm a bit old fashioned but I am reluctant to trust serious navigation solely to a device that can break or run out of batteries. Only times I only take GPS is for trails that I know very well and I am more interested in calculating my pace or sharing my route with friends after the trip.

Oz
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4. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

Hi,

When we did the Overland Track hand held GPS devices only existed in M's workshop. The track is well marked, well patronised and a GPS isn't required for navigation.

However as others have said a beacon is a piece of modern technology you should carry as you never know when Murphey's Law will strike. It also saves the SAR teams heaps of time and you too if you are lying there with a broken leg, etc.

A pack of playing cards is another essential.

Cheers,

Cradle...
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for Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
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5. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

Hi, unlike others here, I have not completed the Overland Track, but being nearly a local to the track and knowing of the sudden changes that frequently occur, and that you haven't advised when you're going, take the advice of taking a epirb.

In all the walks I have completed around Cradle Mountain, I've seen many tracks disappear from the depth of snow that can fall at any time of the year, so by hiking with out a guide, take the epirb.

Safe travels - Robert

Geelong
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6. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

Hi Kylie

As the other guys have mentioned , you don't need a GPS for the Overland track. I do have waypoints and the track if you want them (or anyone else does) just email me at frank@ourhikingblog.com.au

Re phone service , you get it with Telstra at the Cradle Mountain end and Lake St Clair. In the middle, only on Mt Ossa.

There is a stack of info about hiking the Overland track on our site if you want any more info: ourhikingblog.com.au/category/overland-track.

We are off there next week , can't wait!

Melbourne, Australia
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7. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

Wow! You've all been so helpful. Thank you all.

What I know so far is that a phone won't be much good, we still need to carry a map, we need to rent a beacon and we probably don't really need a GPS just to do the Overland Track.

HWMBO still wants a GPS. But I have to find out which one and as the technoperson I have to make it work, of course. I understand also that Garmin is a good brand, but now I need specific recommendations about what model etc.

Over to you all. Any suggestions?

K

South Pacific
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8. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

I have a Garmin eTrex 30. The reasons: it's built like a brick dunny, it has a long (>20 hour) battery life and uses AA batteries, Garmin uses the industry-standard GPX format for its route plotting, I got the Australia topographic maps for free at a Harvey Norman sale.

Garmin also have upmarket, touch-screen models (named after US states) but I couldn't see the value in them.

Whatever you buy, you need good battery life (and readily available batteries), the ability to plan and upload GPX files, Nokia-like ruggedness and a proper topographic map set as Googlemaps are not good enough for hiking.

Let us know if you need help with route planning questions as it's the heart of GPS navigation. Knowing where you are is just a minor issue. What matters is the ability to plan and follow a route.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

Thank you Luigi.

What maps do I need and how are they free at Harvey Norman?

And what's involved in planing a trip on one of these things?

South Pacific
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10. Re: GPS for the Overland Track

You need topographical maps - like the data used in paper hiking maps - to be able to navigate your way in the bush. Googlemaps won't cut it. They'll just tell you that you are surrounded by greenness. When you buy a GPS, you must also buy the map set - which comes on a little SD card which is slotted into the GPS. Harvey Norman often have a sale where the maps (usually $120) are included in the base price of the GPS for free. Maybe JB Hifi do a similar deal. Dunno.

Lots of folk have a GPS just to record where they've been. That's cool. But I think GPSs are meant to be used to plan a route and then to help you follow it. Route planning is a time-consuming task that can be done on the GPS, but it's best done on a computer with a mouse, then uploaded to your GPS device. The easy way to do that is to use a program (free) like Garmin's Basecamp.

Easier still is to download a .gpx file from some generous GPSnik (like Frank_W, above) who has recorded their walk. Just do a googlesearch for "Overland Track .gpx" and you'll find heaps. Sadly the ones on the National Parks link in my first post are .kml files and are seriously defective anyway. Kml files are used by folk on a short string, with a phone and an internet connection.

I like to upload gpxs to a program called Plotaroute (free) to see if they're any good before going to the effort of loading them into Basecamp or my GPS. Plotaroute can also read .kml files and will turn them into gpx files. So will Basecamp.

Some people walk their routes in the wrong direction. Both Plotaroute and Basecamp can reverse a .gpx or .kml route so that it goes the way you want. The Overland Track is conventionally (compulsorily in summer) walked from north to south.

Plotaroute lives in The Cloud so it takes up no space on you computer and it uses reasonably good (free) maps. In Australia it uses Googlemaps and in the UK it uses the superb OS map set. Plotaroute also has a library of (free) gpx routes uploaded by other nice people. Every GPSnik has a favourite route planning program.

Basecamp is very powerful, but you need to connect your GPS to it to get good maps. And the good maps cost money, as mentioned previously.

If you get a Garmin GPS, I am happy to elaborate on how to plan a hiking route with Basecamp. Also, if you ask around I'm sure you'll find a friend who does geocaching. Geocachers are the unchallenged experts on how to use any GPS.

Luigi secret: when you download a .gpx file, your computer will try to turn it into a .txt file. That's cool. One can use Notepad to read and modify them. If Notepad saves it as a .txt file, just rename it with a .gpx file extension and your GPS will happily read it thereafter.

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