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Our route notes, along with the maps that we provide, should remain your primary means of navigation. As well as directions that guide you from A to B, and information about points of interest along the route, the notes may contain important safety warnings and identify hazards – information that cannot be gleaned by simply following a GPS track. We recommend that you treat the GPS tracks as a secondary means of navigation, whose main purpose is to clear up any ambiguity, for example where there have been changes on the ground.
Therefore, a GPS device is not essential, and there is no need to learn how to use one to enjoy any of our holidays. They do, however, have a number of useful functions which aid navigation and can be used to record information about the route you are following; there are also a large number of apps for smartphones that enable some form of navigation using GPS.
How it works
If you opt to download the gpx files for your holiday, then you will be able to follow each day’s route on either a dedicated GPS device, or a smartphone using an appropriate app. How you utilise the gpx files will depend on the device and/or app you choose to use for this purpose.
Dedicated GPS device
If you own a dedicated device, then you will need to download the files to a computer and then transfer them to your device, before locating each one...
If you own a dedicated device, then you will need to download the files to a computer and then transfer them to your device, before locating each one on the device on the required day; if you are unsure of how to do this, you will need to refer to a user manual for the device. You may also need to consider downloading and/or purchasing digital mapping; there are some country-specific websites, but a few sites offer global or Europe-wide mapping, including https://garmin.opentopomap.org/ (Garmin-specific, but free) and https://www.outdooractive.com/en/ (mapping available for an annual membership fee).
If you intend to utilise a smartphone, then you will also need to have downloaded an app capable of reading and displaying gpx files. There are a large number available...
If you intend to utilise a smartphone, then you will also need to have downloaded an app capable of reading and displaying gpx files. There are a large number available, some of which are free and others that have more ‘premium’ features which you will need to pay for. You may need to do a little research or check Help/FAQ sections to find out how to open and use the gpx files in any given app, as they’re unlikely to automatically open them, and no two apps work in the same way. Some commonly used apps are OsmAnd, Wikiloc and OutdoorActive, as well as RidewithGPS and BikeGPX for cycling in particular, but there are many more. Almost all apps will already be programmed to use a specific map. These vary in terms of detail and accuracy; for walking, a higher level of detail could be useful, whereas for cycling (which is predominantly on roads on our holidays) less detail should be sufficient.
Viewing and operating the GPS/smartphone screen
Whichever option you take, you will need to bear in mind that the GPS device or smartphone is something additional to be carrying...
Whichever option you take, you will need to bear in mind that the GPS device or smartphone is something additional to be carrying and checking, on top of your notes and map, and perhaps a camera too! While for walking it is a case of having sufficient pockets and attachments, as well as remembering where you’ve put things, if you are cycling you will need to consider how you will view the screen as you cycle along. There are various mounts available for bicycles, depending on what device you are using; for smartphones there are relatively cheap holders which attach to the handlebars and can hold smartphones of varying sizes. Be aware that on most of our cycling holidays a handlebar bag is provided with the bike.
Dedicated GPS devices tend to have good battery life, but if using an app on a smartphone you should think of taking a back-up battery...
Dedicated GPS devices tend to have good battery life, but if using an app on a smartphone you should think of taking a back-up battery pack with you. If your phone screen is on for the duration of the route, and particularly if you need to use a data connection in order for the map to work, you could find that your battery runs out before the end of the day. It is worth checking whether the app you choose requires a data connection in order to function properly, as this could also prove costly; some apps will allow you to download the mapping in advance, worth doing when you have a wifi connection.
For those who are relatively new to using a GPS device, it is worth being aware that even in perfect conditions they are rarely accurate to just a few metres...
For those who are relatively new to using a GPS device, it is worth being aware that even in perfect conditions they are rarely accurate to just a few metres, and we would not recommend them for micro-navigation. In certain situations, such as under tree cover or when travelling through a town or village, accuracy can be badly affected, and GPS should not be relied upon.
We make reference to distances between navigational points in our notes, and these have usually been measured using GPS as well as checked with online mapping software. These distances are therefore very accurate, but be aware that no two GPS devices are likely to plot identical paths – for a variety of reasons – and there may therefore be discrepancies between our notes and your device; over the course of a day’s walk or cycle ride, this difference can easily be 10% or more.