Why Track?

We both use apps on our phones to track our hikes and stuff.  It comes in handy for a number of reasons:

  • We won’t get lost
  • We can keep track of places we’ve been
  • We can retrace our route later if we choose, and know the distance it will be

Mobile Applications

Brenda uses MapMyRun on her iPhone to track our routes.  It seems to be accurate, and is very easy to use.  It is also very easy to switch between activity types.  She chose this over a number of apps she has tried before.

I use Orux Maps on my Android to track hikes, walks, and ATV rides.  Last I checked, it was not available on the iPhone.  Orux is a bit complicated and quite powerful (lots of features).  The biggest reason I chose it was because we did a fair amount of hiking in the White Mountains where my cell phone connection was flaky at best and usually nonexistent. 
Orux was able to utilize maps I made, downloading them to the phone for offline usage.  I’m pretty sure others do this too, but at the time I couldn’t find one that supported so many formats, was free, and highly flexible on the map style.

Not that you need offline maps, I just find it convenient to have them for some areas.  I rarely create them for ATV riding, though I did finally create a base map covering all of Ride The Wilds in New Hampshire.  Incidentally, I like keeping our GPX/KML tracks, merging them (in Quantum GIS), and using them as an overlay in Orux.  It becomes the rough equivalent of having a road map for all the trails =)

Map Making

For as much as I love the ability to do this, it is not a straightforward or easy process!  I spent a LOT of time experimenting with source resolution, layers, etc.


There are many out there.  I usually start with USGS, and then check the state web sites for elevation data and other datasets.  New Hampshire had a few ArcGIS files covering all the trails in the White Mountains, peaks, and even climbing areas!
I have not used it yet, but this site also looks promising. 
I like to use multiple sources because my finished map displays different images at different zoom levels – maybe a 1:250,000 street map at zoom 12-15, then 1:25,000 topo map for 16-17 and satellite imagery 18-20 (just as an example).  Alternatively, you could keep all layers the same source type and have a secondary map of the same area with a different source type – Orux makes it easy to switch between them.


Ah, the beginning of the end!  All of the software I use is free (except one) but it definitely takes time to learn.  This is why I said the process is challenging or complicated.  If I didn’t have some background in mapping software I might never have chosen to go down this path….

For now, I will just list the software and if there is interest I can go into more detail.  I use:

  • MAPC2MAPC – converting map file formats, changing resolution, merging (stitching) files together
  • Gimp or similar – if removing white borders around map images
  • MOBAC – converts maps to mobile format
  • Quantum GIS – modifying vector layers

Map Scales

Zoom levels:

Levelm / pixel~ ScaleUSGS map extentExamples of areas to represent
9305.4921:1,000,000wide area, large metropolitan area
10152.7461:500,000metropolitan area
1176.3731:250,000One degreeCity, almost all White Mtns on screen
1238.1871:150,000town, half of White Mtns (24 miles) 
1:125,00030 x 30 minute
1:100,00030 x 60 minute
1319.0931:70,00015 x 15 minuteVillage, 12 mi wide – probably most reasonable “zoom out” level
149.5471:35,0006 miles wide
1:24,0007.5 x 7.5 minute
154.7731:15,0003 mi fit screen (wide), all of Gorham?, can zoom to 600% w/ great detail
162.3871:8,0008,000 ft wide? 1:25k (7.5 min) topo w/ sat img bkground dont show topo lines well, but 1:100k topo (no background) does
171.1931:4,000block, park. 1:25k topo w/ sat bkgrnd show ok 
180.5961:2,000some buildings, trees – unnecessary detail for Orux
190.2981:1,000local highway and crossing details
200.1491:500A mid-sized building
  • Values listed in the column “m / pixels” gives the number of meters per pixel at that zoom level.
  • “~ Scale” is only an approximate size comparison and refers to distances on the Equator. In addition, the given scales assume that 256-pixel wide tiles are rendered and will be dependent on the resolution of the viewing monitor: these values are for a monitor with a 0.3 mm / pixel (85.2 pixels per inch or PPI).
11 & 12 -> Use 30×60 min maps13 & 14 -> Use 15 min maps15,16,17 -> Use 7.5 min maps

OruxMaps zoom (displayed values)

72@8 on display means:72 is the measure of map visualization (in percent), the “optimum” is 100%)8 is the zoom levelzoom level 0: 256 pixel ~ 40 000 km (long of equator)zoom level 1: 256 pixel ~ 20 000 kmzoom level 2: 256 pixel ~ 10 000 km


Zoom paper map scaleOrux (256 pixel size)
201,128.497220100 ft
192,256.994440300 ft
184,513.988880500 ft
179,027.9777611,000 ft
1618,055.9555202,000 ft
1536,111.9110404,000 ft
1472,223.8220902 mi
13144,447.6442003 mi
12288,895.2884009 km
11577,790.57670018 km
101,155,581.15300039 km
92,311,162.30700078 km
84,622,324.614000156 km
79,244,649.227000312 km
618,489,298.450000625 km
536,978,596.9100001,250 km
473,957,193.8200002,500 km
3147,914,387.6000005,000 km
2295,828,775.30000010,000 km
1591,657,550.50000020,000 km