What I Do and How I Do It

How I Got Started

When I was younger, I had a friend of mine that had access to a 34' Dahler sailboat. This boat had a 5' draft, so getting hung up on the sandbars in the Chesapeake was always a major concern. He then purchased a Garmin GPS 12 and began plotting the spots in the bay that we needed to be aware of. It just amazed me how this little handheld gizmo could tell you exactly where you were. I wanted one, just because I thought it was cool, but never had any good reason to spend the money.

After moving to Florida and buying a house on the water, I got a boat. I would go out several times a week and cruise around the canals. I wanted to be able to take the boat to visit some friends of mine who also lived on the water, but the channel leading to their house was confusing. So, finally I had an excuse to buy a GPS.

I ended up with a Garmin GPS 48. It is a version of the basic model 12, but it also includes marine markers and buoys. It did everything I needed, and more. Really, the only thing I ever actually needed it for was one waypoint marking a channel. As it turns out, after I got the GPS, my boat broke down and I never used it to visit my friends by water.

Getting Started In The Jeep

My first trip out in my Jeep, I had no idea where I was going. I was only able to find my way by taking waypoints from another Jeeper and following them. It was very apparent to me how usefull a GPS would be in a Jeep on the trails.

I wanted a hard mount in the Jeep, as the way it was bouncing around and sliding off the dash was making it useless. I wanted a good view of it at all times, but not have it block my view out the windshield. I also wanted it to be within easy reach from the drivers seat so I could mark waypoints and manipulate the controls.

I was very impressed with the RAM mounts but was a little overwhelmed with the number of parts that could be used. I was worried that, when I bought online, I would choose the wrong pieces and end up with a worthless mount. So, I went to the Garmin website and bought the Garmin mount made for my GPS. While it was in the mail, I realized that my local Bass Pro shop stocked RAM mount parts and I could have put it together there.

I was a little dissapointed in the mount that I received. My GPS fit just fine, but I was unable to get the power cable to plug into the back of the GPS due to the mount. It was a simple fix as I just used my Dremel tool to enlarge the hole, but I still feel that a good company like Garmin should design their mounts better.

I found that the mount did not fit like I wanted in the spot that I wanted. The new location that I chose takes a little bit of a reach from the drivers seat to get to it, but is still very accessible. It is also a little more out of my way when looking through the windshield, which is good. Being farther away from the side windows is also good since it would help discourage a quick theft while sitting at a gas pump.

I wasn't totally convinced that I would want to leave the GPS where it was though, so I did not want to drill holes in the dash until I was sure. So, I went to the local Rite Aid and picked up some double sided tape to act as a temporary mount until I made up my mind. I got the 3M outdoor double sided tape and this stuff is awesome. I figured that it would come loose almost as fast as I put it on, but it held tight for over a year. The Jeep has even gotten rained on and this tape has gotten wet without any ill effects. It was also a pain to remove when I later moved the mount, so this tape more than did it's job.

So, here is the first mounting location for the GPS. It worked great there, but was just a little but hard to reach while bouncing around on the trails. I have since moved it.


I was looking for a way to use my GPS data to figure out where I had been, along with finding out the names to some of the trails I had been on so that I could name my waypoints accordingly. That's when I found Topozone, an online map that lets you plot a location by entering the coordinates.



While asking some questions online, I was referred to a freeware program called "Waypoint+". It allows you to edit and manage your GPS data. This totally changed the way I used my GPS.


At first, I only used Waypoint to edit my waypoints. Once I downloaded the tracks from one of my trips, I was able to see a map appear. It got me excited about what I was doing and got me to step it up a level.

Using the GPS on the trail

I still have not managed to find an easy way to generate waypoints before a trail ride. Typically I start by looking at a map of the area I am planning to go. From that map I can get a general idea of where the waypoint needs to be located.

From there I take my information to the Topozone website and locate the exact point where the waypoint should be. Since my GPS units use numbers to label their waypoints, I use letters to make them different. For example, my first waypoint would be "A", my second one "B", and so on. Then I make notes of what each letter means and write them on a legal pad that I take with me.

You would think that that would be enough, but it isn't. The waypoints I get from Topozone are close, but almost never exact to where I want them to be. It's usually more than enough to tell me that I am close to where I need to start looking, but on ocassion it is not. Some of this is the software, but most of it is user error.

From there I go to the MapSource CD that I have on my computer. It lists most roads and some of more travelled trails in the forest. I go through the same thing as with topozone and create a second waypoint for each one I want. Once again, sometimes Mapsource is correct and sometimes it is not.

I have recently purchased the GPS data from 4X4Icon.com. Paul does a great job of creating waypoints, but causes me a problem. He organizes his data to his own system that he understands as I organize my data to my own system. The problem comes when I want a waypoint and I want to see it based on my own system. Then I have to rethink it all to his way of thinking and modify it to fit mine. This takes me quite a bit of time to find what I want. I am sure that, if I asked him, he could find the waypoint that I wanted in a matter of seconds but would be even more confused by my system than I am by his. Pretty much, it's like two people speaking different languages to each other and I have to interpret. So, for each trip, I now also sort through his waypoints and add then to the ones for my trip.

Coming from Maryland, the land of no legal wheeling, I have to drive a pretty good distance to get to a trail. My GPS will not hold tracks from these many miles of driving (for example, I drove around 400 miles total on the last trip I was on). This is the reason I do not have tracks from some of my older trips, as they were gone from the GPS by the time I get home. So now, I include my Laptop into the mix.

First I clear all the data from my GPS48. Then I upload the waypoints for the area I am going along with the new waypoints I created. Then I download a track from a previous trip so I have a track to follow on my drive to the trail. Once I reach the trail, I download my tracks from the drive into my laptop and then clear all the tracks from my unit. With a clean slate, I am able to run the trails and create a seperate tracks without all my street driving included. Once I am done, I download the tracks from the trail and upload a track for the ride home.

With my GPSV, I handle things differently. I keep sort of a garbage pile of waypoints in this unit, so I just upload my new data with all the crap that's already in there. I don't worry about it too much, as this unit does not download to my computer well with the software I use. Then I upload maps for the area I will be wheeling in and as much of the route to and from that will fit.

Once I get home, I get to sift through everything that's in the GPS. I will have created new waypoints on the trail, found that some of the ones I have need to be kept and renamed, and many of the ones I just spent all that time on need to be deleted. The only way I am able to come close to keeping any of this organized is by using a small handheld tape recorder. I just make notes to myself about my waypoints and what I need to do with them. Once I manage to get all this done, I create a map with my waypoints, and new and old tracks. This allows me to see if any of my waypoints from this trip are obviously off and need to be deleted. I can also see if there were any intersections that I failed to mark, and can do as necessary.

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