Entering the world of GPS with the Garmin 60Cx

This past summer, our family has spent numerous weekends exploring the mountainous areas of Andalucia. In particular, we’ve been exploring the areas around Gaucín, the valley behind Ronda containing Benoján, and the next valley up the road containing Villaluenga. For each location, we’ve located tourist maps containing listing of local trails for hiking.

Unfortunately, many of the trails around these areas are not well marked. For some, it’s even difficult to find them at all. And once you find the trail, it is, in many instances, easy to get lost once you start hiking.

The obvious solution to this problem is GPS. There are a couple (here and here of good websites containing descriptions of hiking trails, and downloadable GPS tracks and routes to aid in navigation. (In fact, as I would understanding it, it should make navigation dead easy.)

So, I’ve recently purchased a Garmin 60Cx GPS device, and have entered the seemingly mysterious world of Global Positioning System navigation.

Purchase. I decided to purchase my GPS through eBay, namely via a seller in the US. I was able to buy the device for about 60% of what it sells for here in Spain. Natively containing the US base map, the seller included a version of MapSource MetroGuide. Unfortunately, the software is a bit out of date — version 6, when the latest is version 8. Furthermore, MetroGuide is the least favorable mapping software sold by Garmin, and I will likely soon purchase the CityNavigator product.

In addition, as the 60Cx device accepts microSD cards, I upgraded the stock 64MB card to a better 1GB card. My hope is that I can carry around all the maps and routes I’m interested in, at all times.

Setup. For my purposes, a GPS isn’t that useful unless I can have it communicating with my computer. I use an Apple MacBook, and unfortunately Garmin hasn’t gotten around to developing OS X compatible software. Furthermore, many of the tracks/routes, etc. that I’ve found use a format compatible with a Windows shareware product, OziExplorer.

Fortunately, there is a great solution — Virtualization! I have purchased a license for the Parallels virtualization program for OS X; however, I’ve had problems getting it to recognize the Garmin device when connected via USB. A friend then passed me a beta version of the forthcoming VMWare Fusion product, and it works perfectly! (In addition, I find the VMWare product generally superior to Parallels, and will certainly be buying a license when it hits the street.)

So, under Windows XP, running as a guest OS under VMWare, on a MacBook running OS 10.4.8, I am successfully communicating with the Garmin 60Cx. Fantastic!

So far, I’ve installed:

  • MapSource (from Garmin)
  • OziExplorer, a shareware GPS mapping program, which, as far as I can tell, is the main Windows-based shareware utility for managing a GPS.
  • SendMap. A Windows utility for sending maps to the GPS.

Practical Matters. Now that I’ve got my system all setup and (apparently) working, it’s time to figure out how all this GPS stuff works. On that note, I’ve already run into a number of conceptual issues I’m presently trying to figure out.

  • Right now, I’ve used MapSource, and the MetroGuide Europe product, to download (to the Garmin GPS) all the maps necessary to provide full coverage of Spain. This was about 40 MB, and more than 50 small map “chunksâ€?. Question: How can I determine that the device stored all this data on the microSD card, as opposed to some internal memory?

  • Another question: Is this something I even need to worry about– i.e. if the internal memory fills, does the GPS device automatically switch to the card when receiving data?

  • Will software that interacts with the device “seeâ€? both the data on the card and any internal memory the device has?

  • Let’s say I purchase CityNavigator. Should I first delete all the MetroGuide maps before installing the CityNavigator maps? How do I do that? (I didn’t see an option in MapSource for deleting maps.)

  • Let’s say I have full coverage of Spain via CityNavigator maps, and then I decide to send a special topological map of some area I’m going to be visiting during the weekend. How can I tell the GPS that for this particular area, to use the topo map instead of the CN map? I have seen in the “Map Setupâ€? area a hugely long list of maps, and it would seem impractical, if not impossible, to identify which of the maps are the two that overlap, in order to disable one.

  • I’ve seen that MapSource is document based– i.e. you can save and open multiple MapSource documents, each of which can contain any number of active maps, waypoints, tracks, etc. Why would I want multiple documents? Wouldn’t I want one single document that perfectly reflects the data presently on the device? If I open another document, and download all it’s data to the device, will it delete any additional data it finds on the GPS– i.e. is the concept of “downloadingâ€? to the device with MapSource the same as “synchronizingâ€? the active MapSource document to the device?

  • I’m a little confused about the practical roles of tracks and routes, and the association of waypoints to each. Let’s say I want to record a path I’m walking and then publish it on the web– what is the best process for this? Should I simply start the track recording when I begin, and then save it when I’m finished hiking, and simply publish that? Is it necessary/desirable to add “waypointsâ€? to the track? (Is it even possible to add a waypoint to a track? Does it then become a “routeâ€??) Or, should I use the “routeâ€? concept?

  • If a track doesn’t contain a waypoint, how can I tell the GPS to “Go To” the beginning of the track? i.e. how can I use the GPS to help me find the begin point of the track?

As you can see, I’ve still got a ways to go before I have my head fully wrapped around the practical concepts of using a GPS. Any comments would be greatly appreciated — either in the comments here, or via email to matt (at) makalumedia (dot) com.

One thought on “Entering the world of GPS with the Garmin 60Cx”

  1. Hi Matt

    I am interested in hiking some of the same areas you are in Andalucia. I have a German guide book but I too am considering purchasing a GPS unit. I want one that can also be used in the car too to get me to the trailheads and also general use around Germany and on holiday in places like Spain. Have you had good experience yet using the Garmin for hiking in Spain?

    Cheers Mike

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