How To Route Plan Your Next Off-Road or ATV Trip with GaiaGPS and Export to Garmin Explore

I use GaiaGPS and Garmin GPS products to plan new routes or trails to follow in a wilderness area for my off road trips using my Can-Am Defender side by side ATV.

I’ll be using GaiaGPS, but other mapping programs like Garmin Basecamp or Garmin Explore will yield similar results a but I find that GaiaGPS is more flexible tool for route planning, map layers and exporting the GPX file directly to my device or to Garmin Explore. Also GaiaGPS offers web & smartphone app versions.

Garmin Explore To Sync Your GPS Devices

I use Garmin Explore to import/export tracks, waypoints & routes from my compatible Garmin GPS devices (GPSMAP 66, Montana 700, Tread), it allows me to access the data either while on the trail or save it as soon as I’m done my ride (via cellular connectivity in the field)

Finding Off Road, ATV trails in GaiaGPS

Depending on the type of riding you want to do, you want to scout out or plan appropriate routes for you to ride. In my situation, I am exploring a new area for me, so I want to be aware of the side by side friendly trails so that I don’t go down more technical trails when I’m riding solo.

Using Premium Map layers to evaluate the type of route you want to plan for
In GaiaGPS this means you can leverage the different may layers or map sources. For my region of Canada, I have a few maps I can refer to. Having looked up maps from local trail groups, I can use a combination of maps including satellite imagery to verify trails. I know that most of these are established trails but maybe these are no longer passible. How can I find out?

Map Overlays

If you Save data in GaiaGPS, you have the option to make your track public or private. If you choose public, then other users can enable the PUBLIC TRACKS map overlay which displays all public tracks as green tracks on the map. The more tracks for a trail, the darker the line – showing you which trails are popular as you can see when clicking the line which tracks are public. You can certainly copy these tracks for your planning, but this is a good way to see if anybody has gone down a trail recently.

Creating the Route

Now’s that you have done your planning, you can create a route in GaiaGPS. A route is a path where it doe not contain many points along the line. Unlike a track where it contains multiple points.

You can save a route, name it and now it is ready to be viewed on your smartphone in GaiaGPS or you can export it as a GPX file to other apps or email it.

Exporting the Route as a GPX and Import it into Garmin Explore

Exporting the route as a GPX gives you the ability to save it as a file, email it, copy it onto a micro SD card or import it into other mapping applications like Garmin Basecamp or Garmin Explore.

For this example, I’m importing into Garmin Explore as I use the Garmin Tread for my off-road ATV riding, so it will be easier to get the route onto that device via the Explore Library. I can also access this route on my other compatible Garmin devices that sync to Garmin Explore.

Further Reading


How To Use Your Apple Watch And Gaia GPS For Hiking

In this video, I’ll show you how to use the Gaia GPS Apple Watch app to record a hike or outdoor activity. First thing you’ll need to do is to download the GAIA GPS smartphone app on your iPhone and the watch app should automatically download onto your Apple Watch. If it doesn’t simply go into your watch app on your phone and enable the app.

From the watch, you just need to find your Gaia GPS app and open it. From here you will have three main screen: Music controls, settings & notifications and main controls (Record, Navigate).

This video will focus on recording hikes, and not navigating routes, mainly because it doesn’t seem to work on for me just yet. But the track recording works very well is a good alternative when you don’t have a GPS handy.

The main thing to note while recording your track, is that the Gaia GPS needs to be the top app, meaning that you can’t switch apps on your phone this will pause the recording until you switch to Gaia GPS. The best way around this is to lock the app so Gaia GPS is locked on your watch face.

Previous versions of this watch app would. Mirror the smartphone app, meaning that the recording was done on the phone, not on the watch. The version used in October 2021 uses the GPS data from the watch leaving you to use the Gaia GPS app on your phone to lookup maps, create routes and other things.

Once you are done recording your hike the Apple Watch will transfer the track data to your phone pretty much within a few seconds. You can then review the track under the saved tab and edit accordingly.


How To Export Gaia GPS Tracks to Garmin

In this video, I’ll show you how you can export a track saved in Gaia GPS and import it to Garmin Connect or Garmin Explore. Here I’m using iOS so this will work on iPhone and IPad, but will also work in Android and on your desktop. Here I’ve recorded a hike using the Gaia GPS Apple Watch app and have it saved in Gaia GPS along with a few photos.

During this hike, I couldn’t use my Garmin device (batteries were dead) but I want to add this hike into my Garmin Connect history or Garmin Explore library for future use. From Gaia GPS, I should be take to export the track as a GPX file and then import it to either Garmin Connect or Garmin Explore.

Step By Step

  • Go to your SAVED section in Gaia GPS and select a track, route or waypoint you want to export. Click on MORE and EXPORT, select GPX.
  • (Garmin Connect) SAVE your GPX as a FILE.
  • (Garmin Explore) If you have Garmin Explore app installed on your device, you should see the EXPLORE ICON in the share pop-up window and SELECT.
  • (Garmin Connect) log into Garmin Connect via the desktop and click on the Import Data icon
  • (Garmin Explore) the GPX file will be automatically imported into the Garmin Explore Library as a new collection, ready to be sync to a Garmin Device.
  • (Garmin Connect) BROWSE and upload the GPX file you just saved and upload.
  • (Garmin Connect) Once the GPX file has been imported, edit the activity and upload photos as needed.

More Gaia GPS Tutorials Here

Check out my playlist on other topics related to Gaia GPS and Garmin Devices.


Planning An Urban Hike With Gaia GPS

A great smartphone app for outdoor recreation is Gaia GPS, I tend to use it to record my hiking activities around the urban core or use the downloaded maps when in the backcountry. In this video, I’ll show you some use cases where you can use Gaia GPS with your smartphone while out hiking.

Gaia GPS offers a basic & premium user model. The cost of premium per year is fairly cheap (as of 2020) and after several months of usage (especially living in Canada), premium is well worth it to be able to have access to so many map layers.

0:00 Intro

I still would recommend you taking a dedicated GPS device with you when in the backcountry and have some basic map navigation skills as battery management of your smartphone might be more important if you get into trouble while on the trail.

Scenario 1 – Route planning.

Let’s say that I want to do a hike for a set distance but not sure of my route if I have options, etc.. Using Gaia GPS I can create a Route and mark it out. I can set a starting point, like a parking lot which could be used when going off track and you want to navigate directly back your start.

Scenario 2- Track Recording.

You can record your hike, just like a GPS with Gaia GPS by tapping on the record button to record the track. You can add photos along the way or waypoints. This is a great way to add field data along the route.

Scenario 3- Navigate to a location.

With certain map layers, you can tap areas on a map like trails to get more information or to guide (navigate) yourself to it. This would be the same as with GPS waypoint navigation.

Scenario 4 – Map layers.

Gaia GPS offers dozen of map layers (based on your region) that you can toggle on or off. You have basic map layers or premium map layers. Certain image based map layers can have a transparency to it if you prefer a base layer underneath.

Scenario 5 – Offline Maps.

Another powerful feature of Gaia GPS is being able to download offline maps. Perfect for situations when you are in no service areas. You can select from you map layers which ones you want to download offline or the tiles necessary for a track.

Scenario 6 – Sharing Your Hike.

Once you have your hike done, you can categorize, file and document your hike on the Gaia GPS web site where all Gaia users can view it or you can share your hike with friends or just for yourself. This is a great feature for those who nice Garmin Adventures. In other videos I’ve shown you how you can import GPX tracks from Garmin GPS into Gaia GPS.


How To Export & Share GPS Tracks Using Garmin Explore and GaiaGPS

I’ve been slowly trying to get away from the Garmin eco-system for the last few months. For years now, I’ve been adding tracks to my Garmin basecamp collection but as my personal computer usage goes to more portable devices like a smartphone or tablet (all the content you’ve seen from me in 2020 has come from an iPad Pro) and being attached a computer to manage my tracks or waypoints isn’t the best scenario.

Bye Bye Garmin Basecamp

At one point, I thought that the inReach portal would be the next platform to manage my tracks & waypoints. And certainly I’ve added a lot of tracks recorded from my inReach devices over the last 7 years. But the portal does not appear to be a priority to Garmin and still locks you in pretty tight in the eco-system. So I needed another app to manage my data especially since I’ve been transitioning to new GPS devices and having the all-in-one inReach isn’t an option anymore as I’ve moved to ZOLEO for satellite communication.

Check out The latest GARMIN devices I recommend (as of December 2020).

Overland ERS Helped Me To Discover GaiaGPS

As I was prepping for another season of truck camping with my Kodak Canvas truck tent, I stumbled across a number of overlanders who were using this smartphone/tablet app for their navigation and I decided to check it out.

GaiaGPS is a web, smartphone, tablet portal allowing you to basically do everything except editing gpx tracks on their service. They offer dozens and dozens of map layers, offline mode and track recording. Basically everything I wanted to do either on my phone or tablet. The small fee to gain premium features is worth it.

But now the question was how do I get my Garmin tracks to GaiaGPS?

Garmin Explore Is the Export Tool

Garmin Explore is in my opinion the light version of Garmin Earthmate where it sits on top of the inReach portal. If you don’t have an inReach device, you can still use it with some of their handhelds or watches like Felix, instinct, GPSMAP 66 series and montana among other Outdoor models.

It’s a true pain to get the inReach collections setup for a handheld device and try to force it to not upload activities to Garmin Connect as you need both to get your handheld to pair and sync. Anyway, the point is, once you get your handheld syncing to Garmin Explore, you now have the ability within the app to share (export) a track as GPX file from your smartphone to GaiaGPS (assuming it’s installed on your phone) there tracks imports easily into the app and is saved.

Now you got your track in GaiaGPS, and can easily add photos you took on your phone. The images are snapped along your track with the embedded geotagged information in each photo and you can switch from your phone to your tablet or even desktop computer later to review, refine and share to the larger community.

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