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


Garmin Updates Instinct 2 To Bring In-Line with Fitness Watches

Garmin published an update to the Instinct 2 series and a Instinct 2 dezl version for professional truck drivers. Priced between $449.99 – $649.99CAD, this updated version is slightly less than the original but packs more features and variety that will give an excuse for those who wanted a more tactical looking watch on their wrist rather than a running or fitness watch for specific feature omitted from the original version.

The updated adventure watch now comes in two sizes: 40mm or 45mm bezel with many Color options such as Electric Lime, Poppy and Neo-Tropic as opposed to the limited and tactical focused Color’s introduced in the original version.

The Instinct 2 also comes with a solar edition which will extend the battery life of the watch what Garmin described as “unlimited battery life”. The non-solar version of the Instinct has improved battery life up to four weeks and 14 days of normal usage. 

The New Features That Are Big Deals

The biggest improved in the Garmin Instinct 2 is the addition of the Garmin Connect IQ store. This will allow you to download watch faces, apps, data fields and other customized apps.

Fitness apps found on the Vivoactive and Forerunner watches can now be found on the Garmin Instinct 2. This bring the watch closer inline with the features and function as the other smartwatches offered by Garmin.

The Garmin Instinct 2 is also available in specific purpose-build editions with dedicated features: 

  • Surf Edition – dedicated apps for surf, windsurfing , kiteboarding and tide times. Only available as non-solar
  • Tactical Edition – dedicated features like Kill Switch, Stealth mode, Nigh vision goggles, dual format coordinates and jump master activity mode.
  • Camp Edition – graphite or mist camo patterns.

First Impression Of the Garmin Instinct 2

This is a huge update for the Instinct series. I personally felt odd that when I had the original version, the limitations it had made it a less flashed out watch as compared to the Vivoactive 3, Forerunners and Apple Watches at the time. With the addition of all of the fitness/health features, the Connect IQ store and multiple variations; Garmin has an option for those who like the tactical look of the Instinct but wants all the functions you’d expect from Garmin other smartwatches in this price point for those who do not want or don’t want to spend for the pricer fenix offering.


Garmin Releases inReach mini 2 For Satellite Communication

Garmin announced the updated version of the inReach mini 2 for satellite communication and emergency SOS response. 

The price of the updated mini 2 is now USD 399.99 while the previous version was USD 349.99.

Other differences with the previous inReach mini are:

  • Improved display 176×176 pixels vs 128 x 128 pixels
  • Vastly improved battery life up to 14 days at 10-minute interval tracking; up to 4 days with moderate tree cover
  • USB-C connection port
  • Waypoints: 1000 vs 500
  • Courses: 100
  • Activities: 200
  • Satellite networks support: Galileo, QZSS
  • electronic compass
  • Garmin Explore & Pilot app compatible
  • Trackback navigation

Apart from those new features and functions, you still have the same features as in the current inReach mini such as weather, point-to-point navigation, interactive SOS with GEOS, sending text & email messages and mapshare sharing.

Battery Life and the Different modes

The biggest draw with the inReach mini is the now power options which will keep it up with their main competitor ZOLEO. By adjusting the interval tracking interval you can extend tracking between 14 and 30 days based on your view of the sky. This certainly will fit some who like me, have their satellite communicator in their vehicle or pack for extended periods. When I remember to plug in the USB port for charging, it still keeps a charge for multiple days. This is a benefit for those who get diverted off their path or unable to proceed knowing that help either via messaging or SOS can take a while by the remote location. IN all this is a plus.

Situational Awareness

This feature to me looks like when the original inReach Explorer came out where it added an electronic compass and second track log; the detailed log. This track log acted more like your traditional GPS track recording while the interval tracking was mainly to send your location to mapshare. The main feature here is the tracBack where it will give you the return path back to start. This was a useful feature and glad to see it crammed into the mini. Keep in mind though that you don’t get maps on the device. You’ll be operating the track like GPS from 2005.

The End of Earthmate

Not surprising is seeing that the device only supports Garmin Explore and not the legacy Erathmate. Will we see in 2022 the first back update for the Garmin Explore portal since the Delorme acquisition? I hope so. With support for Basecamp ending, we will see the push to get comfortable working with Garmin Explore. But first, they need to greatly improve the user experience. Garmin Explore is still very limited beyond the storage of your device data either inReach or compatible GPS devices. 

However as seen on the Tread app, there are many new features on the smartphone app to allow you to do a lot of route planning and map viewing.


You may have missed this news at the end of 2020 but Garmin acquired the satellite monitoring service GEOS. Now inReach SOS messages will go to the Garmin International Emergency Response Coordination Center. There should not be any difference, the main question is what about all the other satellite devices that used GEOS?

Service Plans

I’ll be updating my Service Plan pricing table from my main ZOLEO article, this will give a good comparison with the devices.


Garmin Adds To Tread Lineup With Overland Editions

Announced during CES this week, Garmin will be releasing later this month two additional models to the Tread lineup focused on side by side and over landing.

The Garmin Tread SxS Edition will feature an 8 inch screen and the Garmin Tread Overlander XL will feature a 10 inch display.

These new models will feature the same features found in the Base Edition with the following features not found on the Base Edition:

  • InReach Built in (cannot pair to other devices such as inRead mini) – subscription required for inReach functions
  • 1.5 inch ball adapter with AMPS plate
  • 10 Hz multi-GNSS positioning
  • Preloaded private land parcels greater than 4 acres
  • Preloaded USFS roads & trails
  • Not compatible with the BC 40 wireless camera
  • Motorcycle features (Glove friendly touch screen)
  • RV Features for route planning
  • group radio built in (SxS edition)

The Tread smartphone app gets a big updates (available as of January 5 2022). You now have the following new features:

  • Have same Map layers as on the Tread device
  • Route planning this will sync to your device
  • Group ride mobile (use cell signal to track other Tread users on the Tread app) has the units being available on January 31, 2022. Usually we see a slight delay of a few weeks or a month.

Accessories for these new devices include a new group radio kit for the Overland edition, Garmin Powerswitch and external inReach & GPS antenna.

The price will not be cheap as the units will start at $1699.99 and $1949.99 CAD

You can check out the functions across all models in the Tread series here in our how-to section


Transfer Data from Garmin Basecamp to Garmin Explore

If you are using Garmin BaseCamp to plan your next adventure, you might be interested in adding data from it to Garmin Explore. This blog post talks about how to do this with an easy workaround that is sure to increase productivity!

Garmin Basecamp Support Ended in 2018

With the release of BaseCamp version 2018.40, support for Garmin Basecamp has ended. This means that any Garmin basecamp files you have saved on your computer might no longer be able to sync with Garmin explore or Garmin connect. Because of this, transferring data from Garmin basecamp becomes extremely important!

The simple workaround for this is to migrate your data from basecamp to Garmin Explore, the web portal used by inReach and Outdoor GPS devices such as GPSMAP 66, Montana 700, and Tread. To do this, Garmin basecamp users should follow the steps below.

Transferring from Garmin Basecamp to Garmin Explore

To transfer your data from Garmin basecamp, you must first go to Garmin BaseCamp and simply select “My Collections” and click on “File” > “Export My Collections”. From there, choose GPX as the file type.

If you have a large library of data, you might want to export by waypoint, routes, tracks as individual data sets. You won’t be able to export geocoded images, birdseye imagery, or Garmin adventures.

Setting Up Garmin Explore

Garmin Explore is a web-based tool that allows you to sync your GPS data with outdoor-based GPS devices. This is built off the inReach portal, so you may not see all the same features if you are using a Montana or GPSMAP 66.

With the recent addition of the Garmin Tread off-road GPS device, Garmin Explore is now embedded in the device. This means that you don’t need to sync your Explore collections, all you need is your smartphone data services to view the Explore content on the Garmin device. Older devices will still need to sync a collection via the Garmin Explore smartphone app.

From the MAP tab, you just need to create a new “Collection” this is where we will group our Basecamp data. All the data is structured similar to Basecamp where you have your “Library” and then create collections or filters to view data sets. So in this case, we will create a new collection called “Basecamp Archive” where we will import our exported files and associate them to the collection.

Once you have created your collection, it is time to import the data. Select “Import” and choose which format or file you would like to upload into Garmin explore (Tracks / Routes). I will use Tracks in this example but note that Routes files do not allow for additional detail, so I would avoid using this.

When I did my import, I’ve noticed the following issues as of January 2022:

  • Waypoints are limited to 500 per upload
  • Can only upload one file at a time
  • Files larger than 50MB may be rejected.
  • Waypoint icons specified in Basecamp does not carry over

I would recommend breaking up your Basecamp export into smaller files are indicated above. Another big issue is if you’ve spent time adjusting the icon for each waypoint, you will need to start over again once the file is imported. This is a major flaw that I hope Garmin addresses to encourage the adoption of Garmin Explore.

Ready To Sync To Your Devices?

Once you have imported your data, it is ready to be synced to your devices. You can either use the Garmin Explore website or app to do this. If you are using the Garin Tread device, then you just need the Tread smartphone app to allow connectivity to your Garmin Explore account.

Other Ways To Export Your GPS Data


How Does Iridium Satellite Communications Work When Using the Garmin inReach and Zoleo for Communicating With Family and Friends

With the increase in popularity of outdoor activities, Garmin and Zoleo have made it easier to stay connected with friends and family. Satellite communication devices like the Garmin inReach mini and embedded products and Zoleo Satellite communicator can now send text messages, GPS locations, SOS alerts for emergencies, as well as tracking data from these devices back home to those who are concerned about them. However, there is a lot that goes into satellite communications technology before this type of device works properly. This blog post will outline how Iridium satellite communications work when using these types of devices so you can make an educated decision on whether or not they’re right for you!

Iridium Satellite Network

First thing is to know about the Iridium satellite network. The Iridium satellite constellation is a network of 66 low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites. These satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 48 degrees north and south latitude, which means they are able to provide service to two-thirds of the globe. This also includes much of the polar regions where other satellite networks do not have coverage. This means that you can use satellite phone or text devices that use the Iridium network to communicate from anywhere around the globe except for these location:

  • The poles
  • Underwater
  • Inside a building or cave

The Iridium satellite network was designed for use in the most extreme environments and is the only satellite network that has coverage over both the North and South Poles. This also makes it an ideal choice for marine applications as well as other outdoor activities where cell phone service is limited or non-existent.

Obviously when using a satellite communication tool, your device needs a clear line of sight to the sky. Garmin InReach and ZOLO satellite devices both use the Iridium network.

For an emergency it is a great tool to have when you need help. This device allows you also both tracking and navigation even in remote areas, which makes this tools a must for hikers, climbers or mountain bikers that venture into the wilderness alone.

Another interesting feature worth mentioning of these devices is that they can be paired with your smartphone.

What Happens when you trigger a SOS?

Your emergency contacts will receive an email or text message with your GPS coordinates and a link to a tracking page where they can see your location in real-time. They will also be able to communicate with you through the two-way texting capability of the device. And, if help is on the way, they can follow your progress until you are in safety.

GEOS is the main emergency response monitoring service found on both Garmin inReach and ZOLEO. They have a team of highly trained professionals who are available 24/365 to coordinate emergency responders in your area.

If you’re ever lost, injured, or stranded and need assistance from GEOS, just push the SOS button on your device and help will be on the way.

Remember that an activated SOS is not only going to notify your emergency contacts, but GOES will also triage down to the local authorities.

Getting Weather Forecasts From inReach and ZOLEO

Both inReach and ZOLEO offer weather forecasts provided by DarkSky.

DarkSky is a weather forecasting service that provides hyper-localized forecasts for specific locations.

Their entire forecast system operates on an algorithm which calculates the local temperature, humidity levels, wind speeds and direction, pressure readings from multiple sources (including NOAA), cloud coverage percentages throughout the day, precipitation amounts/type over time as well as sun rise and an outlook over 3 to 5 days. DarkSky was purchased by Apple a dew years ago so it remains to be seen if they will continue to provide access to the API.

Sharing your location while hiking

Another feature of these devices is to allow your friends or family to track your progress by viewing your position on a map. This is done by sending an “I’m OK” message from the device which will include your location coordinates. You can also share your location with specific contacts for a period of time, or indefinitely. This can be helpful if you want someone to know where you are in case of an emergency.

Check Out Our Tutorials

Want to know more about inReach or ZOLEO? Just watch our short how-to tutorials.


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.


Garmin inReach versus ZOLEO Messaging Types

In this video, I’ll expand on a question I got recently which was if it was possible to send messages from a Garmin inReach to a ZOLEO satellite messenger? The answer is yes, but in this video I’ll expand on this to send messages between both devices and see the differences when sending SMS, email and app to app messages.

I’ll be using the Earthmate app with a Garmin Explorer+ and the ZOLEO messaging app on an iPhone. You’ll be able to do the same using an Android phone.



Both devices uses the iridium satellite network for sending messages. The ZOLEO has the added benefit of being able to send and receive messages when your paired smartphone or tablet has access to cellular or wifi. Meaning that when they are available messages sent doesn’t count against your service plan as opposed to inReach where all messages are sent via the iridium satellites.


This is the most basic type of message that both inReach and ZOLEO supports over the iridium network. Both will send messages up to 160 characters in length. Sending a SMS to your ZOLEO is easy as each activated devices is given a DEDICATED SMS number. inReach recycles SMS numbers, so it is hard to initiate a message to an inReach without having the inReach user send the person a message first and then reply to that message thread.


The next type of message available on both inReach and ZOLEO is sending a message to an email address. inReach agains caps the message length to 160 characters while ZOLEO offers over 200 characters. inReach has this message type hobbled as it directs the email message via a no-reply email address and the receiver of the message cannot reply unless they go to a webpage. ZOLEO on the other hand can send emails to any email address and users can reply back and forth just like any other client because ZOLEO also gives you a DEDICATED EMAIL address for each activated device.


Both inReach and ZOLEO users can send internal messages to themselves. inReach users are given an internal email address which must be shared. Again 160 characters length messages for this type. ZOLEO offers over 1000 characters for internal messages and the ability to send messages to users who don’t own a ZOLEO device. Simply get people to download the ZOLEO messaging app just like any messaging app and you’ll be able to send these extra long messages. ZOLEO knows if a SMS number is also registered using the ZOLEO app and will change the character length on the fly from 160 to over 1000.


An un-official message type is weather forecast, both provided by DARK SKY (purchased by Apple in 2019). inReach can request weather from multiple location, while ZOLEO only has the single location. However ZOLEO can request free weather when cellular & Wifi is available. inReach can only get weather via satellites.


Both inReach and ZOLEO can do Check-in and SOS from the device or the smartphone app. SOS monitoring is performed by GEOS (purchased by Garmin in 2021) for both inReach and ZOLEO.


How To Add Property Boundaries On Your Garmin GPS

I helped a local historical society by getting approximate Property or Parcel boundaries onto their Garmin GPS. Imagine that the last time the property and parcels were surveyed in the early 1800’s and you wanted the boundaries onto your GPS so that you can get an idea of the area before you get a professional to come in and update the survey data.

We could use an image overlay but that would not be very accurate. One thing that we did have are the parcel ID from the local land registry. So we can leverage the free data from our local government and create an area or polygon to display on our GPS.

This would be very similar if you were calculating the area of a property using a GPS but in this case we are not sure of the boundaries and want an approximate area.

Luckily, I checked both my local and nearby jurisdictions and found that the odds of finding free GIS resources is pretty good. Bare in mind, this is approximate info.

Most Land Registry Has GIS Data For Free

What we ended up doing is seeing on the map the parcel boundary and we extracted GPS coordinates of each corner of the property box. In my situation, I had to manually do this, but depending on where you are you might be able to download for free.

Once you have all the waypoints collected, you can then move to your mapping program of choice like Garmin Basecamp or GaiaGPS since I can do this on either a tablet, smartphone or desktop. I used the app to manually enter the coordinates and then created an area on the desktop where each point was at each of the saved waypoints.

Then once the areas were created, I exported it as a GPX file and either copied it to a SD card or imported in into Garmin Explore to later sync to my device.

Last thing once the files are on the GPS is to go into your saved tracks or track manager and toggle their visibility so that they are visible on the map. Now you are ready to walk around the property and view on the GPS the boundaries.

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