I am a self-confessed GPS aficionado. Didn’t care for GPS for years on ground of having a very good map reading wife by my side, but one day, we started using Google Navigation in the car. We upgraded to a entry-level Tom-tom (on grounds of the more accurate GPS unit and no need for data connection), and I am now walking the surface of this planet with a Garmin eTrex 30 mobile GPS unit in hand.
I love it, and hate everything that comes with it or, more to the point, hate everything that fails to come with it.
Garmin assumes users already know all about GPS navigation. For example, they do not consider details such as the difference between a route and a track worth explaining. The Garmin software didn’t find my approval, and I am delighted to find a selection of independent offerings. At some point, I thought I had found my home in http://www.outdooractive.com/en/, until I discovered that their exported routes are actually tracks.
So, what is a route, what is a track?
A route is a set of waypoints between start and end of a journey. The waypoints help the routing system to choose between alternative routes, and offer milestones for the trip. The point is that the GPS navigation system finds its own way from one waypoint to the other, and it can guide you along the way: turn right in 50 meters, make a u-turn when possible, take the 3rd exit.
A track, by contrast, is a very dense collection of waypoints. The system can draw a line from one waypoint to the other, and it can show you where you are relative to the track, but it cannot guide you along the track or back onto the track if you lost it.
A track is a record of where you (or where somebody else) has been in the past, a route is a navigable instruction for future trips.
The closest I could find is the well-made http://www.bikehike.co.uk/mapview.php site. Ignore the mediocre Ordinance Survey map display and plan your route with Google maps, and then export a route. This actually exports a route, not a track. This route will have way too many waypoints however. The GPS device only handles a few waypoints per route. You can ask the software to cut the number of waypoints. It’s just too bad that one cannot decide which waypoint enters the exported route; this is the result of an algorithm over which the user has no control.
I enjoy exploring all this free software, but would absolutely love to pay a reasonable price for a good route planning software for hiking and cycling. Frustratingly such software doesn’t seem to exist. Suggestions, anyone?