Tag Archives: how to draw a tracklog

How to trace and save a GPS tracklog online

Fwiw, I do this all on a desktop computer or laptop. It may well be possible on a mouseless smartphone or tablet but would drive me nuts.

Particularly in the desert, these days aerial or satellite imagery from Google Maps and ESRI (Bing, etc – often better than Google) is so good you can spot passing vehicles and whether a road is sealed, a track or even a little used track. This is the sort of age-sensitive information you won’t always get from maps, be they digital or printed.
When planning new off-road routes, I find tracing the probable route in advance helpful for all the obvious reasons. It also gives a good preview of the area and what features I might come across (mineral mines; climbs, gorges, junctions).
Using Google satellite mapping services, tracklogs can be drawn, saved and exported in two ways:
Using Google Earth Pro – no Google account needed but your annotated maps won’t be automatically saved online/in the cloud. I’ve drawn tracklogs using this method in Moroccan hotel rooms prior to setting off along remote tracks (above left), benefitting from the reassurance of knowing a track exists and where the junctions are.
See the images and captions below for more.

Download Google Earth Pro (it’s free).
Either search for your place or zoom in on your start point.
Now choose the Ruler in the top tool bar and then select Path (blanked out above when selected).
With your mouse trace a path over the track you want visible on the ground.
The extent of precision is up to you. When you’ve finished, Save.
The tracklog your drew is saved. Now right-click and choose Save Place As…
It saves as a .kml or .kmz file (same difference, more or less).
You may now need to convert the Google .kml file format to .gpx to import into Garmin satnavs and maybe smartphone/phablet nav apps.
Garmin BaseCamp can do it too, or use a free online converter like GPS Visualizer.
You can now set off to navigate your MYO tracklog.

With a Google account (…@gmail, etc) you can save your routes on a Google ‘My Map‘. It can have as much detail (tracklogs and waypoints) as you like, but Google ‘My Maps‘ are limited to about 10 layers. Layers are a bit like folders (with infinite capacity) and sometimes you have to shift tracklogs or waypoints into a pre-existing layer to free up a new one.
This map can be shared or exported but will be saved online and be viewable/editable wherever you have internet (unlikely in the desert).

Open Google Maps and once signed in, click the Menu top left.
I already have Saved maps. Look for My Places or My Maps and click.
In the sidebar click Maps and Create New.
You can give your map a name and save. Google autosaves every few seconds so long as there is internet.
You may also like to Name your first layer in your map and Save.
To trace a tracklog you need to change the map’s base layer to Satellite.
It looks like this – people often call it ‘Google Earth’ though that’s actually the app above.
If you don’t know where your start point is and it’s waypoint, use Search.
I chose Chenachen base, as close as I’m ever likely to get to this place.
It’s not strictly necessary but click Add to Map to save your searched place as a waypoint.
You can also add and name a waypoint anywhere using the toolbar above (top arrow).
Useful for junctions, I find.
Right-click and you can edit a waypoint’s Icon and Colour for better visibility and classification.
Now, to draw a tracklog along a desert track, click the Draw icon in the toolbar and choose ‘Draw a line or shape‘.
Trace the track with successive mouse clicks. As before, levels of precision are up to you.
Unless you are going cross-country there will be a clear track on the ground.
Click the track’s end point to Save and give your track a name.
Again, you can edit your track’s width and colour to make it more visible on screen.
The contents (waypoints; tracks) of an individual layer can be saved and exported by clicking on the layer’s 3 dots sub menu, choose Export Data and save as KML/KMZ.
Download your kml or kmz to the desktop.
The layer’s data is downloaded as a kml/kmz.
You can also Share your data online in various ways.
If you have saved several layers and tracks, you can save and export the entire built up map as a kml.
Then convert to .gpx as explained above and import into your nav device.
Above, the top red line is the tracklog I traced the night before.
The second red line with an arrow is the ‘live’ or ‘true’ tracklog I am recording.
And the line below is the same track as depicted on a map and which sort of eliminates the need for a tracklog, assuming you trust the map.