GPS / mapping questions
I don't know anything about features of GPS units or topo map software that is out there.
What I'd like to do is be able to make a trail map of trails I visit.
what kind of GPS features are required and what software package is best for this kind of thing here in alaska?
I have a garmin gpsmap 60cs. With no software, I am able to "track" where I have been. I bought a topo software (I can't remember the name, but it is for all of north America and is in a brown case for $100). Now I can have topo maps for the places that I visit. I also carry a paper topo map which I find easier to use for deciding on where to go, what lies ahead, etc. The topo/gps is nice to confirm where you are at. The software (I think the garmin software does this as well) will allow me to save my trip data.
I really like this gps and the software. They don't make my gps anymore, the new one is a gpsmap 60cx (it has an expandable memory storage). I have installed a mount onto my snowmachine dash so I can look at my gps while driving, you can buy bike mounts, vehicle mounts, etc.
Great unit overall.
Just a little bit more info on what you're trying to do...
Do you want to be able to look at the track of the trail you were on when you get home afterward? In other words, look at a map on the computer screen and see the trail?
If so, nearly any GPS will do that. It will save your "track log" as you are on the trail. When you get back, you can download it to your computer and view it as a map overlay. This can be done in many ways with several software options. Even Google Earth can be used for this.
Or, are you looking to draw your trails on a map that you would then be able to look at on the GPS screen while you're out in the woods? This is a much more complex option, so before trying to dive into that, I just wanted to get clarification on what your intentions were.
I actually want to use the GPS device to make an accurate trail map to use with a compass.
I want to look at a map and see the trail on a computer or hardcopy, at a nice scale. ie., 1:24,000 or less is my over all goal.
Ideally, something like what the Chugach State Park service has done:
These are wonderful maps.
When making a route on a GPS device, are there options for it to create a waypoint every 15-20 minutes as I'm walking, or do I have manually make a waypoint everytime?
With mapping software, to make a route/trail are they looking for lat/long coordinates? or something proprietary to GPS devices?
Easy stuff. What you're wanting is simply a "track log". Most GPS units automatically lay down a track log as you are moving. You can specify the interval if you want, but using the automatic mode means that the log points are going to be rather close together and will make a nice trail.
When you get home, you can download the tracklog to your computer and even print it over Topo maps. Garmin's Mapsource software will do all that work for you. You have the ability to pick apart a track log as well to clean it up by deleted points you don't need. Can be rather time consuming if you are talking about 500-1000 points.
So, I'd recommend a mapping Garmin handheld coupled with Garmin's Topo MapSource program as the ideal setup.
I was going to say basically the same thing that JOAT said. I like the Garmin GPS models. I have a 60 model and it does a fantastic job of keeping signal! That will be your biggest challenge in my opinion. If you buy one of the cheaper GPS models tend to lose signal while in a pocket, so when you get home and try and download your track log to your mapping software you end up with dashed lines and all kinds of missing data! I like and use the Garmin software and it is pretty user friendly. If you want higher quality maps then go with the "Nat Geo TOPO!" software. You will have the same tracklog download feature and it prints beautifully! My only gripe is that I don't like the interface for scrolling around while viewing the maps on the puter. Instead of having a hand tool like Google Earth or Mapsource or heck even Adobe pdf viewer, you get scroll arrows at the edge of the screen on all sides or you can repeatedly click different areas to recenter the map. Both options suck! The scrolling is slow and awkward, and the recenter makes the map "jump" to the new spot it doesn't "fly" there. I hope that makes sense... I own both, and if you want the highest quality then you will probably prefer the better Nat Geo maps and just deal with the annoying interface.
Thanks, you guys have been most helpful.