Converting Google Earth KML files To Other Mapping Formats

Here's a tutorial on how to convert the tracks you can download here to other mapping formats, including Garmin. It's actually very easy to do, with the right tool.

To get the right tool, go to www.GPSbabel.org and download the GPSbabel tool. Just follow the "downloads" link on the left hand side. Pick the file for your computer, DMG for Mac or Zip for Windows, and download to your computer.

Oh, and if you share my inability to spell, it's GPSbabel, not GPSbable.

There are too many variables for me to describe exactly how to install in every possible situation, but if you're running WinXP or OSX, you should just be able to double-click the downloaded file, then go into the folder that opens and double-click the application. If this doesn't work, then I suggest you back up and read the documentation on the GPSbabel site. If you still have install problems then leave a comment with your particulars and I'll try to help.

GPSbabel converts tracks and waypoints between mapping formats, lots and lots of different formats. Think babel-fish in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, but then if you understand this reference you're probably so much of a geek that you don't need this tutorial :)

Anyway, with GPSbabel running, just pick the file format you want to start with, browse to the actual file, pick the file format you want to finish with, and hit "Save File" - that's it. Oh, don't forget to pick what you wanted translated: points, tracks, or routes. Supposedly, it can even send and receive files directly to many different GPS receivers, though I've not tried this.

Personally, I use an older less-crippled lite version of OziExplorer for communication with my GPS. I have Garmin's Mapsource but I never use it for tracks or waypoints, basically because it's pretty substandard compared with Ozi. I recognise that many people don't use Ozi so I'm also converting and uploading to Google Earth KML format.

So, to use the tracks I have available for download:
  1. Follow the blog links here to get to the KML files.
  2. Download the file. If you use IE (which I don't recommend) you will have to right-click on the KML file and choose "save target as."
  3. If you have Google Earth installed (which I do recommend) you can then double-click on the downloaded KML file and it should open in Google Earth.
  4. If the track looks interesting to you, then continue through with the conversion.
  5. Start GPSbabel.
  6. Browse to the KML file. It should automatically change the input file type to Google Earth.
  7. Choose your output type or just select your GPS receiver.
  8. Either hit "Save File" or "Send GPS", depending on what you selected.
And that's it.

If you have any questions about this then leave a comment. I'll do my best to help out,


Download links: GPSbabel, OziExplorer, Google Earth

NOTE: the KML track problem should be fixed (Thanks to David for pointing this out)


More Vancouver Island Tracks for Download


I've posted another couple of tracks for download, both in Google Earth KML and OziExplorer PLT:

  • All the major powerline routes on Vancouver Island.
    A detailed description is HERE.
    The track is HERE.

  • A bush camping spot on the San Juan river, near Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island.
    A detailed description is HERE.
    The track is HERE.
Enjoy, and don't forget to leave some feedback if you download a track... I'm starting to wonder if I'm doing all this but nobody really wants to know.



Route: Renfrew to Skutz Falls

Here's a section of the VMC 2006 Canada Day Dualsport race. It goes from Port Renfrew up to Skutz Falls. Parts of it are active logging road, even on Sundays, so be careful. Other parts include some really nice sections of single track.

All in all, it make a good back-route dualsport connector between the Sooke-Renfrew and the Cowichan Lake areas. There's a main road you can follow instead - but it's basically improved gravel - pretty boring on a dualsport, in my opinion.

You can download the tracks in Google Earth or OziExplorer formats HERE.

More tracks are available HERE.