How to make GPS maps

I was going to write up a little bit on how to use the various free mapping tools to create custom maps, both uploaded to a GPS unit and downloaded to Google Earth. But, in my research I came across this PDF: GPS-GIS toolkit for the general public. It was written by Pierre Sauvé, of National Resources Canada and is the most fantastic, wonderful, condensed summary of what's currently out there that I've ever seen. I hate to say it, but I love my government.

For a while, I wasn't sure which way the Canadian government was going to go with all its GIS data. Stuff was available for free one day, then being sold the next, then back to free. I don't know what was going on in the background, but it looks like the Free side has won the day. It looks like a complete rout actually, with people like Mr Sauvé producing a guide on how to do just about anything you want with any Canadian government data. It's truly beautiful to see.

Not only does his document provide links to many free tools, including:

He gives a brief overview of how to use them to do stuff like:
  • Plan a trip using Google Earth
  • View your GPS data in Google Earth
  • Georeference your photos
  • Get your geospatial data into Google Earth
  • Google Earth overlays via WMS
  • The NMEA data format
  • Free geospatial data from NRCan
  • From shapefile to Google Earth and GPS
  • Map Gallery
And, my personal quest at the moment:
  • Customize your Garmin receiver maps with your own routes and points, not as routes and waypoints, but as overlay maps.

I will mention a couple of other resources that are not on his list: Quantum GIS, an Open Source mapping program that allows you to see all that wonderful free GIS data that NRCan is putting out, and Ibycus, by Dale Atkin, who has taken all that free topo data and made a near-complete Garmin mapset of Canada, more current that Garmin's Mapsource Topo Canada, and is giving it away as a free (by donation) download.

With a little help from our wonderful, productive Canadian government and an active collection of people providing amazing tools and data synthesis, the path to digital mapping resources is becoming clear for us average users.

I just wanted to say "Thank You" as publicly as I could.


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