If you intend to tour this wide brown land you need a quality GPS with good update support. How you update your GPS depends entirely on how your satellite mapping is stored: whether it’s on an SD card, on a PC or Mac and then transferred to your hand-held GPS, or all stored in the GPS unit’s memory.
For example, our Land Rover has in-built navigation that uses Whereis mapping and we update that by buying a new DVD every two years. Whereis maps are vector maps, which are computer drawings. Whereis sells map upgrades for in-built car navigation from its website for about $300 on CD or DVD depending on your car's model. You can also purchase the discs through your local dealer. The depth of coverage on these discs varies according the make or model of your vehicle. If you have this type of system you slot the new
disc into a hard-drive unit in the car, which is usually under the seat or behind the glovebox. If you are not familiar with the maps your vehicle's in-built navigation uses, check with your local dealer.
Maps updates for portable in-car navigation devices (like those made by TomTom or Navman) are typically purchased and downloaded online. Most display vector maps only. All the major brands have their own websites, where dedicated maps for each device are advertised. To install, simply follow the prompts. You can expect to pay
between $100-200+ to upgrade your GPS with maps covering the whole of Australia. The depth of coverage outside of the major cities varies from map to map, and in some cases from device to device. Map files are large: a set of Australian maps range from 100MB to over a GB in size so you need a good internet connection to download them, and enough memory (or a compatible memory card) to install them on your device. Some brands sell DVDs and memory cards online.
When we go bush we need good mapping coverage. We take our laptop computer, which has 30GB+ of mapping stored on its hard drive. Many of these are detailed raster maps - essentially image files - which look like traditional paper maps. Using OziExplorer software and a CoPilot GPS antenna we can access any one of hundreds of Geoscience raster maps that cover all of Australia in a scale of 1:250,000 ($99 plus postage). We also have raster maps in a scale 1:50,000 for all of NSW. We update these maps by buying new DVDs at regular intervals.
Our backup satnav unit is the new Hema Navigator 5, which has current 4WD Nav OziExplorer and Topo Nav raster maps and the Route 66 street directory. This is the next generation Hema Maps navigator with big improvements from our original Hema Navigator, which we used to update by sourcing replacement SD cards from the Hema Map’s website.
WHAT ABOUT MY OLD GPS?
If you want to download mapping updates for older GPS units or for mapping stored on your PC or Mac the job can be quite complicated.
For example, our old GPS unit could read raster files, but only accepted 64MB SD memory cards. We used to update mapping in the Magellan DiscoverAus Streets and Tracks software and store it in regional .img files we created, keeping the files at less than 16MB each. That way we could transfer up to four files to each 64MB SD card, depending on where we wanted to go. This process was tricky, but manageable, thanks to help from the GPS Oz website.
THE CHANGING SCENE
There are new GPS products and mapping packages launched almost weekly, so keeping up with them all is difficult. One of the most impressive new downloadable products is Garmin’s BaseCamp which is a 3D mapping application that allows you to transfer Garmin Custom Maps, BirdsEye imagery, waypoints, tracks and routes between your PC or Mac and Garmin GPS. The topographic Garmin maps incorporate digital elevation model (DEM) data and include Topo Australia.
GPS Motion-X is a free iPhone application that allows you to track routes and import web maps but also allows you to take photos while giving them latitude and longitude locations.
Our captive mapping guru, Peter Davis, of World Mapman Solutions, is impressed with the growing number of mapping and navigation applications available for iPhone and the turn-by-turn navigation systems available for all types of mobile phones.
We’ve also heard rumours of a one-stop-shop website for map downloads, so watch this space!
- Allan Whiting.