Sharing Tracklogs

While hiking, I often carry along a small GPS device to record my tracks. This is not just useful in case I get lost and need to backtrack, but also allows me to geotag my pictures before uploading them. Plus it can be fun to review a hike in Google Earth. What about sharing tracklogs? This can be valuable when hiking in areas with outdated maps or maps hat don’t have all trails. So I had a look at some of the existing websites for sharing GPS tracklogs — here’s what I found.


Tracklog in Google Earth

TrailRegistry

TrailRegistry appears to be one of the oldest sites for sharing tracklogs. It also has the smartest approach, using a network algorithm to consolidate overlapping tracklogs and remove noise. Unfortunately the site doesn’t appear to have had much effort invested into it since it was set up in 2003.

GPXchange

GPXchange also appears to have been around since about 2003. The interface is similarly lacking and trail coverage isn’t great. No attempt is made to consolidate tracklogs.

GpsXChange.com

GpsXChange.com is a simple forum where people can post tracklogs. Seems to have been around since circa 2006 — like the following sites. Finding a tracklog requires searching the forums e.g. with a trail name. There doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of participation.

Redtrails

Redtrails is based on the trail maps compiled by Northwest Trails, where you can submit tracklogs (and wait for them to be integrated into a consolidated trail map database which is released every month or so). This is by far the most comprehensive set of trails (for Washington State) that I came across.

EveryTrail

EveryTrail is a Web 2.0-ish site where you can share a trip by uploading a tracklog and some pictures. Nice site to browse around, but if you are looking for a specific trail, your chances aren’t to good (unless it happens to be a major tourist attraction). Requires login to download raw tracklogs.

Wikiloc

Similar to EveryTrail. The interface is a bit less cluttered interface but I found only a dozen hiking trails for all of Washington State. Also requires login to download raw tracklogs.

Garmin Connect

The focus of this site seems to be more on keeping track of your fitness than providing hiking trail maps (e.g. it will show additional information such as the heart rate, if recorded), but it has the best interface for looking at tracklogs. There’s a reasonable amount of trails. Exports raw tracklogs in Garmin’s TCX rather than in the standard GPX format.

Trails.com

This site has been around since at least 2000, but they just started experimenting with letting people upload tracklogs. Tracklogs are attached to trail descriptions taken from books. But I couldn’t get this feature to work yet…

(In)conclusion

There is no shortage of options for uploading tracklogs. The ideal site would both store individual tracklogs and aggregate them into consensus trails — while making use of contextual information (How long ago was a tracklog recorded? During what season? Using what device? How reliable is the submitter?). Such as site does not appear to exist at the moment.

I’m not sure I’d bother submitting my (sometimes messy) tracklogs to sites such as TrailRegistry or Northwest Trails. But I do want to make sure that the raw data is available to anyone who wants to crawl it. Hosting the raw files on this blog is an option, but that makes finding the files difficult for anyone but Google. So I’ll probably go with Garmin Connect or Gp(s)XChange.com. Suggestions?

4 Responses to “Sharing Tracklogs”

  1. redtrails Says:

    Redtrails is not based on Northwest Trails, but rather the opposite is more true.

  2. Samat Jain Says:

    For casually sharing GPS tracklogs, I like to use GPSies. It’s very “Web 2.0″-ey, and allows export of tracks to KML, GPX, etc. E.g. see my trekking around southern New Mexico. It’s not particularly easy to find “real” tracks on GPSies, which moves onto my next point…

    How useful is a raw GPS tracklog, by itself, anyway? Often, they contain too much noise (wandering off trail, walking over here and there, etc) to really be useful to other people. What is more useful is a map.

    To that end, I recommend submitting your tracks to OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap does not (yet) coalesce GPS tracks into a “best” route, but it does allow users to trace over tracks to create maps, maps that can be structurally and semantically encoded properly (e.g. you can easily indicate the surface type of a trail), and, best of all, be available to the world with a free and open license (currently CC-BY-SA 2.0, soon to be ODbL).

  3. Eric Jain Says:

    I now use the free Northwest Topo maps a lot, and submit corrections when I notice major discrepancies with the trails on the maps. But I don’t see that as a substitute for publishing the raw tracklogs, which document a trip in detail, including detours I might have had to take (e.g. because a river was too high to cross at the official location), how long it took me to get from one place to another, where I missed a junction and had to backtrack, etc. Also, keep in mind that not all hiking is done on trails (especially in winter).

  4. Dave Heindel Says:

    I appreciate your track logs immensely on Garmin Connect, and intend to follow them often. In fact, I attempted to walk in your footprints last week up Spinnnaker, but turned around before I finished. Thanks so much for posting them and allowing me to “follow you” on Garmin Connect. I’ve just discovered your blog and photos as well. These will be a tremendous help in preparing to “walk in your footsteps”.

Leave a Reply