Garmin BaseCamp: guide to the software for planning and organizing your outdoor activities

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Among the many software that I currently use in order to plan our MTB excursions and our bicycle trips, lately, I'm mostly using Garmin BaseCamp, the free cartographic software by the most known company in the outdoor GPS devices. It doesn't matter if you own a Garmin GPS device: Basecamp can be used to create routes for any device. Down below I will try to show you shortly the main feature of this free cartographic software, really intuitive and easy to use.
Garmin BaseCamp: installare e usare il software cartografica lifeintravel.it
Text on the images in this article are in italian, but easy to understand. Anyway if you have questions, just write a commend below!
Instead of trusting one of the numerous online portals helping with the creation of a route from OpenStreetMap data, when I need to plan an MTB excursion or a trip I'd like to use a cartographic software.
Some time ago I wrote a list of software to modify GPS tracks, and among them, I listed the two most used (by myself): Qlandkarte GT and Basecamp. Recently Qlandkarte has been replaced by QMapShack and I didn't want (and didn't have the time) to update and test this new entry. So, between these two software, I use BaseCamp by Garmin, free and intuitive for basic operations.
Down below you will find a short guide to BaseCamp for newbies of the software and for whom wants to plan and organize outdoor activities by bicycle, trekking or other kinds of tracks.

How to download and install BaseCamp

Latest version of Garmin Basecamp has a bug and you cannot upload .img maps to your device. If you prefer, just install 4.6.2 version or install them manually. More info about the bug here.
You can download BaseCamp directly from the official website: there are a Windows and a Mac version of it. I personally use a Windows PC and the guide provides Windows screenshots, but I'm sure that the differences are only a few, especially in the basic features. At the moment I write, the latest version is the 4.7.0. Once downloaded, you will need to open the setup file and proceed with the installation.

How to install OpenMTBmap maps

Once installed you can run the software, but it will be useless if you don't have cartography specific to your needs. I personally find OpenStreetMap maps. The ones I prefer are openmtbmap or velomap. Following the previous link you can find maps for every area (I use the Alps area): download the specific maps for your needs and install them to your PC. If the PC firewall blocks the installation, ignore it and continue the installation. Be sure to close BaseCamp before installing the maps, otherwise, the process will automatically stop. You will be asked to select the layout you prefer: select the MapSource-Qlandkarte GT, for bigger screens. Once the installation is complete, reboot BaseCamp and under the MAPS menu, you will find the list of all the cartography installed. Select the one you want to use and you will be seeing it on screen.
If you need more details, please take a look at the complete guide to installing OpenMTBmap on PC and on Garmin devices.

How to store your tracks

Firstly I suggest proceeding with caution and storage of your routes because if you don't do it from the beginning, it might become really hard to find tracks and routes in your Library. The window where you can find tracks and routes is on the left when you open the software, and that is called Library. Here you can organize your tracks and routes in folders where you can create lists or other folders. Libreria BaseCampEach list might contain tracks, routes and waypoints.
You can see the content of the list in the area just below the library, always on the left.elenco basecamp

Starting with the creation of itineraries in BaseCamp

Let's suppose you want to spend a weekend on Iseo Lake (by the way, did you know that you can rent from us a beautiful apartment right here? Why would I use as an example exactly Lake Iseo?) and you want to create two customized routes with BaseCamp and follow them on your GPS device.
Firstly create the folder"Iseo Lake": in the Library window on the left just select the main folder (it's called My Collection). From "File" select"New">>"List Folder", name it Iseo Lake.cartella elencoInside this folder that just appeared in the Library you can create two Lists ("File">>"New">>"List") corresponding to the two itineraries.Crea elencoIf the first one is an itinerary on Monte Guglielmo (italian with gps track), name the list like this and select it. Now you can start using the tools (Waypoint, Track, Route).strumenti disegno
In order to create a Waypoint, you will only need to select the specific button and move the mouse cursor in the exact point you want to create it, naming it to your needs.
More complex is the question Track/Route: which is the best? Which are the differences?
Without going too deep in details, the main differences are:
  • by creating a track you draw a straight line between points on the map, whereas by creating a route you will use the "auto routing" function that will help you follow the paths and trails already on the map;
By using a route, on some GPS devices, you will be guided visually and vocally along the itinerary.
traccia percorso
Difference between track (blue) and route (pink) from point A to B in BaseCamp
I generally proceed by using the tool "New route" in order to use the auto routing (not always to be trusted especially if there is a discontinuity in trails and maps) and create my itinerary. When I'm done I convert the Route into a Track, in order to load it on my GPS and follow it without navigation in my excursions. Obviously, this is a personal choice: preferences are subjective!
Let's move some steps back: in order to create a route, you will need to click on the specific button. The cursor will transform into a pencil and you will be able to select the starting point of the itinerary. Depending on the path to follow, you will be able to select as many points as you want. To scroll the map just point with the cursor towards the direction you want to move, an arrow will appear and with a click of the mouse, you will move the map. When the last point of your itinerary is selected, use the right click of the mouse to stop the Route, that you will be able to see in the box down to the left in the window. You will be able to name it and transform it from Route to Track (or vice-versa) by right-clicking on its name and select "Create Track from Route" (or vice-versa). Always by right-clicking, you will be able to open the "Invert Track", that could be helpful. With this function, you will invert the way of your track and consequently all the data connected to it (mostly elevation profile related).
proprieta traccia

How to send the track to the GPS device

Garmin BaseCamp is a software that connects perfectly with its company devices, while it hardly interacts with other devices. However, the procedure to load a track/route on your GPS device isn't difficult at all, even saving the file on your computer beforehand and dragging it on the device manually. If you own a Garmin device, you will only need to connect it to your PC. Automatically it will be recognized by BaseCamp and in order to send the track/route to the GPS device, you will only need to select it and click on "Send ['Name'] to Device" from the Device menu in the main toolbar. trasferimento al dispositivo
Alternatively, you can export it ("File">>"Export") in GPX format and load directly to the device directory where the tracks are.esporta file
With this introductive guide to Garmin BaseCamp, I think I have given you the basics about this cartographic software. Like every software, by using it you will learn how to properly play with its functions, so my advice is to spend some time on it in order to study its features: everyone will find something useful for their needs!
If you have doubts or any questions, or you want to give some advice, please don't be shy and write down in the comment section!
Enjoy your trips planning!

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Francesco G

ITA - Ho 33 anni e sono piemontese, anche se da qualche anno vivo e lavoro in Lombardia. Dopo un inizio da totale inesperto in questo campo, mi sono avvicinato al mondo dei cicloviaggi e della bicicletta sempre più. Oggi posso definirmi "cicloviaggiatore", e assieme all'altra mia passione - il videomaking - non mi fermerei mai! Cyclo ergo sum, pedalo quindi sono, per cercare di capire perché andare in bici sia così bello, terapeutico, ricco... E ogni volta che provo a capirlo, non ce la faccio, e sono costretto a ripartire sui pedali!

ENG - I'm from Piedmont and I'm 33 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. Cyclo ergo sum, I cycle therefore I am. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...