The idea behind this page is to create a map showing all of my hikes, especially for when I do a lot of long distance hiking in Canada. Up until recently, I really struggled with finding a free solution that can display information associated with each track e.g. the temperature. Google Fusion tables is the answer, but it is only beta (it could disappear altogether and then I’ll be screwed.)
I have currently only uploaded a few small tracks, but the idea works as planned. Upon clicking a track, it will provide a link to my Garmin Connect profile and information associated with that specific track. If you click the point marker, it shows additional information. The problem lies within trying to display this information. For example, the kml/gpx files associated with this Google Fusion table database can be quite messy e.g. if you upload directly from the Garmin Connect website, you will create a huge mess involving a billion markers where you don’t want them. If you neaten up the files with Google Earth, you might spend a lot of time on each tracklog. What I’ve recently discovered is you can link the track to the Garmin Connect website, thereby preventing the need to extract too much information. I’m not 100% sure how I will finalise this because it depends on what I can stomach to copy and paste. I have tried hundreds of programs and there’s nothing that can fully automate the process.
What I’ve found to be easiest is to export a gpx (not kml) file from the Garmin Connect website or Garmin Basecamp (windows program), import that into Google Earth and remove all but one point (equally you could remove all of the points and just leave the track) and the track. If you leave all of the points, it will look a mess on the map. Then under the description or name, set a hyperlink
<a href="https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1980570946" target="_blank">Welshpool Community Walking - 14-09-2017</a>
The activity number is the same number as the file, so if you have a file titled “111.fit”, the garmin connect link would be: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/111.
Target “_blank” is so that when you click the link, it opens a new window in the browser rather than redirects on the same page.
How the data is recorded
I’ve used a Garmin Fenix 3 and a Garmin Fenix 5x to record my data. The Garmin Fenix 5x is probably the best watch available for creating a map of all your hikes, but there are numerous handheld devices that’re suitable, albeit heavier. You can use your phone but it’ll eat into the battery life. The Delorme Inreach has extensive features for recording tracklogs.
If you’re not familiar with OpenStreetMaps, you’re missing out. It’s not only useful for publishing data but it’s a freely available map for handheld GPS devices, for example you can export maps into a Garmin watch. Using OpenStreetMaps and uploading files to your webserver is arguably the prettiest method to show a map but it’s somewhat problematic due to its data usage. It is simple enough to show a few tracklogs and if you go on holiday for a week or two, you could create a page “My Vacation in Hawaii”, and display a map relevant to said holiday.
You can do something similar with Google maps by going to “my maps” and importing a GPX file on each layer. There are severe limitations with this method. You’re limited to 10 layers and if you think you can circumvent this issue by merging multiple GPX files into one and then uploading that on the one layer, you’d be right–up to a point–but there’s a secondary limitation as well–the maximum file size of a GPX file can only be 5MB. You might hike for 14 hours in a day and you’ll go well past the 5MB file size.
This was created using the google “my maps” page, and it’s easy enough to understand the information. My walks here were very short as my dog came with me, so I was able to include a lot without it going over the data limit.
Google Fusion is arguably (there’s a lot you can do to customise it) the ugliest method but it’s technologically amazing. If I was able to automate some of the process, I could change the icons and pimp it out. It’d be real nice if an app existed for the phone so that I could upload files from my watch to a Google Fusion table, but I don’t know the relevant computer languages.
You can have loooooooads of tracklogs (I have no idea what the limitation is but I’ve tried a 140MB KML file with no troubles) and it works more or less in the same way as Google maps does when displayed on the website. The process towards getting said map to display is hugely different and it’s nothing short of a PITA.
I have a couple of gripes… One is that when you export a GPX file from your own Garmin account, it does not honour the safe zone settings. You can circumvent this by creating a second account and befriending yourself but it’s a hassle.
My second complaint is that I can’t simply open a FIT file in basecamp, convert it to a KML file and upload straight to a Google Fusion table as there’ll be lots of points (imagine drawing a line but instead of drawing a line, you touch the pen up and down so it looks like a dotted mess–that is what you get and it looks awful). Nonetheless, this is pretty fabulous stuff :). Google has quite a few amazing products, and they don’t always advertise things that well I think, but I’m glad I’ve found it.