We take a look at some of the GPS and route planning devices that are available to help plan your trip. It’s rather useful and makes navigation a lot easier.

Firstly though, a brief history. GPS stands for GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM. It’s the only one in the world that’s fully functional. It belongs to the US Government and the US Air Force; and is managed by the US Air Force Space Command! There are 32 Satellites, with 31 in orbit at any time. Without going into far too much detail about Cartesian Co-ordinates, TOA’s, TOT’s and TOF’s, it can tell you where you are to within an average of 5m accuracy, pretty much anywhere in the world.

These days, pretty much everyone has a Smartphone or a Tablet. All Smartphones and most Tablets have a GPS location device. It’s useful for so much more than just knowing where you are, that it’s become an essential part of the device. Most Laptops also have one, or the ability, if fitted with a simple USB aerial and with a quick software download, to run one.

With any of the three electronic items mentioned above, the world is your oyster as to what software or App you can run. It’s a personal choice. Most are US based, then world expanded. Sadly as far as I am aware at the moment there are no decent ones available with free UK mapping on View Ranger and Memory Map are the most popular systems. They have easy to download maps in both 1:50k and 1:25k. They are very accurate, simple to use and easy to download. It’s not cheap, but does regularly do deals on UK bundles.

As a GPS locator simply locates your position and then, via the medium of software, places your position on a screen overlaid with a map of some kind.

Alternatively, go simple. There are these paper things called maps – OS do them. Buy a cheap locator that gives you map references and then plot your route on paper. It’s almost like proper map reading, but without the hard work and the mistakes!

It’s worth having a very serious think about what you are going to use to do all this on. Unless you are young and benefit from eyesight better than the average Kestrel, using a Smartphone just doesn’t work. Tablets are much better, but for those of us in our late middle age and denying varifocals, I would suggest a nice big screen.

It’s also quite fun to have multiple machines – a laptop, tablet, back up eTrek style hand held device and a phone – all running different programmes/apps. This is particularly useful on a tricky ‘lane, where a pleasant and affable local land owner is discussing your right of passage. Not only does it make you appear to know what you are doing, but it gives a relatively useful basis for a constructive defence.

The ability to ‘save’ a route came about because if you took a wrong turn on proper cross country ‘off road’ navigation, you could back track over the route. Now, of course, you can easily save the route or routes, overlaying each route in different colours, waymark by simply pressing a button, saving it all to file on an SD or MicroSD card, then download it at home, onto your desk top, ready for the next foray….