April 13th, 2005, 18:10
GPS base maps are now available for Baja California
GPS Mapping for Your Baja Adventure
GPS base maps are now available for Baja California
Most Baja travelers are aware what GPS is and how important it is in knowing exactly where you are. With the large selection of paper maps available and a GPS to provide you with your exact location, chances of becoming dangerously lost are dwindling. Until now trip planning with a GPS was an important, but tedious part of the Baja adventure. It just became easier.
Now you can load a Baja map directly on your GPS. You can also track your progress, leave map markers (waypoints) and even download trip info to or from your PC. Or you can use the GPS map on your PC. While GPS maps have been available for the United States for some time, they have been unavailable for Baja until now. The cost of gathering the map information to produce a GPS map had been prohibitive. New advances in software technology have given a new light to the Baja GPS traveler.
Larry Buck, owner of LBMaps.com, is a long time Baja traveler and a fervent hobbyist. Larry has built sport aircraft, sail boats and even his Baja exploration vehicle. Now, Larry has turned his attention to mapping Baja. His complied maps of the Baja peninsula that work with any Garmin GPS product that uses MapSource™ Software. We thought this product could be useful to our Insider Readers, so we interviewed Larry about his Baja map product.
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BajaInsider: I have purchased GPS maps myself and know the pricing is usually much higher than the $26 you charge for your map. What changed in the industry that has allowed people like yourself to compete with the big map companies?
LBMaps: Mainly, the advances in the standardization of data forms and types. As data becomes more available because of standardization and consequently more programs are developed to work with the data. The actual map files we provide can only be read by the program that is supplied by the GPS manufacturer. In Garmin's case this is a program called MapSource™. Our files are installed onto a PC and then the MapSource™ program can open the map. The larger screenshots are of MapSource showing my Baja map opened. You can then choose to upload the map to your Garmin GPS using MapSource. The smaller screenshots are the GPS showing my map loaded.
BajaInsider: These maps are specifically for Garmin, can other use them?
LBMaps: At this time my maps are for Garmin only. But the Bicimapas maps on my site are also available for Magellan.
BajaInsider: First Larry, can you tell us what the product is and how our readers might find it useful.
Larry Buck of LBMaps: I am the only one I know of that offers a Baja Vector map that can be loaded onto a Garmin GPS receiver for direct navigation. Well, actually, there is one other, but the quality is very poor and it is not being updated.
I believe the technology and low cost of a GPS and maps makes it available to off-roaders, bicyclists, hikers, RVers and just about everyone with an interest in Baja. On the business side, these maps can be useful to real estate agents, ranchers and travel companies.
These base maps can be viewed on the computer or uploaded to your hand held Garmin GPS. You can save your adventure tracks and even import new track from other users. Also, when you purchase a map package purchase from us, you receive free updates as they become available for one year.
There are two types of maps available to GPS and laptop interface users; Raster and Vector maps. Many marine users are familiar with Raster maps, they look like the paper charts with which they are already familiar. Raster maps are much larger files and appear as an images to the computer. They cannot be searched or zoomed beyond the resolution of the original map. Vector maps save the map information as data rather than images, that can be interpreted and searched by the GPS’s computer.
BajaInsider: This project must stem from a love of Baja. How did you develop your interest in exploring Baja?
LBMaps: After a typical Cabo trip in the early 90's my wife and I decided there just had to be more to Baja than Cabo. The next winter we found an old motor home, something we could just leave on the side of the road and fly home if worst came to worst, and a month later were on our way south with our two kids and a dog. What an adventure. We have since made six return trips driving and about ten flying. We now own a small place in the heart of Los Barriles. We don't fish or windsurf so people are always asking what brought us to Los Barriles. "Just Baja fever I guess".
Anyway, we first navigated the usual way, paper map, a few guide books and butterflies in our stomachs. "I wonder where that little road goes?", "Where the heck is that turn off to Coyote Beach anyway?", "Dang! Was that the turn we were supposed to make?"
BajaInsider: How detailed to these maps get? I do a lot of hiking. Would they be of benefit to me?
LBMaps: Absolutely, although the maps may not be as detailed as a 7° topo map, they provide more than enough detail for charting your progress and position. The best part is you can always know where on the map you are and have been and how to get to the trailhead by following your track.
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Here is a screenshot of my map in MapSource, which is the PC viewing software from Garmin. It can be zoomed down until all you can see is a single line but this shot shows the maximum detail. Let’s compare apples to apples, remember this is a map of the entire Baja peninsula. Find me a paper map of the entire peninsula with this much detail on it. This is the real beauty of a GPS map. You can zoom in or out as needed. I guarantee you no matter how much detail the map has, it always needs a little more.
BajaInsider: The small images are what you actually see on your GPS screen. What brand of GPS are your screen shots on?
LBMaps: I use a Garmin 76CS, which retails for around $450 USD on my site through Amazon. This one has a 256 color screen, but less intricate models are available that will work with these maps. You can get the price down to close to $300
BajaInsider: Do they show facilities, like gas stations and campsites?
LBMaps: We show a few. We are adding details all the time. Our goal is to have the Pemex's, restaurants, camping areas, of course the list is endless as to what can be added. When customers purchase our map software they also receive free updates for one year.
BajaInsider: Are they of any use to mariners? I know that is often a separate package.
As long as you stick to Mex-1 it's pretty easy to find stuff. It's when you want to do a little adventuring that things seem to change. I had been flying for a hobby for the past 15 years so have come to rely on GPS for more than just entertainment. I no longer fly but do a lot of off-road motorcycle riding/exploring and find that GPS adds a complete new dimension to off-road exploring whether on motorcycles, 4x4s, horseback or foot. Leaving a track, or breadcrumbs as they are sometimes called, on your GPS screen so that you can easily follow it back is just the beginning. Sharing these tracks and destinations with others is where it's at.
After a while, managing all your tracks and points become overwhelming and you just want a map on your GPS with everything on it. Well that's easier said than done. Until recently, GPS vector maps were only available from the GPS manufacturers, due to the huge task of gathering and verifying the data. All the manufacturers each have their own maps and none are compatible with the others. And the manufactures kept their focus on more profitable, primary markets
Primary markets are of course the US, so that is where the big companies have focused. New software now makes it possible for someone other than the big GPS companies to write vector maps. Not to say it's easy.
BajaInsider: So, this is where you come in? You are not just a reseller then, you actually compile these maps.
LBMaps: That’s correct. I started out developing this map about a year ago because there is nothing available geared directly to the Baja traveler/explorer. Gathering all the information is the time consuming but fun part. I and two other people I know of are now gathering the information and compiling maps for Baja. The other two map authors are using solely government data to produce their maps. The Mexican government is not nearly as free with their data as Uncle Sam is. My maps use government data, plus satellite imaging for verification, and actual data gathered from users and me. As you might expect, mine is an on going project and continues to have current data added and verified. My map and the maps by Bicimamas of Mexico are both available on my site. I am now working to be able to provide the third author's map on my site.
LBMaps: Our maps do not have marine detail. However specific marine maps are available that work with the Garmin system.
BajaInsider: I see you have also modified your classic motor home for Baja. Tell us a bit about your ride…
LBMaps: Well, it’s a 72 Chinook/Cummins Conversion. I found it in a barn, where it had been since the late 70’s. We updated the interior and replaced the 400ci gas engine with the more fuel efficient Cummins diesel. The diesel increased the range, which made more sense for our Baja adventures. For more info on my rig you can read about it here.
BajaInsider: I happen to be a GPS fan from WAY back. I worked with Magellan Systems when they were making them in a garage in Orange County. They gave us a demo unit to take up into the Sierras. A set of batteries barely lasted long enough to download the almanac. We could only get fixes a couple of times per day! Oh, how far we’ve come! Where do you see this going?
LBMaps: And we can't even imagine where this technology is taking us. Soon, your GPS will be wirelessly connected to the internet. You will be able to check the prices of gas at the gas station up ahead before you even pull off the freeway.
We would like to thank Larry Buck for his information on Baja GPS maps. If you have further questions or would like to order Baja GPS maps for your Garmin please visit LBMaps.com.
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April 13th, 2005 18:10
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