NZ Open GPS Project

Community developed auto-routing maps of New Zealand

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GPS Applications

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Things you can do with your GPS

These are some of the activities you can do with your GPS. Check your individual GPS units capabilities as some activites require specific functions that not all GPS units support - eg not many automotive GPS units are ideal for Geocaching or are able to record tracklogs.

Some smart-phones have GPS built in, but are not as good as dedicated mapping GPS - poor battery life, most maps are online rather than locally hosted, tend not to be rugged (splash proof etc)


Car Navigation - which way is the fastest or shortest from points A to B, or what is the most efficient route to visit points A,B,C,D and E and in what order? Where is the nearest petrol station? Always have an answer to the questions from the back seat - Are we there yet? How much further? Where did we park the car?

A tracklog of a car trip can be useful, geocode photos (see later article) or even a legal defense!












Marine Navigation and Fishing - mark and return to great fishing spots, find a great looking landbased rock on Google Earth and get there on foot or boat


Exploring - this can be driving around or wandering on foot in a new city. One of the reasons I got into GPS was through travelling to new cities and getting lost. Taking a GPS allowed me to mark the location of the hotel, wander around for hours and always know which direction and how far it was to get back to the hotel. Many GPS maps include useful locations like hotels, campgrounds, restraunts, tourist information centres, toilets, libraries, civic buildings...

Tramping, Walking, Hiking - a GPS is a great companion on tramps, but don't leave the compass and topo maps at home. Back Country Huts and tracks can be downloaded into your GPS. Share your tramping routes with others. Retrace your tracks back to a favourite campsite or where you parked your car at the trail head.












Geocaching - modern treasure hunts. You will find new and interesting places and local history. Geocaches are usually hidden in locations that are interesting, sometimes educational and sometimes very challenging mentally or physically. Huge online user base and active community.


Benchmarking / Trigpointing - locating survey marks. Here in New Zealand, check out

Source Author Jeffrey  Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0












Image sourced from

Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0


Speedsailing - a branch of windsurfing and kiteboarding, recording the highest speeds possibe, usually using GPS technology... Kite surfers are pushing up to speeds of 90+ kph


Highpointing / Peakbagging - finding and visiting the highest point in an area


GeoTagging - using tracklogs from your GPS to embed location data into your photographs. Imagine going on a road trip with GPS and camera, and having every photo able to be referenced on GoogleEarth.

Cycling, Running, Fitness- tracking where you have been, at what speeds, recording distance, climbs etc. There are online options for recording and tracking your 'workouts' like Garmin Connect which most Garmin devices are compatible with, or stand alone software like SportTrack for full analysis and logbook records. I'm quite getting into using SportTrack, it's giving me excellent logging of my exercise and allowing me to check out how I'm doing day on day, week on week.



Mapping / marking - create you own or contribute to others like or our project and many more like it around the world. Map and measure your farm, capture your favourite bike trail and share with others.

Large scale restoration projects like use GPS to mark POIs like weed areas to return to at a later date for eradication - more accurate than a compass bearing!


Hunting - use your GPS to record a trail to follow your way out while bush-bashing. Don't forget spare batteries and a backup compass and maps


Genealogy - one aspect of genealogy is recording locations, and many genealogy programs have the ability to add a specific GPS latitude and longitude to various records. Probably the most useful place to record locations are gravestones which makes it easier for other researchers to re-visit the gravesite in perhaps large or overgrown cemeteries.



Flying as a passenger - a GPS can provide a bit of edutainment while flying as a passenger - where exactly are we, how high, how fast (it's a blast to get near 1,000 kph), and afterwards the tracklog can be used for a flythough in Google Earth. You will be able to observe any diversions, holding patterns, approach paths and work out the exact arrival time.

Always consult with the airline magazine or ask the crew and follow their direction if you can use a GPS onboard.













Gliding - no experience myself with this area except as a passenger - some models of GPS can be used for gliding competition, basic navigation etc. They use terms like glide ratio, reporting points, VFR.



Golf - there are specialised golf GPS units available - mainly from the US - that are used for golf. They have mapping of golf courses and onboard software which allows you to figure out how far away the hole / rough / green / obstacle is. This is essentially an update on using a range finder or a sharp caddy.

Normal GPS units can be used - simply take it with you and make a waypoint at each hole. Give it a useful name like 'Muriwai Hole 3', and save it. Next round you will be able to use your GPS to point to the next hole and know how far away it is, or what direction if you are in the trees. There is potential to share your data with other golfers via a GPX file.

Another alternate - if you want to have a go at making your own golf course maps for your Garmin mapping GPS, is to check out

A third option is available for Oregon, Colorado and Dakota users - use Google Earth to create a custom map image of the golf course.


Last Updated on Saturday, 06 August 2011 07:17