A Garmin handheld GPS unit and Google Maps are separate products, but you can use them in conjunction in interesting ways. Whether you are executing a trip you planned online, locating geocaching waypoints or sharing your impromptu journeys, using a Garmin GPS unit with Google Maps lets you link your online life to the great outdoors.
Transfer Google Maps Directions
When you use Google Maps to get directions for a trip, you can download the information to your handheld Garmin GPS device to navigate to your destination. Download and install the Garmin Communicator Plugin for your browser. Plug the GPS device into your computer with a USB cord and pull up the directions in Google Maps. Click on the "Link" icon in the top right corner of the left navigation panel. Choose the "Send" link in the Window that comes up and select the "GPS" link. Pick "Garmin" from the brand drop-down menu. Fill in the title for the directions and any notes you want to include and click "Send."
Download a Geocaching Map
Geocaching is a real-life game in which players use GPS devices to locate hidden "treasures." To geocache, navigate to the Geocache website and download a set of GPS coordinates, called a waypoint, to your GPS device and find your way to that location. When you get to the coordinates and find the cache of trinkets, you add your name to the logbook of geocachers who have found that particular geocache. No official organization goes around placing geocaches; individuals within the geocaching community hike out and place geocaches for each other to find. To download maps of multiple waypoints to your Garmin GPS device instead of downloading individual geocaching waypoints from the central geocaching website, pull up the shared map from Google Maps and follow the same instructions to download the map to your GPS device as you used to download directions to your GPS in the previous section of this article.
Create a Geocaching Map
You can create your own map of geocaching waypoints for your fellow geocachers to pursue. Create the caches and find an appropriate location for each one. Mark your location as a waypoint on your GPS each time you place a geocache. Upload this map of geocaches by exporting it to your computer. Garmin devices export data for GPS coordinates in the GPX format. Convert this to one of the formats Google Maps uses -- KML, KMZ or the GeoRSS -- with free software offered by GPS Visualizer, GPSBabel or GPSies. After you convert the file, click the "Create Map" button. Choose the "Import" link and select your converted file. Google Maps plots all the waypoints.
Uploading Trip Tracks
Garmin GPS handsets don't limit you to recording only static locations. You can choose to have your Garmin device continuously record your position as you move to create a "track" that maps out your running routes or road trips. Use the same method as uploading waypoints to Google Maps to upload tracks. Upload the track to share a record of your trip or upload multiple tracks with different color-coding to create maps and graphic representations of your traveling habits.
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