My digital GPS software tool box

Recently, I read Bike Mechanic, a very good book I recommend for anyone interested like me into fixing/maintaining a road bike and learning about the life of the big team mechanics on the job. One thing I enjoyed was the tools recommendation. This line particularly caught my attention : Cheap tools do cheap jobs.
While the author is fully right for when it comes to bike tools and tools in general, it doesn’t apply when it comes to software. In this post, I will illustrate this idea by listing the different software I use on a regular basis to perform everything I need when it comes to creating/modifying GPS files.

My digital GPS software Toolbox

Several months ago, I explained why and how I use GPS technologies. In this same post, I mentioned that for each adventure, I always try my best to use a GPS track generated on the actual trail as creating a manual track can lead to navigation errors when out in the field. Once I have finished establishing the route for any adventure/hike/run, I usually look for any existing activity for which the route is the same or similar enough to be reused. Typically, I rarely find the exact same route and in this case, I need to do some post-processing work in order to have my final route, composed of either several merged routes or past routes merged with manual sections. To do such work, I need tools and use different software to visualize/edit any given GPS track.

In a future post, I will show which platforms I use to find such routes but in this post, I aim to list the tools I use to transform multiple tracks into my final route, briefly describe them and explain what I mainly use them for.

Google Earth

It’s possible that you might not know some of the other software below. However, I am sure everyone knows Google Earth ! When I first discovered Google Earth (about 10+ years ago), though I didn’t have a GPS device, I loved that I was able to travel virtually. I call that the “couch explorer“. Since I acquired my GPS watch, I now use it to look at my previous tracks but also future tracks or just to “explore” any area. It helps me get familiar with a new area before even driving to it.

What I use it for : In the screenshot below, you can see an example of my use of Google Earth. In this case, I display all the trails I have ran/hikes/biked so far in the Rocky Mountain National Park and some of my future ones. While this screenshot displays my track on a satellite view, I have shown last year how to display other types of maps (see my article here).

My “coverage” of RMNP as of January 2017

Last but not least, Google Earth Pro is now free (since January 2015)! Download it here, use your email address and the key GEPFREE to sign in.

GPSVisualizer is an online tool that offers multiple possibilities when working with GPS tracks. Not only it can convert many different formats into gpx format, it also has numerous options such as changing the speed unit, reverse a track, merge tracks…etc.

What I use it for : I use the conversion tool mainly to add an accurate elevation data. GPSVisualizer has several elevation data available (see image below).

Adding accurate elevation data to a GPS track

Another feature I am fond of is the possibility to create a GPX track from a GoogleMaps route. Yes, one can create an itinerary in Google Maps, paste its URL address and a gpx track will be generated and ready to download and transfer onto your GPS device!

Converting a Google Maps itinerary into a gpx file


As mentioned above, though I mainly use the gpx format, it happens that I encounter other/weird file formats. GPSBabel supporting a multitude of supported formats (file format capabilities list), the day where I haven’t been able to convert a GPS track into gpx format hasn’t arrived yet.

What I use it for : Convert any GPS track into a gpx file when I find myself with odd GPS formats in hands.




When it comes to create manually a route, I use Caltopo. This website has all the tools to create and modify GPS tracks : Import/Export, track modification (splitting, extending…) and multiple map layers to only name a few possibilities.

A GPS track loaded onto CalTopo

What I use it for : The main reason I use CalTopo is for the “auto routing” feature. Have you ever had to create manually a track and found yourself clicking 1 million times in order to draw a 5 mile route ? The “auto routing” tool eliminates all that. Instead, your cursor will automatically pick up an existing trail and draw the different turns between 2 points (see illustration below)


GpsPrune is an on-premises software that will allow editing GPS track(s) such as : delete points, range of points, concatenate/append multiple tracks, visualize exactly each recorded GPS point…

A GPS track loaded in GpsPrune

What I use it for : As GpsPrune displays each recorded GPS point (see image below), it allows me to quickly fix a track when erroneous points have been recorded. Also, I use it to easily split/merge/concatenate tracks .

Splitting a track at a specific point



You know now all about the different softwares I use to work with GPS files. You can find below a table that gives a quick access to each of those software along with useful information for each of them.

Google EarthGeobrowser that accesses satellite and aerial imagery, ocean bathymetry, and other geographic data over the internet to represent the Earth as a three-dimensional globeWindows, Mac, LinuxFree
GPS VisualizerOnline utility that creates maps and profiles from geographic dataOnlineFree (GPL)
GPSBabelDoftware to transfer routes, tracks, and waypoint data to and from consumer GPS units, and to convert between over a hundred types of GPS data formatsWindows, MacFree
CalTopoPowerful trip planning tools and high quality mapsOnlineFree & Subscription
GpsPruneApplication for viewing, editing and converting coordinate data from GPS systemsWindows, Mac, LinuxFree (GPL)

2016 Trash Trophies

While a lot of people may be blogging these days about their 2016 recap and the direction/resolutions for 2017, I am proud here to show my special kind of recap : My 2016 Trash Trophies (really, only collected for the last weeks/months).

Did you pick yours today ?

Earlier this year, I wrote about practicing “Negative Trace“. As I’ve been practicing what I try to preach on a regular basis, I went the “extra-mile” and even thought about keeping a picture log of my different findings (I mainly collect all trash on trails/mountains/trailheads). As I pick trash on pretty much all my outings, I thought keeping pictures of it would make me realize the difference it makes when we all participate into leaving any wilderness area better that we found it.
As I had this idea pretty late in the year, I only have a few photos (I even forgot to take a picture of my Holy Grail found at the Grays Peak Trailhead : a car exhaust!!), but still represent a good and inspiring “Trash Trophies”.

Onto 2017 with more Trash Trophies! (it shouldn’t be too hard unfortunately)

Honey is my fuel

Like last year, I am happy to be supported by HoneyStinger for all my outdoor endeavors and be part of the hive.

If you don’t know HoneyStinger, check them out ! It is a Colorado-based company making healthy and nutritious food for any type of activities. They are not only tasty but also offer all natural sports nutrition with organic and gluten free options. Adults and kids love it!

Thanks HoneyStinger for your 2017 support

Free Spirit 10-Speed

My lastest bike repair project is a: Free Spirit 10-Speed
Not a lot of work was to be done, but mainly a good tune-up as well as some overhauls (wheel hubs, headset hub)

Steel frame
Shimano Drive Train
5 (sprockets) x 2 (chainrings) speed
U-Brakes Dia compe
Turkey Levers

As usual, below are the photo comparison between “Before” (left) and “After” (right) the work/tune-ups

Grays/Torreys Peak (via Kelso Ridge)

Last weekend, considering that the snow appears to be late this year, I decided to go “bag” two 14ers (and as of today,  I have 51 to choose from !) as I am sure the snow will arrive soon and it will be too late to go up as high as 14,000 ft. It’s not that those peaks can’t be climbed with snow but more that our van can’t reach the snowy trailheads.

Grays & Torreys Peak via the Kelso Ridge (GPS Track available here : 7.5 miles, +- 3,580 ft elevation gain/loss)

I chose Grays & Torreys Peak. I started running without being completely decided on if I would take the normal route or the alternative “Kelso Ridge” (while it sounded more fun, I was not sure about the snow/ice cover of the ridge). Arriving at the fork, it seemed that the ridge had snow on it but when I saw other hikers near the Knife-edge traverse, I decided to go for it!
Considered a class 3 scramble, I didn’t encounter any real difficulties until I reached the Knife-edge, 200m from the summit. There, the knife edge seemed too icy as well as its north face (I tried!)
Earlier, I had passed two hikers that caught up to me as I was trying to find a way to the summit. We discussed the different possibilities, I explained my attempt on the north face and we continued to look altogether for the best option. Roaming on the south side of the ridge, I lead to what seemed the only option to me: Go down a bit to arrive in a gully where we would climb up until reaching a pass at the base of the last part until the summit. While it seemed feasible to me, I would later learn that it is called the Dead dog couloir and is not recommended unless in winter full of snow.

My GPS track showing that I tried every side to avoid the icy knife-edge

A steep gully offering a mix of snow/ice/dirt, this couloir had a wall on its right side. With this wall,  I had envisioned to climb it by practicing the Dulfer technique. Up I went, while Chuck & Nik were watching me. After about 10min of hard work, I was at the pass and ready for the last slope to the summit !
Chuck & Nik did the same but I could feel their hesitation and was worried I was bringing them outside of their comfort zone.

Chuck (in red circle) & Nik following me in the Dead Couloir
The Dead Dog couloir from the base of Torreys Peak

On top of Torreys, we congratulated our selves (Chuck & Nik made it!) and I went on to Grays Peak for a second summit. A perfect day in the Rockies!!

Mt Audubon & Blue Lake

Last weekend, given that Hwy 34 has been closed since 2 weeks and will be closed until around June 2017, I have decided to go South to explore the Indian Peaks Wilderness (East of the Divide).

After looking at my maps, books and TODO list, I chose to summit Mt Audubon (13,229ft) and go to Blue Lake afterwards.


GPS Track available here (12.5 miles, +- 3,570 ft elevation gain/loss)

Arriving at the base of Mt Audubon, I was quickly welcomed by Pikas but also a strong & cold wind. At the top, the views were beautiful and I could see as far as Longs Peak.
I ended my run with Blue Lake, right below Mt Audubon

Pourquoi je cours – Why I run

But we don’t run for the baubles. We run long distances because in the deep dark recesses of our mind there still resides the instincts of our millions of years as running ape people. It’s in our biological heritage to run distances“.
Don Allison – A Step beyond: A Definitive Guide To Ultrarunning

Lakes and Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park

Let the exploration begins ! Since we moved to Colorado, I have been to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) EVERY weekend! After cycling Trail Ridge Road last weekend, my legs were calling for a long run.

Last Saturday, after looking at my maps and books, I decided on several adventures. My first run consisted on reaching Black Lake & Blue Lake.

GPS Track available here (12 miles, +- 2,600 ft elevation gain/loss)

Afterwards, I headed to Hallett Peak.

GPS Track available here (9.8 miles, +- 3,400 ft elevation gain/loss)

I had a great day being in the mountains, at altitude, with such beautiful views and exposed to the different elements. I realized how lucky I am to be so close to a unique place like RMNP. Good adventures ahead with lots of lakes and peaks!