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Route Planning Software

Once you have researched ideas for the adventure route that you want to create, you can then use route planning software to build your route. If you are using books or DVDs to research your route then you will need to create (draw) your route in the route planning software. If you are using a resource like RemoteMoto then you will simply import the individual routes you want to ride into the route planning software and then join them all together to make one big route. Once you have finished building your route, you can export it to your GPS unit or your smartphone to use for navigation.

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Route Planning Software Options

There are a number of route planning software options each with their own pros and cons. A variety of options are detailed below with a map sample displaying the exact same area for visual comparison of each one.

Helpful tip: planning a multi-day or multi-week route on a PC or laptop is far easier than doing it on a phone or tablet.

Freshmap

Freshmap is a New Zealand built route planning software package that comes with the map sets NZRoads, Topo50, Topo250, Topo500, Topo1M and Topo2M. You are unable to install additional third party maps however this is not an issue as the Freshmap map sets that come with the package are very nice.

The accuracy of the roads, four wheel drive tracks hut locations and the labelling of rivers, streams and lakes is very good. As you zoom through each level the map sets change which offers great detail. This is one of the programs strong points as this feature makes it one of the most intuitive when planning large routes and you are regularly using different zoom levels.

What lets Feshmap down is the user interface. It is by far the most clunky and labour-intensive package to use. While some other packages have single or double click actions, Freshmap can be up to half a dozen clicks to perform the same action. This soon proves time-consuming and frustrating when creating long routes. Additionally it has a number of limitations when it comes to joining, splitting and converting routes. For this reason it is not ideal to use if you are loading route files from sources such as RemoteMoto as it does not provide a full suite of tools to work with routes like some of the other packages listed here. It is however a perfectly suitable option if you are creating routes from scratch.

This is generally a very stable and reliable package. Even though it is quite clunky and labour-intensive to use, it is very quick and easy to learn. The cost for both the North Island and South Islands maps including the route planning software is $199.

Additionally you can buy matching topographic maps for a Garmin GPS unit for $149. When operating on a Garmin 62 or 64 the Freshmap maps can be laggy, especially if you are actively navigating to a route while also trying to pan the map. It's not the end of the world, you just have to be patient. The lag is reduced on a Garmin unit with better processing power such as the Garmin Montana range. The maps are nice to look at on the GPS unit.

Disregarding the shortfalls, on the whole it is a good option for building New Zealand adventure routes if you're happy to pay $350 and spending a little bit of extra time when creating your routes.

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View Freshmap

Memory Map

Memory Map is a route planning software package that comes with the map sets Topo50, Topo250 and Topo1M. You are able to install additional third party maps however this is slightly redundant as there are other programs with a better user interface if you wish to go to the extent of running multiple map sets.

The accuracy of the roads, four wheel drive tracks, hut locations and the labelling of rivers, streams and lakes is respectable. It is a decent value package, has an easy installation process, relative ease of use when creating routes from scratch and good stability. For $129 you will get route planning software, a map set for your computer, plus a map set for your Garmin GPS.

While Memory Map has a dated user interface by comparison to some other options, is has an advantage over Freshmap whereby it has the ability to perform a wider range of actions. Because of this it can be used if you are loading route files from sources such as RemoteMoto. However, it is important to note that while the functionality is available in this program, it is cumbersome for some tasks. For example when performing the task of joining two routes together, the routes first need to be converted to tracks before they can be joined, and then converted back to routes after the join has been done. Other programs allow direct joining of routes without this cumbersome process. 

The topographic maps themselves aren't as good as the Freshmap maps however they are ok to look at on both the computer and the GPS unit. When using the Memory Map software to plan and build routes it is not as visually pleasing as some other programs. It is however still acceptable. 

Overall this is a respectable package and it is very capable of being used to plan adventure routes. 

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View Memory Map

BaseCamp

BaseCamp is a route planning software package built by Garmin. It comes pre-installed with a very basic map set that is impractical for planning adventure routes so you'll need to install a third party map set if you choose to use this program.

BaseCamp is by far the most advanced route planning software package available and this is due to the large budget Garmin has to invest into software development. It has clever features for creating, joining, splitting and converting routes or tracks. Actions that take a number of clicks in other programs can be performed with minimal clicks, quickly and easily. Due to the number of advanced features the learning curve is slightly longer than other route planning software packages however it is worth it.

Due to the advanced nature of this program it can sometimes crash. This doesn't happen very often but it has been reported by other users and I have experienced it myself on a handful of occasions. Regular saving and creating backups is essential to ensure hours of work are not lost.

BaseCamp is a free program which allows you to install either paid or free map sets. You can download it here: BaseCamp Download

BaseCamp – Garmin Maps

For $229 the Garmin map set provides maps for both BaseCamp on the computer and a Garmin GPS unit. The operation of the map set on both the computer and GPS works smoothly and free from lag.

The Garmin maps can be purchased online as a download or purchased as a physical SD card. I initially chose the download option however there were major install issues. The process took over 3 weeks to resolve with Garmin support and I ended up using the SD card option which worked without issue. To avoid potential hold-ups like I experienced you could opt for the SD card purchased from a local Garmin reseller. 

The accuracy of the roads, four wheel drive tracks hut locations and the labelling of rivers, streams and lakes is generally good however some of the roads and 4X4 tracks slightly drift off accurate placement. This is normally only by a few metres and does not cause an issue with planning an adventure riding route.

The appearance of the maps in zoomed level is great. At zoomed out levels there is a slight lack of detail when compared to FreshMap however it is still very usable. Overall the map set in BaseCamp is good to work with.

The way the Garmin map set tracks and map features are displayed on a GPS unit are not as clear as Memory Map or FreshMap. It is certainly useable on a GPS unit however the strength of the Garmin map set is being used within the BaseCamp program. On the plus side the Garmin GPS unit POI database it very extensive. 

Overall the Garmin map set is a good option to plan New Zealand adventure routes.

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View NZ Garmin Maps

BaseCamp – Open GPS Topo50

The NZ Open GPS Project offer open source Topo50 maps that can be loaded to BaseCamp. Being open source means this Topo50 map set is available as a free download.

Being just a Topo50 map set means that when you zoom out it does not have the nicest view however when you are zoomed in to the native zoom level the map sets are very nice to look at and use. The labelling of rivers, streams, lakes is not its strong point however this is not the end of the world. It covers pretty much all of the off-road tracks in New Zealand making it excellent for planning the more adventurous routes. Using this map set in BaseCamp works well with resources that offer GPX files such as RemoteMoto. 

It is worth noting that the process to install this map set is a slightly more involved than some of the other options listed here. However it is worth investing the time or asking a computer savvy friend to assist you if computers are not your strong point. 

Overall this is a great map set.

While this map set is available for free, like most open source projects, the NZ Open GPS Project is operated by a group of passionate volunteers. If you find the Topo50 map set useful then a donation is a great way to show your appreciation and help keep the project running.

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View Open GPS Topo50

Google Maps – Terrain View

Google Maps offers you free tools to create adventure routes on tarmac roads and some gravel roads. These maps hit the limit of usefulness when planning adventure routes that cover the more remote off-road tracks.

In the first sample below we have the same section as the above map samples and you can see that this iconic New Zealand adventure route does not exist in map view or terrain view. In the second map sample below we have the same section as the above map samples with the route overlaid to show where the route should be displayed.

Using dedicated map planning software is far more effective than using Google Maps for building serious adventure routes.

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Google Maps – Satellite View in Ride Leader

Ride Leader is a free online route building tool that allows you to build adventure routes using Google Maps. As we concluded above the map view and terrain view are very limiting so using satellite view offers a better way to plan off-road routes.

This is certainly not a reliable option as many of the routes you can see on Google satellite view are not ridable. It is easy to misidentify old decommissioned tracks, private access tracks and in some cases fence lines can look like tracks resulting in an interesting outcome! It is also important to note that Google satellite view does not show all tracks. Riverbed routes that blend in or routes under tree canopy can be hard to follow. In some cases routes in satellite view are impossible to see altogether.

The Ride Leader tool does have some cool features however due to it being a relatively new program it is prone to crashing and can do some glitchy things. It can be useful for planning short routes however planning long routes or multi-day/week routes is beyond this program’s capability.

I do not use this program myself as there are much better options. I am listing it here to be thorough as it may suit someone’s needs. 

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View Ride Leader

BaseCamp – Open GPS Street Maps

The NZ Open GPS Project offer open source auto routing street maps that can be loaded to BaseCamp. Being open source means this map set is available as a free download.

This map set covers the New Zealand tarmac and gravel road network and has excellent road labelling throughout. It has a relatively basic view compared to a topographic map set however it can be successfully used to plan tarmac and gravel road adventure rides.

If you prefer your adventures to be more challenging then you will want to look at one of the topographic map sets that includes the 4X4 track network. Because of the excellent road labelling of the Open GPS street maps it is an ideal option to use in conjunction with the Open GPS Topo50 which has limited road labelling. Flicking back and forth between these two map sets can be very handy and gives you the best of both Open GPS worlds when route planning. 

The process to install this map set is fairly straightforward.

Overall this is an excellent map set for planning tarmac and gravel adventure routes.

While this map set is available for free, like most open source projects, the NZ Open GPS Project is operated by a group of passionate volunteers. If you find this map set useful then a donation is a great way to show your appreciation and help keep the project running.

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View Open GPS Street Maps

Route Planning Software Summary

If you’ve read all of the information above then you may have come to the conclusion that there isn't a singular perfect solution for route planning software and map sets. That’s pretty much the sum of it. This leaves you with the choice of either selecting the single option that best suits your route planning needs, or using multiple options if your needs exceed the limits of a single option.

Personally I use multiple route planning software packages, map sets plus satellite maps. This proves to be the most effective way to put together comprehensive adventure routes with accuracy and speed. These are the following options I use and the reasons why:

BaseCamp: This is the primary package I use for the majority of my route building as it is the most advanced and feature rich option. It perfectly caters for creating multi-day and multi-week routes. I have the Garmin map set, Open GPS Topo50 map set and Open GPS Street map set installed. When route building I’ll regularly flick between these three map sets to get the best features out of each map set.

Freshmap: Because Freshmap has excellent map set detail and accuracy I use it as a reference tool if I am unsure about information on the other map sets in BaseCamp. Due to the fact Freshmap is very clunky and labour intensive to use for route creation, I only use Freshmap as a visual reference tool and use BaseCamp for the actual building of routes. Aside from the route planning side, I use the Freshmap map set in the GPS unit as it is one of the nicest to view. 

Google Maps Satellite View: I use this mainly to verify terrain on virgin ground. It is exceptionally helpful for viewing the size of river crossings or to see if terrain is going to be gravel, dirt track, rocky, riverbed, tussock land etc.  

Route Planning Software Recommendations

Best Free Route Planning Software: BaseCamp loaded with the Open GPS Topo50 map set and the Open GPS Street map set. Additionally Google maps in satellite view can be used as a reference for checking route terrain or hazards. Total cost $0

Best Paid Route Planning Software: BaseCamp loaded with the New Zealand Garmin map set, Open GPS Topo50 map set and the Open GPS Street map set. Additionally Google maps in satellite view can be used as a reference for checking route terrain or hazards. Total cost $229

Best Free GPS Unit Map Set: Open GPS Topo50. Total cost $0

Best Paid GPS Unit Map Set: FreshMap. Total cost $149