Using a Digital Map and GPX Files

What is a GPX File?

A GPX file is a log of recorded locations. Cycling/hiking/running routes can be shared for someone else to load over their map and follow the route. This enables users to easily follow a predetermine route with the assistance of GPS.

If you open a GPX file it looks something like this:

<trkpt lon=”-2.293704″ lat=”54.146766″>
<trkpt lon=”-2.293169″ lat=”54.145617″>
<trkpt lon=”-2.292960″ lat=”54.145150″>

Opening a GPX file within a map provides an easy-to-follow route. The route offers turn-by-turn navigation to ensure you don’t get lost.

GPX example of Yorkshire Three Peaks

Example: GPX file of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge


Example: Using a smartphone’s GPS you can follow a GPX route.

How to use a GPX file

To use a GPX file on your smartphone you need a good map app. It is recommended to select an app that allows maps to be downloaded and used offline. Mobile phone signal is often scarce in the countryside or up a mountain.

For iPhone the recommended app is Pocket Earth Pro

For Android the recommended app is Lotus Maps 

Each app is available for free, but the Pro versions offer the ability to download maps for offline use. It is highly recommended to use the Pro version. The Pro version costs £5 and is a worthwhile purchase if you are navigating a new route.

ViewRanger is a free app. It has premium maps and functions, but you can download small sections of the map for offline use. This will be enough for your walk.

How to download a ViewRanger map for offline use. 

Loading a GPX file

Once your map is downloaded for offline use (it is easier to download the map of the country rather than a selected area) you need to load the GPX file. The easiest method is to email the GPX file to your smartphone. Open the email and import the GPX attachment into your app.

There are other methods of transferring GPX files which can found in the manual for Pocket Earth ProLocus Maps and ViewRanger

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that a digital map should not replace a physical map. It is an additional tool to help navigate through the countryside. The phone may run out of battery or the device could break, and being in the middle of nowhere without a map can be dangerous.

Play around with the offline map and GPX file before you venture to the countryside. Find its functions and ensure you know how to use it effectively.