Tag Archives: smartphone

Bushwalking Navigation | Using Topo50 Maps (LINZ) for Tramping in New Zealand

Want to plan your NZ tramp using digital topographic maps? Like to view NZ Topo50 maps on your iPhone or Mac? What sorts of maps are best for tramping?  How do you select the appropriate map? How can you load and calibrate these maps on an iPhone or Mac computer? What are some of the technical problems?

New Zealanders are certainly lucky to have high quality recent produced raster digital topographic maps (300dpi) available for download for FREE , and despite some controversy, the change to NZGD2000, which is equivalent to the universally used WGS84 for bushwalking purposes, has brought some bonuses for those of us who like to use NZ maps on our iPads and iPhones. There is no doubt that for tramping a 1:50K topographic map is needed and  for steep terrain a 1:25K map is even better.

Navigation Apps

Many newer mapping programs that may not have been able to use the old NZGD1949 datum, but do have the newer WGS84 datum installed, are now able to be used by bushwalkers/trampers in NZ. Two of my favourite navigation apps,  Bit Map for the iPhone and MacGPS Pro for the Mac computer can now view and use the latest NZ Topo50 (1:50K) and Topo250 (1:250K) maps. No doubt any GPS that is able to load non-proprietary maps will be able to used these maps too.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

The new Topo50 and Topo250 map series are available for download from the Land Information New Zealand website in two formats

  • geoTIFF (141 Mb for a typical map) (no map legend or margin, but includes embedded calibration data to allow automatic georeferencing and alignment of adjacent maps)
  • TIFF (214Mb) (includes the legend and margins, identical to the paper version)

Map Selection

The first step is to decide which map you wish to download and this can be done by going to the LINZ Map Index page and selecting the appropriate 1:250,000 map. Once you have selected the correct large scale map, clicking the large grid square, will reveal twenty five, 20 km x 20km 1:50,000 maps which can then be individually selected for download.

Loading Topo Maps into your Map Viewing App

Bit Map requires that you first convert the geoTIFF map image file ( no margins or legend) into a form that it can read and labels .bitmap. This can be done within your iPhone or  using a desktop application, such as those available free of charge on the developers website, which optimises the files for use prior to loading into your iPhone. The optimisation process splits the large geoTIFF image file into a large number of smaller tiled JPEG image files which have been produced at a much lower resolution to reduce loading time. This optimised format is very similar to ozf2 format, which means that if you already have files of this type from a program such as OziExplorer (not version 3), they should load without the need for any optimisation.

The next step is to calibrate the file, which requires a knowledge of the grid references of the corners of the map and the grid zone name. For the Routeburn track this is 59G. The grid references of the corners of the map (extents) can be found from the LINZ website, where it is possible to download the data as a text file, spreadsheet (preferred so you can change the order of the data) or view on the screen.

World UTM Grid Zones by Alan Morton

View an enlarged map

MacGPS Pro first needs to convert the geoTIFF image file into PICT format, which while no smaller, is the format used internally by the program. Once imported the file is automatically calibrated by  the user when the correct units (datum: NXZGD2000 and grid: NZTM2000, km, m, magnetic or true) are chosen and the file saved.

Check you have it right by finding the coordinates of a known point on the map and see whether they correspond to that on the TIFF or paper map

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Converting Map Coordinates for Bushwalkers | Latitude, Longitude to/from UTM

Ever wanted to understand what the numbers on the lines on your map are? Does your iPhone app only register latitude and longitude and you need to convert it to UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) or vice versa. Need to be able to tell your local emergency service the latitude and longitude of your location for a rescue?

There are at least three ways to convert between coordinate systems or formats eg UTM grid references to latitude and longitude

  1. using an online Web Converter (see below for examples)
  2. install an iPhone App which does it for you (see below for two)
  3. change your GPS  coordinate format settings and see the converted result

A word of warning from Professor Dutch

“Caution! Unlike latitude and longitude, there is no physical frame of reference for UTM grids. Latitude is determined by the earth’s polar axis. Longitude is determined by the earth’s rotation. If you can see the stars and have a sextant and a good clock set to Greenwich time, you can find your latitude and longitude. But there is no way to determine your UTM coordinates except by calculation.(Source: Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay)


“Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinate system is a grid-based method of specifying locations on the surface of Earth. The UTM system divides the surface of Earth between 80° S latitude and 84° N latitude into 60 zones, each 6° of longitude in width and centered over a meridian of longitude. Zones are numbered from 1 to 60. ” (Source: Clever Applications)

Some Online Web Converters

iPhone Apps

Map Tools screenshot

Map Tools By Richard Hoffman

“Map Tools is an iPhone app  that let users to fully utilize coordinates. Map Tools converts coordinates among various datums, coordinate systems and map projections. It also calculates distance between two coordinates. It supports coordinates conversion between geodetic coordinates, UTM, UPS, MGRS and map projections in up to 232 datums. The app is delivered with WGS84 ellipsoid and used as the default datum. You can purchase an add on that will provide you with an additional 232 datums, which include NAD27, ED50, OSGB36, EGSA87, AGD66, AGD84, GDA94 and a lot more.” (Source: iTunes Apps)

NB for Australians WSG84 (supplied) and GDA94 are almost equivalent so if you are only using this datum there is no need to buy the extra 232 datums. 

Bit Map by Nixanz 

Bit Map by Nixanz

Bit Map is a map viewer app with some basic GPS features, and simultaneously provides both the UTM and latitude/longitude coordinates in decimal degrees for any point on the uploaded map you are viewing. While it doesn’t convert between map coordinate systems, it will give both for any location and datum.

Read my Review of Bit Map

Using your GPS to convert

If you open the settings field on your GPS, you can change between the coordinate formats offered eg UTM to Latitude and longitude etc and all coordinates entered in the original format will then appear in the new.

Social Bookmarking

Visit my Delicious bookmarks to discover some popular web resources on this topic.

Further Reading

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Bushwalking Rescue: Emergency Communications by Cell or Mobile Phone

What sort of mobile phone do I need? Which service providers should I use? How should I ensure adequate signal strength? What number should I call?  When should I call 112? When should I call 000? What information should I have ready?

 I’ve sometimes been surprised about how good mobile (cell) phone reception is when you have  line of sight.  Frenchman’s Cap in the central highlands of Tasmania to Mt Wellington, Hobart…70 km.  Is it possible? With such good reception then  the mobile phone becomes a viable communications tool for rescue. You can check reception in advance by viewing the service providers coverage maps, but these won’t show isolated locations where reception is exceptionally poor or surprisingly good, usually due to local terrain.

Choosing the right mobile phone is important if you want to use it for emergency communications. You must choose a phone with a decent internal antenna and these are referred to by Telstra as “blue tick” phones which means they are suitable for regional  reception areas in contrast to metro use only. You must choose a service provider which has good regional coverage and Telstra has the best coverage by far. If you are a serious bushwalker who wants to be able to use their mobile phone for communication in the wilderness then you have no choice!

How do you know if your signal strength is adequate for a call? 

Most of us can read the signal strength indicator, but this can be annoying as you continually have to take the mobile out of your pocket to check the symbol. If you have an iPhone, there is an app which will tell when you have moved into an area with adequate signal strength, even if the phone is in your pocket.

No Signal: No cell service? In a dead zone? want to be notified when you can make calls again without taking the phone out of your pocket? 

If you need to make an emergency call and don’t have adequate signal strength then the best thing to do is to head for high ground. While you may not have voice communication you may be able to send an SMS. If reception is poor be aware that you phone will turn up the power in order to get reception and this could flatten you battery prematurely. Leave your phone turned off unless you need it.

Dial Triple 000 NSW Police

If you have a recent mobile phone, you may be able to dial triple zero 000 to get emergency help from any nearby service provider. The better alternative, if you have an older phone is to dial 112, the internationally recognized emergency number. This number allows you phone to roam between service providers and to get the best service available.eg if you use Optus or Virgin then dialing 112 will allow you to use whichever tower is closest, most probably Telstra. It also allows someone finding your phone to call even when it is locked or turned off. A good reference is on the Australian Communication  and Media Authority’s  website Calling the Emergency Call Service from a mobile phone: FAQs

What information should I have ready for the emergency call service operator? 

Well, one obvious thing they will want to know is your location and they won’t want a grid reference. You must be able to give them latitude and longitude, which is available from your map or GPS if you know how to get it or perhaps you can convert it if you have the appropriate iPhone  app .

Map Tools: utility that lets users fully utilize coordinates. Converts between datums, including AGD66, AGD84,GDA94, NZGD49, coordinate systems, and map projections and calculates distances.

It is a relatively simple task to change the units on you GPS so they give lat & long instead of grid references. It’s not difficult to read the latitude  and longitude from your map.  Next best is to give them the distance and direction to a prominent feature nearby.

What information will they need from you?

The St John’s Ambulance suggests their staff should collect the following information:

Type of Incident
• Caller name and call back number
• Location of incident and where possible a location name
• Map reference
• Radio Communications/Frequencies
• Number of patients
• Medical category applied to tasking (SJA use)
• Diagnosis / presenting problem
• Patient details if available
• Type of injury or illness
• Type of terrain and hazards (ie. high tension or power lines)
• Weather conditions in the area
• Identify any obvious landmarks or potential landing sites

See also  Emergency Call-ins  This article provides a structure for emergency contacts in bushwalking clubs and schools to respond to callers.  

This section is from the Outdoor Action Program’s Guidelines for Handling Emergency Situations and is not contained in The Backpacker’s Field Manual. Copyright © 1999, all rights reserved, Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University and Random House Publishing, New York.

Have you had any experience using a mobile phone to summon emergency help? Let us know how it worked for you, by commenting.

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Choosing the Ideal Bushwalk Camera

What characteristics should the ideal bushwalking camera have? Will a smartphone do instead? Is a full blown DSLR needed? What about for those poster size prints?

I  am continually looking for the ideal bushwalking camera and each year I seem to get closer with each new product release.  But each year I keep adding new “must have” features to my list, so I never actually get there.

I remember having a Minolta Weathermatic 35 DL waterproof  film camera  in the late eighties with which I was very satisfied. It had limited zoom and macro, auto-focus, replaceable batteries, and could be used underwater with its special sports viewfinder.  It was way ahead of its time! I thought it did a great job at the time. But things have changed; cameras are smaller, have better zoom and the automatic settings make them truly point-and-shoot cameras!

Minolta Weathermatic 35DL with sports finder by Marty4650

The ideal camera needs to be weatherproof, lightweight, have both  zoom, wide angle and macro lens, with video capabilities, have a battery that lasts for the duration of your walk or is easily replaceable, have a screen that is visible even in bright sunshine, have a GPS and have …… the list goes on. With each new model release the features become more impressive.  Panoramic stitch, HDR, face recognition and focus, automatic backlight, 15 megapixel….Will I ever be satisfied?

The answer is probably no. Each year my children get my reject camera as I progress to the next model. Each year, my ideal digital camera changes a little, but the core requirements for me today are:

  • big zoom and wide angle
  • lightweight and compact, hence single lens
  • GPS for geotagging photos
  • full automatic with intelligent processing that I can depend upon
  • replaceable lightweight batteries, preferably Li-ion to save weight
  • screen that works in bright light or better still an optical viewfinder
  • high quality video capabilities
  • 5-10 mega pixels
  • built in flash
  • ability to easily connect o my computer and TV screen

Can a smart phone meet all of these requirements? The iPhone 4 goes close, as do high end Nokias and probably many others. There are many situations in which a smartphone would be more than adequate and would meet most of my core requirements. The main problem is that to fit the features into such a small space, compromises need to be made. See some of my other iPhone posts for more details.

Is a full blown DSLR suitable? Not for me; too heavy, bulky and only in poor light are the photos better. The equivalent of my Panasonic FZ35 18x zoom would weigh a ton in a DSLR. Possibly OK on a day walk, but I don’t have the room or want the additional weight  for an extended walk. With even point-and-shoots having as many as 15 megapixels, poster size prints are feasible without needing a DSLR.

When I eventually master taking good creative shots with my point-and-shoot I might want to print poster size prints or take shots in difficult light conditions, but until then I’ll concentrate on getting interesting, creative shots, for which I don’t need a bulky, heavy DSLR.

Want some recommendations on particular models ?

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Using your Smartphone to Monitor Fitness Levels for Bushwalkers and Hikers

Do I need to train for bushwalking? What is the best way to train for bushwalking? What should my goals be and how do they vary with increasing age? How can I motivate and monitor my fitness program?

As your age creeps up a structured training program becomes more important because your fitness level falls away rapidly after a short break from walking and takes longer to re-establish. Younger walkers can maintain their fitness between serious bushwalks with minimum effort, but as you get older, walkers must fit exercise into their daily routine.
Daily fitness activities are essential, not only so you won’t get left behind on a walk, but also because exercise and diet are keys to keeping the good HDL high and the triglycerides low, both essential for lowering the risk of heart disease. I find the best type of exercise is that which closely replicates the terrain you will be walking. If you are going to be carrying a heavy pack, do so in your training;  if you are going to be hill climbing, do so ; if you are going to be climbing down steep slippery slopes, do so.

I don’t find that gym work is entirely effective as it doesn’t work the same muscles. Sure, it will improve your aerobic fitness, but will it train the muscles that need to support your legs under a heavy pack as you move down a steep slope?

Motivation and accurate monitoring are keys to improving your fitness level. I need to know whether I have improved each day, has my speed increased, did I get to the midpoint sooner than yesterday, am I fitter now than this time last year?

Fortunately technology, which allows you to compare times on walks, is available

There are three main monitoring devices, all of which do a similar job :
POLAR wristwatches with heart rate monitor strap: upload to you computer or watch
Nike  shoe sensors (iPod, iPhone): senses movement and upload to you upload to iPod, iPhone from where it can be uploaded to a dedicated website for analysis

The  advantage of these systems is that you can upload your data from each walk to a website for analysis and share it with others, even view it real time. Some products have exercise programs in-built from which you can choose.
I have extensively used two smartphone programs:
Sports Tracker (free Nokia app)
This free program has allowed me to keep track of my daily exercise program by allowing me to compare times, look at split times and I have even used it to record day walks, using the inbuilt GPS, and uploading geotagged photos taken along the trip with my Nokia phone. Certain models allow you to link with a heart rate monitor and record heart rate at the same time. The major problem I find is that the new version doesn’t allow me to group walks by route, which means that I am unable to compare times over the same route. This means that it no longer meets my needs and I have moved on to the iPhone app Walkmeter below.

Walkmeter (iPhone app $5.99)
This program does most of what Sports Tracker does but does something that Sports Tracker doesn’t do and that id compare walking routes.  I particularly like its ability to monitor progress and give audio  feedback along your walk eg how far you are ahead of your median time or behind your best. This means you don’t need to take your smartphone out of your pocket at all when its raining. Just like the Sports Tracker, it multi-tasks allowing you to listen to your favourite music as you walk.  See your results on maps, graphs, and a calendar, and organized by routes and activities. Summarize your statistics by day, week, month, year, and overall. It does not incorporate photos like Sportstracker, but I rarely take photos on a training walk.

iSports Tracker (iPhone app $5.99)

iSportsTracker for iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4 enables you to track outdoor sport activities like running, biking, walking, hiking, skiing, skating and more. iSportsTracker tracks your speed or pace, distance and calories burned, draws your track on a map, takes photos, uploads your tracks and photos to various online services like RunSaturday, MapMyTracks, EveryTrail, Picasa Web Albums, can send training data by email in GPX, KML or CSV formats and even can post a Tweet! (Free version available)

If you are really keen there are iPhone apps (pedometers) that allow you to determine your paces per minute  and choose appropriate music with the same beats per minute (BPM)

These use blue tooth to link with a heart rate monitor. They perform sophisticated calculations to make sure that you are exercising in the correct heart rate zone and have inbuilt programs from which you can choose. The results can be uploaded to a website for analysis in the newer models. Unless you prefer the small screen of a wristwatch, then the smart phone ( eg Nokia) with heart rate monitor is the way to go. The Polar brand of wristwatch is the market leader and has been around for a long time.

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Senior First Aid Update

Just completed a St John Senior First Aid refresher course and thought you might be interested in some of the changes that have occurred since I last did one 3 years ago.
  • CPR: changes to rate 2 breaths to every 30 compressions repeated, and the adoption of the same for children; no longer check pulse
  • Snake Bite: new bandages and bandaging techniques
UPDATE (December 2010): from Bushwalk Australia Forum
Disclaimer: the advice below should be checked with a medical authority before use. I have no medical training.
  •       don’t wash (or cut) the wound
  •       apply a firm heavy crepe bandage over a broad pressure bandage (crepe)   applied to the site of the puncture wound as quickly as possible
  •       bandage from the extremities (distal to proximal) towards the trunk
  •       apply a splint to the limb
  •       don’t remove the pressure bandage to check for the location of the puncture wound
  •       ask the patient, if conscious, where they were bitten
  •       venom is identified by taking a swab either from the fabric above the wound, or by cutting a window in the bandage above the pressure pad, not by removing the bandage
  •       make sure expert assistance is at hand with the correct anti-venom, which has been identified with a venom test kit, before allowing the pressure bandage to be removed.
  •       venom is absorbed and transport through the lymphatic system not blood system
  •       bandaging towards the extremities may cause patient discomfort
Should be obvious, but don’t run for help or chase the snake! Lay still.

One other piece of advice I was given at the course, was that if you have mobile phone reception and are in the metro area and are alone, it may be better to wait for the ambulance to attend rather than try to bandage and splint yourself. The activity involved in doing this may circulate the venom. Better to lay perfectly still and wait for help! Any comment

  • Splints and Slings: less emphasis on use in metropolitan areas
St John have provided an excellent Senior First Aid online refresher course
  • MediProfiles: keeps emergency medical information at your fingertips
  • Resuscitate: focuses on the importance of the St John DRABCD plan  and helps you locate a public access defibrillator
  • First Aid: presents easy-to-read and step-by-step emergency first aid information
I have more first aid and emergency information in my companion bushwalking skills library  but please read the disclaimer first

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First Aid Updates

Just been checking through some of my first aid articles which I prepared as an aide-memoire to carry with me in the bush in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was leading groups of students in the Grampians and Flinders Ranges.

Do I delete the articles? Are they so far out-of-date to be a danger to unsuspecting readers? Should I add a disclaimer to each article explaining how they could be out-of-date? How do I know if they are out-of-date? Should I update them? How long will they remain up to date? What is their value to bushwalkers? Could I link to more recent articles that I know will be regularly updated? What are the copyright implications?

These were prepared by condensing the information in the first aid manuals provided at Senior First Aid courses I attended. Initially I printed the text on small sheets of paper the size of a business card and stored them in a plastic business card holder with clear pockets. I still carry it in my first aid kit, sealed in a waterproof bag.

Then in the nineties I went digital and imported them into my PDA, initially a Sharp ZQ-650 which had, what was then an enormous memory of 1 Mb. I have just found it in the cupboard and replaced the batteries. It works… sort of!  I remember purchasing this ….it cost as much as a small laptop today! I used to use it to keep my bushwalk diary, emergency contact details for each of the students in my group and phone numbers when on an expedition

Why did I discard it? Was it the white line across the middle of the screen which obliterated some of the words?

Today I have saved the text file as a pdf and imported it into my mobile smartphone (Nokia N95), which I always carry with me in the bush.

Which is likely to be more dependable and easy to use in an emergency? Hard copy or digital?

I think you can guess what I think. Why else would I still carry the hard copy in my first aid kit?
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