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maps & gps

Hiking the Camino Francés (guidebook) includes 135 useful stage and city maps, and a full GPX and Google Earth file set to offer assistance in planning and navigational aid.

Topographical Hiking Maps

Most camino hikers do not carry detailed maps, as the route is very well marked. The stage maps provided in our guidebook should be more than enough to provide accurate navigation, amenities, and points of interest. These maps are a combination of GIS contour data, GPS recordings of the path itself, and added detail as relevant. Map scales range, designed to maximize space efficiently per page. Maps list amenities including overnight lodging, restaurants/cafes and supermarkets. Full amenities are listed in town boxes in text and elevation charts.

If you’re interested in picking up more comprehensive paper maps, check out the Instituto Geográphico Nacional 1:50,000 mapset, covering the Camino Frances in 11 maps ($14 each, $75 for the set from stanfords.co.uk). Michelin makes a simple map booklet which is less detailed, but provides bare bones stage info and some context on surrounding areas. City maps (plan de cuidad) are available at tourism information centers in every large population center, noted in city maps in the guidebook.

Google Earth

We recommend that part of your trail preparation includes viewing the Camino route on Google Earth. This allows you to see the exact path overlaid on satellite images with 3D topographical detail. By exploring the hills and valleys through this virtual tour, you will have a better idea of what to expect when you arrive in Spain.

GPS Navigation

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a technology developed for surveying and navigation purposes. The system works like traditional celestial navigation as GPS units receive signals from high-orbiting satellites to calculate specific coordinates at any given location. Accuracy is +/- 3m (10ft), depending on each specific receiving unit’s capability. GPS units are now relatively inexpensive ($75-400), and provide the best way to know exactly where you are in relation to a pre-programmed map or track. A GPS unit can be especially useful in winter if snow obscures route markings. Using rechargeable batteries is environmentally friendly, and saves money over a long trip like the camino.

Most GPS units do not come pre-programmed with detailed base maps, especially of Spain, but with our downloadable files you will still be able to navigate the route easily and precisely. (The Garmin topographical base map for Spain cost $220-250.) Free basic Garmin-compatible GPS base maps generated from Open Street Map data can be created using http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl for use on handheld devices (streets only, no contour lines, not comprehensive by still very helpful).

Each GPS unit has three categories of data that are easily manipulated by users: waypoints, routes, and tracks. A waypoint marks the coordinates of an individual notable location, like where you parked your car or pitched your tent. A route is a collection of waypoints that are linked by straight lines in a specific order for navigation. A track is a detailed record of a walk that demonstrates the curve of a path, sometimes referred to as a “bread crumb trail.” Tracks can be saved after each journey or pre-loaded and retraced on the GPS. Our Camino GPS files use the track system as opposed to the route system for more accurate navigation.

Use the free program Garmin Basecamp to view and transfer GPS tracks to your handheld device. We recommend any of the following GPS units:

To use your iPhone or Android smart phone as a GPS, consider an application like Gaia GPS ($19.99). Smart phone apps like this which work without having a cellular signal, do not incur data roaming charges (if this is turned off on your phone) and utilize free topographical map base maps for offline viewing (based on OSM maps). The downside is that they drain your battery even quicker than normal, but can be a great backup and cost-effective option to a dedicated handheld GPS.

GPS data © Hiking the Camino, Village to Village Press. GPS data is available for personal and recreational use only, and may not be used for any commercial purposes.