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Discussion: Hybrid Way of Mapping

in: Orienteering; General

Jan 30, 2019 9:32 PM # 
Some people prefer to make orienteering maps by taking a base map sandwiched between a board and mylar in to the field. They triangulate and measure and draw. Then go home and draw it all again on to their computer. I don't think anyone is doing clean copies anymore.
More people prefer to take a tablet or other hand-held device loaded with a mapping program and connected to a GPS device in to the field and do it all right there. All they have to do when they get home is save the file.
I've tried both but right now I'm somewhere in the middle.
What don't I like about the board and mylar? Too slow, requires too much accuracy, very weather dependent.
What don't I like about the tablet and GPS device? Worry about damage to the tablet, not one but two devices to worry about battery life. I'm just all thumbs when it comes to tablet input and I'm pretty slow at it.
So what do I do? I take the mylar and basemap for notes but most of the tough stuff is done by my GPS watch. I can track in line, point and area features with pretty good accuracy in pretty good time and put long days in on one battery charge, rain or shine. See how here. Mapping purists may find fault but I don't really care. With this cheaper and faster method I'm turning out maps and bringing orienteering where none was before.
Do you have a map that needs you to do some field checking? Look it over.
Also I did not invent these techniques. I just wanted to write about it.
One important note I'm adding. I'm doing this hybrid mapping in Florida USA where the terrain is not very rich in detail or in contours. What hills that do exist are smooth and the point detail is generally limited to distinct trees and root stocks, certainly not boulders and cliffs. If I had more detailed contour information to guide me my techniques certainly would be different.
Jan 30, 2019 10:20 PM # 
Gordhun, I have a variant of your method, using a handheld Garmin (Customap ) with a zoomable screen image of the current basemap loaded from OCAD, over which I display my tracks and waypoints. I also take paper prints (with or without mylar) of the relevant section of the basemap at "mapping" scale and final scale to make additional notes on if necessary.

The GPS unit accuracy is better than my watch, and tracks and waypoints download to my computer easily. There is no problem with battery life as the gps unit uses rechargable AA batteries, which I can replace in the field, and the unit will probably survive falls and swims that I wouldn't.

I also take a small "point & shoot" camera as an additional note-taking aid, especially for urban maps and in rainy weather, and make sure the camera time setting is accurate so I can georeference the photos with the gps track.
Jan 30, 2019 11:15 PM # 
I've been using Surface Pro with Bad Elf GPS -- working on an overlay OCAD file in the field with limited drawing, mostly marking up GPS data, then transferring that manually into master file when I get home, versioning via github just for the sake of sanity.

Tablet battery is usually drained in about six hours which is enough time anyway.
Jan 31, 2019 12:06 AM # 
There is more than one way to be hybrid. After years on mylar, I tried a series of digital combinations on the last map. Here is the system I ended up using.
1. Create a basemap from lidar using OCD18. I have come to prefer the latest OCAD tool over kartapullautin or OL Laser.
2. Convert the basemap to OOMapper format. (Troubles with GPS and surface stylus. Found them very frustrating)
3. Work in the field using an Android tablet with active stylus. I freehand draw rather than bother with curve tools.
4. Back home save the field work and use as a background to redraw in OCAD18. I can't produce the quality of drawing in the field that I would expect to see in a map.
After one experience with this method, I am sure of one thing. I am never going back to Mylar. One of the greatest advantages of the tablet system is that I can see the problems with ISOM17 compliance in the field rather than discovering them back home and then having to revisit.
And yes, the decision to go totally OOMapper is being considered. I had no initial desire to shift from OCAD to OOM, but in the end that was what worked for me. I think OCAD has some work to do to make their software more tablet oriented.
Jan 31, 2019 2:11 AM # 
This is a great thread and I hope it continues. We need to put them in a form so that others can learn with. I am more than happy to coordinate these things, perhaps edit them if anyone wishes, and there are more ideas and techniques than my brain can produce. All ideas are welcome and are encouraged. Our sport needs more maps so that we reach more people. This means that any help for new mappers (or even ones who have had experience) will help the cause.
Jan 31, 2019 3:03 AM # 
I skipped over the basemap compilation stage:

create LIDAR-derived topo data using OCAD12 and karttapullautin, generating contours, topo and hill-shaded images and pseudo O-map; cadastral and cultural features from state data-bases; and most recent and/or best aerial imagery from state and commercial coverages.
compile all of this into OCAD basemap using current symbol set supplemented with specially-defined temporary symbols and colours, at final scale - identify potential problem areas (shadow, dense cover, complex rock, symbol definition etc)

then load map image into Garmin & start field work, or give to another mapper.

where possible avoid using some OCAD12 ISOM2017 symbols if the basemap is going to a mapper using an earlier versions of OCAD or Open Mapper which may not handle these symbols well (a screenfull of warnings is a bit scary)

at the end of the field day the gps unit is connected to the computer by USB and is recognised as an external drive - transfer of the data directly as gpx files avoids having to use an intermediate stage like Garmin Connect.
Jan 31, 2019 3:58 AM # 
One mapper based in Darwin did something similar to create a map where he had no access to decent base data at all (without prohibitive aerial survey costs) to map an area of dense very large rock formations, but did it as a two-stage process.

He went out with a GPS alone, and walked around every feature he could find. Back home, loaded the GPS trace and printed it out as his base map. Second visit was to use that trace to locate and classify all the features, and draw the map itself.

Bit more legwork, but a damn sight faster than trying to map that terrain by triangulation.

I think tRicky does something similar for MTBO mapping - one ride to find all the tracks, second ride to classify them.
Jan 31, 2019 6:32 AM # 
One important note I added above. I'm doing this hybrid mapping in Florida USA where the terrain is not very rich in detail or in contours. What hills that do exist are smooth and the point detail is generally limited to distinct trees and root stocks, certainly not boulders and cliffs. If I had more detailed contour information to guide me my techniques certainly would be different.
Jan 31, 2019 2:30 PM # 
Thanks Gordon, Glad to see I am not the only one doing this. We all have different methods. I use a handheld GPS rather than my watch and draw straight on paper. I am way to clumsy to take more electronics out in the field with me and I have gotten very fast with OOM. Most of the maps I am doing are ISSOM.
Feb 1, 2019 8:57 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I've used a very similar approach for my Asmaløy map, i.e. I'll print out a section, start my gps watch and start running/walking around in the terrain adding notes on the base map approximately where I think each detail to be mapped is located while hitting the split time button to get a waypoint there. After the run I'll use QuickRoute to adjust the GPS track according to already mapped (or visible on aerial photos) details, making the position of any intermediate waypoints even more accurate.

I have bought two Surface tablets as well, but due to wet conditions most of my work has been done using this hybrid method.
Feb 1, 2019 3:38 PM # 
This is nothing new. I posted my mapping method last year and wrote a few articles that were rejected by Peter on my method. I did a map of Don Robinson State Park. It took me 40 days of GPS field checking to put in all the features. Each day I collected/catalogued 250-300 waypoints and tracks. At home I downloaded them into OCAD 12. I did not take my tablet into the field because inputting the data directly into the program was too slow and I was concerned about damaging the tablet.

When generating waypoints and tracks one must keep of list of the description of each item so you can put the correct symbol on the map. My area was feature rich which meant not all the features collected fit on the map. Many times I had to turn the overlapping boulders into clusters or a boulder field.
Feb 1, 2019 4:45 PM # 
The articles that were "rejected" were to be placed in ONA, based on my recollection. They were very complete with step by step processes but because of that completeness, there were complex and long. The thinking was that more than a few pages of this discussion was not appropriate for ONA. A summary of what was done would have been appropriate with then a "pointer" to where it could be found elsewhere, such as on the OUSA website. The "Mappers" section of that website is where this information should reside as it would be useful to people wanting to follow the procedure.
I hope that this can be done in the near future and there may be time to get a synopisis of the system into the next ONA.
Feb 1, 2019 9:21 PM # 
This page:
has descriptions of how to use Lidar to make maps, and where to obtain Lidar.

If you have other helpful articles, PDF format is preferred, and anything around 1 MB can be posted easily, orherwise it needs to be broken into smaller chunks.
Feb 2, 2019 12:59 AM # 
I have two main methods:

Using OOM on a tablet (an Amazon Kindle). I use a "scribble" template to draw notes. I do not try to draft the map in the field. I use the scribble template when I get home to update the map. The scribble template serves the same function as mylar on a map board.

For my mapping the biggest weaknesses with the tablet is that the screen can be hard to see in bright light.

I also do a fair amount of mapping while I'm out training. I carry a pen and make notes about changes. Sometimes I can use those notes to make the changes. But sometimes I'll have to come back out with the tablet to carefully make the notes. My running notes are really just a way of indicating the areas I need to do more work rather than detailed field notes. I did something similar when I worked on a map in Sweden. The club had split the map into square KM bits and had club members run around and find places that needed updating. They usually just circled the area that needed updating. I when to each of those areas and drew in the changes.

I prepare base maps with Karttapullautin, OL Laser, LASTools, and Relief Visualization Toolbox. One of the really nice features of mapping with OOM on a tablet is that you can load all of those base maps and then switch between them when you are in the field.

I wear a GPS watch when I map and download the tracks. I don't use it for a lot of the work, but I do find it useful on occasion.
Feb 2, 2019 2:28 AM # 
I am surprised that I am the only person mentioning the issue of ISOM17 compliance. If your map has detailed areas where generalisation is required, drafting in the field on tablet helps to detect minimum distance non-compliance issues. At the moment there is no test with OOM, and the OCAD test is rudimentary. But even without these tests, seeing the symbols at proper size on the map helps one to achieve the appropriate degree of generalisation whilst one can still see the terrain in front of you. My experience of GPS logging and mylar drawing is that it will not provide a similar level of discipline. The ultimate discipline is submitting your map to CheckOMap via email. First time for any map is generally a shock.
Feb 2, 2019 3:20 AM # 
Invis, keeping track of possible generalisation/spacing/size compliance issues is one of the reasons I try to take take a printed copy of current map at final print scale, for comparison with the mapping scale work and screen display.
Feb 8, 2019 11:15 PM # 
I tried gps and tablet method with problems mentioned above. I like the idea of gps and notes. My weak point was my gps ( holux m-241) It was anywhere in the range of 25 m even in the open with 9-10 satellites. Before I buy another one, I'd like to hear which brand and model are more accurate. Do you have any suggestions?
Feb 9, 2019 2:45 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Petr: I have bought several different Bluetooth GPSs, the last has a multi-constellation chipset capable of GPS+Glonass+Galileo, so in theory much more accurate but the firmware has not been updated to include the Galileo sats. :-(

Modern (i.e. cell phone) gps chipsets are actually capable of very good accuracy even under a canopy, but at least in cell phone applications the extra accuracy is instead used to reduce the power needed. With a good top-of-hat external antenna and all sats tracked we should be getting mostly sub-meter tracking even under non-ideal circumstances.
Feb 9, 2019 3:28 AM # 
Lately I've been using the Avenza app with a Dual XGPS-160 and my phone. The Dual XGPS-160 receives both GPS and GLONASS satellites and is light enough to wear on my hat.
Feb 10, 2019 4:40 PM # 
The problem with cell phone GPS isn’t the chipset but the fact that the small size limits the antenna. With an external antenna, you can get very accurate results, even in dense canopy.
Feb 10, 2019 11:22 PM # 
How do you connect an external hat antenna to a cell phone?
Feb 11, 2019 1:51 AM # 
Both the Dual XGPS-160 and the Garmin GLO are Bluetooth GPS receivers light enough to wear on your head for maximum satellite visibility. Both units will make use of GLONASS and GPS. Better accuracy is available, but cost quickly climbs to 1000 dollars or more. The Avenza app will save your track and waypoints in KML or GPX format.
Feb 13, 2019 2:27 AM # 
Thanks. So, when you get your tracks and waypoints in gpx format, doesn't have to be converted to utm projection to import it to ocad? Or is it automatic?
Feb 13, 2019 4:25 AM # 
Aside. When i mentioned a hat antenna I wasn't referring to a bluetooth device on a hat.
Feb 13, 2019 8:52 AM # 
OCAD converts automatically from imported gps tracks and waypoints in gpx to the current coordinate system as long as the coordinate system (and zone) is nominated in OCAD eg UTM zone 56S or MGA zone 56 for eastern Australia
Feb 14, 2019 12:01 AM # 
Thank you.
Feb 18, 2019 1:28 PM # 
What is the easiest way to get an orienteering map onto Avenza on an android phone, which I guess is what is the easiest way to create a geo referenced tiff file from OOM or Ocad? I'm still on ocad 10.
Feb 19, 2019 3:39 AM # 
Ocad one way is to

Export the map file as a Tiff. Check the box to create World file

You need an Avenza Map Store account to post the map to Avenza for approval

Download the Avenza Android app from the Playstore

In the Android app go to the Avenza app and download the map
Feb 19, 2019 2:36 PM # 
No need for a mapstore account; use Dropbox to move maps from the desktop to the app on the phone.
Avenza does not read UTM, so maps must be converted to Mercator projection with geographic coordinates.
Go to the park; turn on location services on your phone, then start the Avenza app. Download the map using the Dropbox option in Avenza. You should see a small blue dot at your location. There is also a cross hair at the center of screen. Move the crosshairs to the blue dot before saving a waypoint.
Feb 19, 2019 7:58 PM # 
Thanks for the additional way of getting maps on Avenza.

If you have an Avenza account you can upload UTM maps. You can see 3 of my trail maps. Search for Westmoreland, Bloomerside and Angle Fly.

When you open them up they display Lon/Lat despite they were created as UTM
Feb 19, 2019 8:24 PM # 
Thanks, good to know. Avenza says it supports several projections but Mercator was the one that worked for me. Uploading a UTM map would save me time and trouble. They also insist on "north up" orientation; I had to rotate mine before they would approve it.
Feb 20, 2019 12:45 AM # 
Do they define "north up" as grid N, or does magnetic N work?
Feb 20, 2019 2:34 AM # 
One of my maps had East at the top of the page. The TIFF was properly georeferenced, so GPS positions displayed correctly. Avenza did not like the text orientation and would not add it to the map store. The difference between grid North and magnetic North wouldn't be large enough to be problem.
Feb 20, 2019 8:04 AM # 
I don't get what you are talking about. I just export geo Tiff from OCAD, connect tablet to PC via usb and copy the tiff file to tablet internal storage. In Avenza touch the orange +button, choose 'from device storage' and find the tiff file. UTM works fine. No need for any approvals.
Apr 23, 2019 7:09 PM # 
That was a really helpful slideshow you uploaded, gordhun. I’m working my courage up to try mapping and that made a lot of textual info very clear to me. Thx!
Apr 26, 2019 10:36 AM # 
o-darn, Thank you for the feedback. According to Slideshare that presentation has been viewed close to 300 times. However you are only about the fifth person who has cared to comment. Thank you.
I hope you do get to make a map and then another then another. Besides being important for the growth of the sport it is a great way to sharpen one's own orienteering race skills.
My current 'thing' is picking out an area or being asked about an area and seeing how far along I can take the map from Open Street Map to draft orienteering map without ever visiting the area. The Wickham Park map is an example of that. Currently I am working on three new maps of areas in Marion County, Florida while I sit at my desk in Ottawa, Canada. I'm hoping a keen young orienteer in Florida will be able to take them forward for field checking. If not I'll get them done when I get back there in November.
The point is not to toot my own horn but to say that we orienteers could be making a heck of a lot more maps of a heck of a lot more parks and bringing orienteering to a heck of a lot more people if we just simplified and de-mystified the mapping process as I am suggesting can be done.
Besides this fascination with mapping has pretty well replaced my addiction to playing games and YouTube surfing on the computer. It's all good.
If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me. My e-mail address is listed with my profile.
Apr 28, 2019 7:46 PM # 

This discussion thread is closed.