Go! Drive and Camp Camp Guide - - Before You Hit The Road -

Re­mem­ber the days you only took to the road with a road map when you went camp­ing? Well, those days are over – if you know how to use your GPS, that is.

Two decades ago mainly ar­mies, pi­lots and sea­far­ers used a Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem – or satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion – to find their way. With the dawn of GPS for gen­eral use, in­ter­net tools such as Google Maps, and smart­phones changed this pic­ture.

If you do a few ba­sic things right, you never have to get lost and pitch your tent in the dark again, says Jo­hann Groe­newald of Track­s4africa in Stel­len­bosch.


Be­cause most smart­phones nowa­days have Google Maps, you don’t re­ally need a GPS if you’re only go­ing to travel in the coun­try, Jo­hann says. “In the city I travel with Google. When I travel out­side of the coun­try and don’t want to de­plete my data pack­age, I use our GPS maps. I ac­tu­ally feel like ad­vis­ing peo­ple to stay on Google Maps if they’re only trav­el­ling be­tween towns in the coun­try. It works – even for some dirt roads. One of the big­gest con­cerns with Google is that the driv­ing times aren’t ac­cu­rate, but if you stay on main and se­condary roads, they’re not far off. Google Maps and Google Earth and free soft­ware like Garmin’s Base­camp that you can down­load on your com­puter, are also handy tools to plan routes.”


The choice is be­tween a gen­eral street nav­i­ga­tor and a more ex­pen­sive out­door GPS, which is meant for trav­ellers who want to take the back roads.

Street nav­i­ga­tors “The street nav­i­ga­tor is built for ur­ban nav­i­ga­tion – it doesn’t give you much more than Google does. If you’re just look­ing for a GPS to get you from point A to point B, you can buy one of Garmin’s Nüvi GPSES. (Nowa­days you can buy one with street maps you can an­nu­ally up­date for free. This is a huge bonus.) “Th­ese GPSES hide in­for­ma­tion from you for good rea­son. When you’re driv­ing in the city, there are way too many points to show on the screen.

The map is just sim­pli­fied; the ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion is there if you want it on the GPS. If you want a bit more, you can up­load maps with com­pat­i­ble Garmin-gpses (like those of Track­s4africa). “Peo­ple think th­ese are only for the 4x4 guys, but only about 15% of our data is for 4x4 roads – the rest are roads ev­ery­one can take. We spec­ify points for trav­ellers. We don’t cur­rently have all the street names for the lit­tle towns, but we can tell you where you can get petrol, camp, eat, shop and where to go in an emer­gency.”

Out­door GPSES “Out­door GPSES, like Garmin’s Mon­tana, also hide in­for­ma­tion, but you can set it to show points. When you’re driv­ing in the mid­dle of nowhere and there are only two roads and five points, it isn’t nec­es­sary to have the sim­pli­fied map on the screen. Many of those roads don’t have names and we pop­u­late the name field with in­for­ma­tion to say it’s a dirt, sand or tow-track road, and we give in­for­ma­tion on things like gates, mo­tor gates and bridges. “Out­door GPSES give in­for­ma­tion that street nav­i­ga­tors don’t. A street nav­i­ga­tor won’t show you over­grown road in Mozam­bique and you’ll scratch your car. The out­door GPS tells you this.”


To get to your camp site prob­lem-free with your GPS you need to do two im­por­tant things: En­sure the GPS’S set­tings are cor­rect and en­sure the co­or­di­nates for your des­ti­na­tion are cor­rect, Jo­hann says. “Set your GPS for the fastest time and not the short­est route, and switch off the avoid­ances set­ting. Then you’ve al­ready sorted out 90% of the prob­lems.”

The set­tings “Al­most all GPS maps are set up for the fastest time – to give you the largest, quick­est and safest road. If you set yours for the short­est route, you’re mak­ing a mis­take. For ex­am­ple, if you’re trav­el­ling from Cape Town to Upington, we all know the way: You take the N7. But if your GPS is set for the short­est route, it’ll take you on the Tankwa-ka­roo road and over Bain­skloof. This may well be the short­est route, but not

the quick­est. And you’ll get flat tyres if you go that way.

“An­other mis­take peo­ple make, is to use the func­tion to avoid cer­tain places. Your GPS may take you all over the place be­cause you fid­dled with the set­tings to avoid main and dirt roads and then there aren’t many op­tions left. Don’t think that lit­tle gad­get is al­ways 100% cor­rect – it’s only fol­low­ing or­ders,” Jo­hann says.

Where to now? “The one prob­lem with a GPS is that the map in your brain is lost, since you’re not part of the nav­i­ga­tion process. This is dan­ger­ous. In the city you can quickly cor­rect this, but if you’re in the mid­dle of nowhere, you don’t want to travel 50km in the wrong di­rec­tion with lit­tle fuel. “If you’ve worked out a route on your GPS, make sure the line of your route looks like the right way, for ex­am­ple see if there’s a moun­tain pass that’s in­ac­ces­si­ble for your car­a­van.”


That string of num­bers in­di­cat­ing where a place is, re­mains prob­lem­atic for many peo­ple since there are three for­mats for the same thing. And dif­fer­ent peo­ple pre­fer dif­fer­ent for­mats. For gen­eral nav­i­ga­tion this isn’t re­ally an is­sue, Jo­han says. The most im­por­tant thing is that you’re able to dis­tin­guish be­tween the dif­fer­ent for­mats. You must know you get:

Dec­i­mal de­grees (hddd,ddddd – in­di­cated as d.d° on some street nav­i­ga­tors)

De­grees, dec­i­mal min­utes (hddd mm,mmm or d°m.m’) De­grees, min­utes and dec­i­mal se­conds (hddd mm s,ss of d°m’s”). An ex­am­ple for dec­i­mal de­grees is S33.91129 E18.56942. In de­grees and dec­i­mal min­utes it’s writ­ten as S33 54.677 E18 34.165, and in de­grees, min­utes and dec­i­mal se­conds as S33 54 40.6 E18 34 09.9.

“Guys use spread­sheets to con­vert one for­mat to an­other, and a pro­gram like Garmin’s Base­camp has set­tings for the

for­mat of your choice. You can also do the cal­cu­la­tion to con­vert one for­mat to

an­other, although GPSES can han­dle all the for­mats. In­put the for­mat the camp­ing site gives you, even if it isn’t your pref­er­ence – after­wards you can re­set your GPS to the for­mat of your choice, and then the GPS will con­vert it into the for­mat you like.”

It’s im­por­tant to know the co­or­di­nates the camp­ing site gave you is the cor­rect one. Some­time peo­ple don’t spec­ify the for­mat, or don’t even know what the for­mat is, and that’s when mis­takes can creep in.

“If some­one gives you the co­or­di­nates for Harten­bos and doesn’t spec­ify the for­mat, make dou­ble sure. Check it on Google Maps or Base­camp to seen if that point is in­deed Harten­bos. If it’s out­side the town, you’ll know there is a mis­take.”


If you re­ally want to, you can do the math to con­vert from one for­mat to an­other.

Dec­i­mal de­grees to de­grees and dec­i­mal min­utes

To con­vert the dec­i­mal de­grees S33.91129 E18.56942: Keep the S33; mul­ti­ply the

.91129 with 60 (54.6774); also keep the E18 and mul­ti­ply the .56942 with 60 (34.1652). The de­grees and dec­i­mal min­utes then read like this: S33 54.677 E18 34.165. If you want to re­v­erse the process and con­vert from de­grees and dec­i­mal min­utes to dec­i­mal de­grees, you di­vide the 54.677 and 34.165 re­spec­tively by 60.

Dec­i­mal de­grees to de­grees, min­utes and dec­i­mal se­conds

If S33.91129you want E18.56942:to con­vert Keepthe dec­i­malthe S33, de­grees­mul­ti­ply the dec­i­mal .91129 with 60 (54.6774); keep the whole num­ber 54 (min­utes) and mul­ti­ply the re­main­ing dec­i­mal .6774 with 60 for the se­conds (40.6); also keep the E18, mul­ti­ply the .56942 with 60 (34.1652), keep the 34 and mul­ti­ply the .1652 with 60 for the se­conds (9.9). From this you can get the cor­rect de­grees, min­utes and dec­i­mal se­conds: S33 54 40.6 E18 34 09.9.

De­grees and dec­i­mal min­utes to de­grees, min­utes and dec­i­mal se­conds

If malS33 and you 54.677 min­utes­dec­i­mal­want E18to se­conds: con­vert 34.165 Keep­theto de­grees, de­greesthe S33 min­ute­sand and deci-the 54 keep and the mul­ti­plyE18 and the the .67734 and with mul­ti­ply60 (40.62); the .165 with 60 (9.9). The de­grees, min­utes and se­conds are S33 54 40.6 E18 34 09.9. to con­vert back to de­grees and dec­i­mal min­utes you di­vide the 40.6 en 09.9 re­spec­tively by 60. Is this all too much for you? Let the GPS do the work for you!

go! Drive & Camp says Once you start en­joy­ing it, nav­i­ga­tion be­comes a fas­ci­nat­ing hobby.

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