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New To Gps And Caching, Mapping Question


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Got a Garmin eTrex for the holidays and have been learning to use it. Have been out caching a couple of times and love it, so does my wife luckily.

My question is, I have downloaded some maps but do not know how to read them. The file formats are .dbf, .sbn, .shp, .shx

I would like to download some good maps and be able to add waypoints to and from my GPS. I know the eTrex does not have mapping capabilites, but this would help plan trips and locate waypoints I have collected out in the field.

I am very new to GPSing and short on expendable cash... baby, house, etc., etc.

What I really would like is a freeware, shareware program and a way to find some online maps.

I hope I am not missing something too fundamental.

Thanks in advance,

Matt Anderson

maxdog46268@yahoo.com ;)

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Lots of applications use .dbf. Most of them I think are Access database files. I don't know what mapping application might use the format. I have no idea what sbn, shp, and shx are. Where did you download them from?


My cache page printouts usually include a large scale mappoint view of the area surrounding the cache.


You can get scans of USGS topo maps at Lost Outdoors. A bit cumbersome if you want to stitch them together to make larger maps.


My personal favorite free software is USAPhotoMap. It automatically downloads and stitches together terraserver satellite photos and UGGS topos. You'll need plenty of disk space because of the high resolution. A high speed connection and/or some patience. When I had dialup, I used to set up a 150 square mile download before going to bed and have it finished in the morning. You can load and view gpx waypoint files. You can load waypoints, tracks, and routes from your GPSR as well.


When I hit the road, it's back to detailed paper road maps.

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It appears you have downloaded data in ESRI's shapefile format (.dbf, .sbn, .shp, .shx files, all with the same filename). All of the files work together, but you need a GIS mapping program to view/query them (ie ArcView). I am new to the geocaching world, and would be interested to learn if shapefiles compatable with any recreational GPS units.

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I too am new to GPS and mapping but I did some research to see what I would be getting myself into in terms of cost and produtcs.


Here is what I found out:


Uploading waypoints to Garmin units requires Garmin Software as Garmin uses a proprietary format. You can manually enter them but it can be tedious for extensive routes.


I purchased Garmin Topo US and I am very pleased.


Websites: www.usgs.gov/ - http://maps.geoportals.com/


You can try to search on the following topics:


waypoint, longitude/latitude (or combinations), maps


Just couple of ideas - If you are using a paper map you may wnat to brush up on UTM Readings - here's the site www.nps.gov/prwi/readutm.htm


This lets you determine the datums and there are free software programs that convert those datums to longitude and lattitude. I have a site for freeware but will have to post it later today...


Hope this helps!




a site for the conversion software is:



Edited by CycleGuy
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