Using GPX data for navigation

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What is a GPX file?

  • You will have noticed that for each of our walks there is an option to download a “GPX File”.
  • And you will have seen that each walk has a live and interactive OS map on display.
  • The OS map you see on the website uses a set of points to superimpose the route on an underlying map – that set of points is the GPX data file.
  • So a GPX data file is really nothing more than a list of sequential locations.
  • The GPX files that you download from the website contain very accurate latitude, longitude and elevation data captured every 4 seconds when we did the walk with The Bentham Footpath Group.
  • If you transfer that file to a suitable hand-held navigation device, you can use the GPX data to show you a detailed map and the suggested route, in real time as you walk.
  • We recommend that this is used to augment the use of paper maps and a compass rather than to replace them – don’t forget, paper maps have an infinite battery life.

Can I just use the map on the BFG website?

  • You could print the map – perhaps zooming in and printing a number of sections.
  • Or you could take a phone or tablet with you and use the map on the website
  • But if you rely on the website displayed on a mobile phone or tablet whilst out walking then be aware that the map will stop working if you have no data signal.
  • Given that the walks are in sparsely populated areas, this will be the case for some of the walks.
  • Even if you do have a reliable signal, use of the mapping on the website will consume data and therefore incur mobile costs.
  • For these reasons, using the GPX on a handheld device, or specific app makes more sense.

What devices do I need?

  • Specialist handheld GPS based navigation devices are available, but they tend to be expensive.
  • For the kind of walking that we describe on this website, a smartphone or tablet is more than adequate.
  • Android or Apple operating systems are equally appropriate, but in either case you will need an App to use the GPX
  • You should be aware that using a phone for navigation uses the screen a lot, and therefore drains the battery.
  • Given that your phone’s most important use could be for emergency contact, we recommend that a spare power source is taken on all walks.
  • Search “Portable Power Bank”, and you will find options that are reasonably priced.
  • Note also that although you may be using your phone for navigation, you do not need a network signal to use a downloaded GPX file – just the appropriate App.
  • This is because the app uses GPS data which is freely available worldwide.

What App do I need?

  • There are several to choose from: if you type GPX file viewer into the search bar at your app store you will see a bewildering list.
  • Popular options include:

OS Maps App: Works on Android, IOS, and as a website.

  • Mapping is available free of charge to registered users, but the quality of the free maps is well below the paper OS maps you are probably familiar with, so we would recommend upgrading to the annual subscription which gives access to the most up to date and detailed maps of Great Britain.
  • Visit for more details.

All Trails App: Works on Android, IOS, and as a website.

  • Again, mapping is free, but of a lower quality than standard OS maps.
  • The arguable advantage of All Trails is that there is a built in library of walks.
  • However, if you visit the website and look for a walk in our area, you may be disappointed at the choice.
  • The nearest recommended route to Ingleton for example is in Liverpool at the time of writing.
  • Visit for more detail

Komoot App: Works on Android, IOS, and as a website.

  • Another App where mapping is free, but of a lower quality than standard OS maps.
  • The key feature of Komoot is that there is a feature to add a start-point, and end-point and to let the app work out a route – rather like a car GPS.
  • Visit for more detail

Outdoor Active App: Works on Android, IOS, and as a website.

  • Previously called ViewRanger
  • In many ways this is the closest to the OS offering.
  • There is a small subscription to OutdoorActive to make route planning tools available, and then a fee for use of the OS maps, making the total cost just about the same as the OS.
  • Visit for more detail

Our recommendation is the OS app.

This is the app we used to record the GPX data, and in many cases, the app we used to plan the route in the first place.

Will other apps / devices work?

  • If you already have another App which you know and love, or even a dedicated GPS device, then chances are that it can still use the GPXs files from the website
  • Check the help pages for your App to see how to download the files.
  • Some devices use KML files instead of GPX, but there are many sites that convert GPX to KML free of charge so that need not be a constraint.

How to download the OS app

  • If you are new to this and want to try the OS app, open a web browser and head to
  • Follow the instructions there to see how to download and use the app.
  • Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page and check the videos –  these are very helpful.
  • Now head over to the app store for your device and type OS Maps into the search bar.
  • The screenshot here shows an android phone, but IOS will look very similar.
  • Download and install the app.
  • Check the OS website for details of how to create an account.
  • Note that you can use a FREE account if you wish, but the app will not work until you register and sign in.

How to upload the GPX to “your routes”

  • Download the GPX file that you want to use from this website.
  • This will store the file on your computer – usually in a folder called downloads.
  • At this stage, the GPX file is on your computer, but not in Your routes
  • Your routes is the collection of routes that are associated with your OS account
  • Open the OS Maps page on your computer using the web browser
  • You will now see a map, either of the Great Britain, or if the site knows your location, where you are now.
  • Click on “routes” on the top menu, then click on “Import GPX” in the menu that appears on the left
  • Click the “choose file” button and navigate to where the GPX file has been saved.
  • Select the required GPX file and open it.
  • You should now see a confirmation that the transfer was a success:
  • Go back to the menu on the left and click “Routes”
  • You should now see the route you have transferred from this website – that is now a part of Your routes until you choose to delete it – you don’t need to download it every time you want to use it.

How to get the GPX file on your mobile device

  • So we have got the GPX into Your routes in you OS account, we now need to get it onto the phone ready for the walk
  • The key points that you may need to note before using the GPX data are;
  • You will need the maps for the area you will be walking to be downloaded to your phone before you set off – that way you can navigate without needing a mobile signal.
  • OS refer to this as “Offline maps“.
  • Given that all the groups walks are in a well defined area, downloading these once at the start of your use of the OS app is all you need to do.
  • The OS  website explains how to download offline maps
  • We have found that starting the app and downloading the route at home before you set off is a wise precaution.
  • That way if there is no signal available at the start of the route, you are still good to go.
  • Now, open the App on your phone
  • Tap MENU, then Routes (under My routes and maps)
  • Tap My Routes if it’s not selected by default
  • A list of all the routes in your My Routes collection will be shown
  • Scroll down to the route you want, and tap it
  • Tap download map to move the GPX onto your device
  • Tap Start Route when you are ready to go
  • This will show the route on the map – which map is used depends on whether you have a free account or a full subscription.

Comparing the Free and Paid maps

  • As you would expect, the paid subscription gives you better quality maps, and a host of other features such as 3D views – details of all of those can be found on the OS site
  • Here is a section of one of the walks in the free  and paid view.
  • There is a lot more detail available on the subscribed view, and for this reason we would always recommend it.
  • Notice for instance the green dotted right of way indication  that is absent on the free version.
  • However the free version is perfectly serviceable, and will always be accurate, so one option is to use the free version until you are convinced that the upgrade is worthwhile.

Find our GPX downloads useful? . . . . Consider a donation.