This Portable Device Makes Trail Mapping Easy

Taste the Code designed an ESP32-powered device for recording trails in the wild.

Cameron Coward
30 days agoSensors

If you go to an established park, then helpful rangers have probably created well-marked trails and maps for you to follow on a stroll through nature. But if you stray from the beaten path, hiking and backpacking trails can get a little dicey. In an ideal world, every trail would be mapped with GPS coordinates that hikers could follow. To get us all a little closer to that world, Taste the Code designed this portable device that makes trail mapping easy.

This device’s purpose is to log GPS waypoints at regular intervals as the user walks a trail. When they’re done, they should have a nice route that they or others can follow in the future using standard GPS navigation. It is possible to map a trail using one’s phone and that is exactly how many people do it, but there are a lot of reasons why you may not want to rely on a smartphone out in the wilderness. This device is self-contained and consumes relatively little power, so it is an attractive option.

The most important component here is a Reyax RYS352A GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) that works with several protocols, including standard GPS. An ESP32 development board communicates with that module to request and store coordinates at set intervals. It then uses a microSD card module to save each waypoint for later use. To take advantage of the popular TinyGPS++ library, Taste the Code programmed the ESP32 using the Arduino IDE.

Those components mount onto a perfboard with a couple of status LEDs and buttons for controlling the logging process. Power comes from a USB battery bank and the size of that, along with the waypoint logging interval, will determine how long the device can last between charges.

To further improve things, Taste the Code plans to optimize the code to make it more efficient and design an enclosure to help protect the electronic components.

Cameron Coward
Writer for Hackster News. Proud husband and dog dad. Maker and serial hobbyist.
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