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  1. #1
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    Basemap Data on your GPS

    Okay, so I'm bored again today, so I thought I'd write a little about getting map data onto your GPS. This will be mostly related to Garmins, since the Magellan Titan uses National Geographic Topo! exclusively and the Delorme has its own proprietary process for installing various basemap data. For Garmin, there are a few options.

    First, let's talk about data types. There are two types of data, raster and vector. Vector data includes points, lines, and polygons. Vector data is infinitely scalable. You can zoom in infinitely without losing detail, however more often than not, the size of points, and the width of lines changes relative to map scale as the zoom level changes. Raster data displays similar features, but uses a grid of cells (pixels), where each pixel is given a specific value (usually a color). This type of data has an optimal zoom level for viewing purposes, but the size of points and the width of lines is always the same relative to the map scale at different zoom levels.

    Examples of vector data are Garmin's map products (either topo or street maps).

    Examples of raster data include National Geographic Topo!, scanned USGS quads, aerial photos, and digital elevation models (where the pixel values are elevation, rather than color).


    Delorme GPS receivers include Delorme Topo USA software, which is a vector map product. Delorme also offers users the option to purchase a subscription to purchase extra imagery (raster) to load onto the GPS. Delorme also allows you to upgrade to XMap, which allows users to load any map layer onto their Delorme without the subscription.

    Of course, you can always buy Garmin's maps and call it a day, That's probably the simplest method, but it costs the most. You can use freely available map data on your Garmin. GPSFileDepot offers a lot of free topos that you can put on your Garmin GPS. Check their tutorials page for instructions on getting those maps onto the GPS itself, but this is a freely available option.

    For street maps, you can get the Ibycus USA maps. As far as I'm aware, Garmin's Mapsource City Navigator still has a card against these maps, since only Garmin's maps allow the autorouting function (having the GPS build a route for you), however, you can still build a route at home for your GPS to follow. You can install raster map data onto a Garmin GPS if you use MOAGU: The Mother of All GPS Utilities.

    Finally, if you've chosen to buy Garmin's maps, you still have two options with many GPS receivers. You can buy the cd/dvd or you can buy the maps preloaded onto a data card. If you buy the cd/dvd, you install the program on your pc and you are able to load only what maps you want or need onto your GPS, and you still have the maps available on your computer for browsing or planning purposes. Buying the maps preloaded onto a data card allows you to simply swap cards in your GPS to change basemaps, however you cannot load these onto your pc for planning. They are only usable on the GPS.

  2. #2
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    Thanks again Nate.

    Can a mod sticky this too?
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk
    however you cannot load these onto your pc for planning. They are only usable on the GPS.
    Hmm. I didn't know that. Too bad my 705 w/ card is due to show up tomorrow. I'd really like to plan out the rides on the pc first, but oh well. Great writeup.

  4. #4
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    A couple of questions (and thanks for the great info by the way).
    1. I looked at a 1:24 map of CO on gps filedepot, and it has all the topo info, but shows almost no trails. If I bought the Garmin 1:24 Colorado (or Central Rockies or whatever), would it be about the same, or do the Garmin maps have trails on them?
    2. It sounds like buying a CD makes more sense than a preloaded memory card. Yo can move the map info from CD to a memory card right? Can you swap memory cards between GPS units?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    A couple of questions (and thanks for the great info by the way).
    1. I looked at a 1:24 map of CO on gps filedepot, and it has all the topo info, but shows almost no trails. If I bought the Garmin 1:24 Colorado (or Central Rockies or whatever), would it be about the same, or do the Garmin maps have trails on them?
    2. It sounds like buying a CD makes more sense than a preloaded memory card. Yo can move the map info from CD to a memory card right? Can you swap memory cards between GPS units?
    The Garmin maps are more or less the same. I've been told by some hikers that the 24k Garmin maps have some trails on them, but I suspect they're mostly hiking trails (and mostly old ones at that). I've never heard of any bikers saying they've used Garmin's software for trails. Most bikers seem to know already that you get better trail data if you download from garmin connect, mapmyride, trimble outdoors, gpsies, runSaturday, or one of the other websites that stores trail data.

    I only have a very old copy (pre-'03) of Garmin's 100k topos. There's a little bit of old trails on them, but many of them no longer exist, are routed differently now, or are old roads that no longer permit cars on them.

    The way I understand it, with an unlocked map set like the old topo maps I have (I have no idea how the new ones work), the cd/dvd is a much more flexible solution since you can plan routes and visualize your data on the pc. Garmin seems to be making a big push for the memory cards, however, and so they've put some limits on the locked maps (like City Navigator), where the pc software will only work with a limited number of GPS receivers (city nav will now only work on a single receiver if you buy the dvd). The software remembers which device has been unlocked with it, so you cannot load the maps onto more receivers. However, the maps on memory cards do not have that limitation. As long as the card will fit in the GPS, you can use the maps on that GPS. The limitation with the cards is that you cannot install them to the pc and use them to visualize your trip, or to plan your trip or any of that. You also cannot combine mapsets (topo and city nav, for example) onto the same receiver at the same time. To load two mapsets at once, you have to buy the pc versions of both. Otherwise, you have to buy two preloaded memory cards and swap them if you want to change maps.

    So there are advantages and disadvantages to both now...you just have to decide which is most important. Or...you can get your basemaps from gpsfiledepot and not care.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk
    The Garmin maps are more or less the same. I've been told by some hikers that the 24k Garmin maps have some trails on them, but I suspect they're mostly hiking trails (and mostly old ones at that). I've never heard of any bikers saying they've used Garmin's software for trails. Most bikers seem to know already that you get better trail data if you download from garmin connect, mapmyride, trimble outdoors, gpsies, runSaturday, or one of the other websites that stores trail data.
    Interesting. When you buy a USGS 7.5 quadrangle on paper, it shows trails, so why wouldn't an electronic topo show trails?
    I am excited to go pick up my first GPS tomorrow, a Legend Hcx. My plan is to use a 24k topo from gpsfiledepot as my base map, and then to download mountain bike trail info from singletracks.com.
    I imagine I will have dozens of trails stored on my units microSD card. If I want to look at one of those trails, will it have to take the place of the base map? Or could I show it on top of the base map? Could I show multiple trail maps in the same area simultaneously?
    Thanks again for your help.

  7. #7
    Scott in Tucson
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    Interesting. When you buy a USGS 7.5 quadrangle on paper, it shows trails, so why wouldn't an electronic topo show trails?
    I am excited to go pick up my first GPS tomorrow, a Legend Hcx. My plan is to use a 24k topo from gpsfiledepot as my base map, and then to download mountain bike trail info from singletracks.com.
    I imagine I will have dozens of trails stored on my units microSD card. If I want to look at one of those trails, will it have to take the place of the base map? Or could I show it on top of the base map? Could I show multiple trail maps in the same area simultaneously?
    Thanks again for your help.
    Unfortunately that's not the way it works on the LegendHCx. You are limited to the 20 'saved tracks' and the 10,000 point active log for actually displaying trails that aren't a part of the basemap. It's a major limitation of the older generation of units, though not a deal stopper -- I ride 500+ mile routes (bikepacking) and using 20 tracks at 500 points each is enough detail.

    But there's no way to display tracks from the SDcard on the unit -- it's only for saving archives of tracks you actually collect.

    Newer garmin units (e.g. Oregon, Dakota) do allow more tracks to be shown on top of the basemaps and be toggled on/off.

    Hope that helps a bit.
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

  8. #8
    Scott in Tucson
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    I would also add to this thread that Garmin Oregon, Dakota and Colorado units now have the ability to display raster maps. Right now the limit is 100 1024x1024 maps, and there are already a number of tools out there for generating large scale tiled maps.

    You still can't cover a huge area (like an entire state) at a high level of detail, but I can get all my local trail areas and a big bonus is that you can load as many trails on top of the maps as you want -- they will show up in the exported raster maps.

    Here is some info on the new 'custom maps' feature from Garmin:

    http://www.garmin.com/garmin/cms/sit...ail/custommaps
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    Unfortunately that's not the way it works on the LegendHCx. You are limited to the 20 'saved tracks' and the 10,000 point active log for actually displaying trails that aren't a part of the basemap. It's a major limitation of the older generation of units, though not a deal stopper -- I ride 500+ mile routes (bikepacking) and using 20 tracks at 500 points each is enough detail.

    But there's no way to display tracks from the SDcard on the unit -- it's only for saving archives of tracks you actually collect.

    Newer garmin units (e.g. Oregon, Dakota) do allow more tracks to be shown on top of the basemaps and be toggled on/off.

    Hope that helps a bit.
    OK, thanks. I can see now that each question just leads to more. So I can display 20 tracks at one time. Will they show on top of the base map, simultaneously? If I download a trail from singletracks.com, I have the option of a .kml file or a.gpx file. Is this the same data format as saving a track during a ride?
    Tell me if I understand this right: I can download a bunch of trail maps, or save tracks from my rides, and store them on my computer, or on my micro SD card, but I can't display them from there. I have to load them into the units memory to display them, right?
    So, suppose I am in Evergreen CO, and my Garmin is set up to display trails in that area. The next weekend, I go to Colorado Springs, and those maps are stored on my SD card. Would I be able to move Evergreen maps from unit to SD, and CO spgs maps from SD to unit, or would I have to connect to my computer to set it up for CO springs?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    Interesting. When you buy a USGS 7.5 quadrangle on paper, it shows trails, so why wouldn't an electronic topo show trails?
    I am excited to go pick up my first GPS tomorrow, a Legend Hcx. My plan is to use a 24k topo from gpsfiledepot as my base map, and then to download mountain bike trail info from singletracks.com.
    I imagine I will have dozens of trails stored on my units microSD card. If I want to look at one of those trails, will it have to take the place of the base map? Or could I show it on top of the base map? Could I show multiple trail maps in the same area simultaneously?
    Thanks again for your help.
    Around here, the 7.5 maps do not show very many trails, and most of the ones they DO show are inaccurate.

    If you download a gpx file of a trail someone else has done, it will show over the basemap. If you load multiple gpx tracks, you can choose to make most of them different colors (I think there are 16-18 color choices). These will show over your basemap simultaneously. Like Krein said, you can only load 20 tracks at a time on the legend. But you could have all you want on your computer and load tracks of a specific area on your gps as you need.
    I'm looking forward to regretting this.......

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    OK, thanks. I can see now that each question just leads to more. So I can display 20 tracks at one time. Will they show on top of the base map, simultaneously? If I download a trail from singletracks.com, I have the option of a .kml file or a.gpx file. Is this the same data format as saving a track during a ride?
    Tell me if I understand this right: I can download a bunch of trail maps, or save tracks from my rides, and store them on my computer, or on my micro SD card, but I can't display them from there. I have to load them into the units memory to display them, right?
    So, suppose I am in Evergreen CO, and my Garmin is set up to display trails in that area. The next weekend, I go to Colorado Springs, and those maps are stored on my SD card. Would I be able to move Evergreen maps from unit to SD, and CO spgs maps from SD to unit, or would I have to connect to my computer to set it up for CO springs?
    Your 20 tracks will show on top of the basemap simultaneously with the Legend HCx. I don't have any experience with .kml files, but gpx files work well.

    Your gps will display maps from the micro SD card. I have the gpsfiledepot map for CO, IIRC it's ~170MB. As long as you have a reasonably decent sized card (2 gb < 10 bucks at Amazon) you can fit all of Colorado and surrounding states with no problem. In other words, you drive to Colorado springs, turn on your gps, your maps are there and will display on your gps. TRACKS, on the other hand, you'll need to hook up to your computer and transfer to your gps. These go in active memory, and are not stored on the data card(*)

    In practice, you may find that you do not need 20 tracks in each area, so maybe you can keep tracks in your gps for both areas. In any event, to transfer a track to your gps from your computer takes very little time.

    (*) you can choose to have your gps log your track files to to data card and these are saved as .gpx files. However, your gps cannot read these files at all, you must put your gps into "usb mass storage" mode while connected to your computer to access these files, and then they are retrieved by your computer where you can do what you like with them.
    I'm looking forward to regretting this.......

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    I would also add to this thread that Garmin Oregon, Dakota and Colorado units now have the ability to display raster maps. Right now the limit is 100 1024x1024 maps, and there are already a number of tools out there for generating large scale tiled maps.

    You still can't cover a huge area (like an entire state) at a high level of detail, but I can get all my local trail areas and a big bonus is that you can load as many trails on top of the maps as you want -- they will show up in the exported raster maps.

    Here is some info on the new 'custom maps' feature from Garmin:

    http://www.garmin.com/garmin/cms/sit...ail/custommaps
    Yes I was reading about this. I was wondering if there was software available that would allow you to do something similar to this with an Etrex. It seems that to make a custom map, most of the steps are on the computer, not on the GPS, so couldn''t you do this with any GPS, as long as you could convert your map to a usable file format?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnyspoke
    Your 20 tracks will show on top of the basemap simultaneously with the Legend HCx. I don't have any experience with .kml files, but gpx files work well.

    Your gps will display maps from the micro SD card. I have the gpsfiledepot map for CO, IIRC it's ~170MB. As long as you have a reasonably decent sized card (2 gb < 10 bucks at Amazon) you can fit all of Colorado and surrounding states with no problem. In other words, you drive to Colorado springs, turn on your gps, your maps are there and will display on your gps. TRACKS, on the other hand, you'll need to hook up to your computer and transfer to your gps. These go in active memory, and are not stored on the data card(*)

    In practice, you may find that you do not need 20 tracks in each area, so maybe you can keep tracks in your gps for both areas. In any event, to transfer a track to your gps from your computer takes very little time.

    (*) you can choose to have your gps log your track files to to data card and these are saved as .gpx files. However, your gps cannot read these files at all, you must put your gps into "usb mass storage" mode while connected to your computer to access these files, and then they are retrieved by your computer where you can do what you like with them.
    Thanks Johnny, very helpful. I was thinking a large capacity SD card would be useful for storing all my tracks, but it sounds like it isn't so important. If I have to connect to the computer to switch active tracks anyway, the tracks could be stored on my computer, not on my card. So what would be benefit of a high capacity card?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    So what would be benefit of a high capacity card?
    Besides the nominal price difference between 2gb and smaller cards, the ability to hold map detail for a rather large area. This is helpful if you like to do road trips. For instance, on my 2gb card I have gpsfiledepot maps for Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, parts of Oregon, California and in addition to Garmin topo 2008 covering roughly the same area and NW trails covering the same area...and room to spare to log my gpx files. And while transferring a track file to active memory is quite quick, building and transferring mapsets to send to your data card is not...for a large mapset you can expect this to take 2-3 hours or more (don't worry, after you select what maps you want to transfer, the computer does all the work while you what a football game or something) So I prefer to keep a large mapset on my gps so I'm not loading maps for every road trip.
    I'm looking forward to regretting this.......

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnyspoke
    Besides the nominal price difference between 2gb and smaller cards, the ability to hold map detail for a rather large area. This is helpful if you like to do road trips. For instance, on my 2gb card I have gpsfiledepot maps for Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, parts of Oregon, California and in addition to Garmin topo 2008 covering roughly the same area and NW trails covering the same area...and room to spare to log my gpx files. And while transferring a track file to active memory is quite quick, building and transferring mapsets to send to your data card is not...for a large mapset you can expect this to take 2-3 hours or more (don't worry, after you select what maps you want to transfer, the computer does all the work while you what a football game or something) So I prefer to keep a large mapset on my gps so I'm not loading maps for every road trip.
    And once you transfer these maps to your card, you can switch to any of them as you travel to different states, or does switching from a CO base map to an AZ base map, for example, require that you connect to your computer also?

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    No computer required. In fact, as long as you select adjacent maps segments to transfer over, you could have your gps on while you drive and never need to do anything...completely seamless. In other words, if you were to choose to transfer only northern Co and southern AZ, you would have a gap in DETAILED mapping (the low detail basemap built into the gps would be there, but it pretty much only shows major roads, interstates, large lakes and major rivers).

    If you have two different maps on your gps for the same area, for instance garmin topo 2008 for Colorado and the gpsfiledepot 24k Colorado, these will not show at the same time(*) however you can select which one is visible on your gps by going into the map menu page of your gps...again, no computer required to change your visible mapset.

    (*) some maps are transparent, such as northwest trails, and will overlay the map below it while still allowing the other map to "show through". If you find you have an interest in these kind of things, you could build a transparent map of all the colorado trails that you are interested in the same way, and even upload that to gpsfiledepot to share. As you can see, this could become quite a hobby by itself!
    I'm looking forward to regretting this.......

  17. #17
    Scott in Tucson
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    Yes I was reading about this. I was wondering if there was software available that would allow you to do something similar to this with an Etrex. It seems that to make a custom map, most of the steps are on the computer, not on the GPS, so couldn''t you do this with any GPS, as long as you could convert your map to a usable file format?
    Nope, I highly doubt Garmin will release unit firmware with custom map support for anything older than the Oregon or Colorado. The older units (e.g. LegendHCx, 60CSx) have a slower processor and totally different software.

    Most of the steps are on the computer, but the GPS itself needs to have the capability to display the maps. MOAGU (mentioned in the OP) is sort of a hack to get raster maps to display on the older units (in a way garmin never intended), and IME it is much slower and limited to a very small area (compared to the new custom maps on OR/DK/CO units).

    Hope that makes sense.
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

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    Dollars and Sense

    I have two garmin's edge 305 and forerunner 405;

    What can I get next and what's coming down the pike.

    My next unit I definately want topo, gps coordinates, compass, sds card to expand memory, load and store routes. i don't think there's any units that do hr, mp3 or jpeg yet, but maybe in the manufacturers pipeline. okay so maybe i need to buy an iPhone, but I am disgruntled with apple's business model, since I bought the apple powerbook wallstreet laptop and there shoddy power supply chord replacement rendered the unit inapprobable.
    Look to where the river ends, or where the river starts...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jkmacman
    I have two garmin's edge 305 and forerunner 405;

    What can I get next and what's coming down the pike.

    My next unit I definately want topo, gps coordinates, compass, sds card to expand memory, load and store routes. i don't think there's any units that do hr, mp3 or jpeg yet, but maybe in the manufacturers pipeline. okay so maybe i need to buy an iPhone, but I am disgruntled with apple's business model, since I bought the apple powerbook wallstreet laptop and there shoddy power supply chord replacement rendered the unit inapprobable.
    There's all sorts of stuff out there. All the features you want exist in some model or another. I just haven't seen one that can do them all at once. The Windows Mobile platform has a lot of GPS applications available for it already...and they've been available for many years longer than any ipod apps. The big difference is that there's no app store for these things and you have to search for them all. I have an old Dell Axim PDA (no cellular or anything like that) running windows mobile and it can do lots of things. Sadly it predates even bluetooth, but it has multiple expansion slots so I could add a compact flash GPS receiver and have something that can display .jpg files, at least, and depending on the software, could have raster basemap capability.

    Using a newer smartphone with the same platform, similar results could be had with bluetooth, wifi, cell service, more memory, and a better interface (finger-operable rather than requiring a stylus). The biggest problem there is outdoor ruggedness.

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    The biggest problem there is outdoor ruggedness.
    I tend to break or lose stuff, that's why a prefer not to buy top of the line stuff. That being said i'd use the following as a benchmark

    I would also add to this thread that Garmin Oregon, Dakota and Colorado units now have the ability to display raster maps.



    from my limited knowledge 400t (w/topo) is what i'd like, but do to financial contraints, the 200 might have to do
    Look to where the river ends, or where the river starts...

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    I would also add to this thread that Garmin Oregon, Dakota and Colorado units now have the ability to display raster maps. Right now the limit is 100 1024x1024 maps, and there are already a number of tools out there for generating large scale tiled maps.

    You still can't cover a huge area (like an entire state) at a high level of detail, but I can get all my local trail areas and a big bonus is that you can load as many trails on top of the maps as you want -- they will show up in the exported raster maps.

    Here is some info on the new 'custom maps' feature from Garmin:

    http://www.garmin.com/garmin/cms/sit...ail/custommaps
    This is a very very cool feature of these units! I got a 400t just for this and I love that damn thing! Something about a real (raster) 7.5 minute quad with a trail network overlayed on it for finding your way around the woods can't be beat IMHO.

    These raster overlays/basemaps/whatever for these units are simply KMZ files - so you can create them in Google Earth, OR, if you want to save time and make things easier on yourself, get yourself a copy of Topofusion - it makes doing this a snap.

    (be proud Krien, you have an amazing product!!!)
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    Help uploading maps

    Hello,

    I have downloaded map files from gpsfiledepot and am trying to load them into mapsource for a garmin edge 705. I keep getting error warnings that mapsource does not recognize these files. Any way to convert them? The map set is NJ topos.

    Any help would be appreciated,

    Scott

  23. #23
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    The maps come with an installer that automatically loads them into Mapsource. Is your Mapsource updated to the most recent version? I just installed the NJ Topos on my pc to see, and everything went perfectly.

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    Nate,

    I am making some headway thanks to you. I was able to load NJ Topos onto 705 and then loaded IbycusUSA2 for my region. Problem is that the Ibycus overwrote the topo data and I do not see a topo map set under maps. Any thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Scott

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    When you want to load data from two different mapsets, you have to choose the segments you want from both mapsets and upload them at the same time. (Choose segments from one mapset, then switch to another mapset and choose the segments you want from there. Finally, upload all at once). As you've discovered, if you upload from one mapset, then upload from another mapset on a different upload event, the second upload event overwrites the first, instead of appending to it.

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