Using Streets & Trips to Generate Routes For Geocaching



One of the most frequent requests of geocachers has been how to easily create a list of caches along a route. You can use the popular mapping program MicroSoft Streets & Trips along with GPS Babel to create a files which can be used to determine caches close to your route of travel.

Geocaching.com recently introduced a new feature to Find Caches Along a Route. This feature requires a GPX(v1.1) file defining your route.

Alternatively, an arc filter function has been developed by GPS Babel which is used by GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife) "under the hood". This method requires that you have a GSAK database with all the caches for the area you'll be travelling. It also allows for searching more than 8km (5 miles) from a route which is the limit with the Geocaching.com "Find Caches Along a Route" feature.

The arc filter as described in GSAK is "... designed to include waypoints based on their proximity to an arc, which is a series of connected line segments similar to a route or track but without any other associated data other than the coordinates" Waypoints in our case are geocaches. Rather than entering the coordinates manually the Streets & Trips .EST file can be used directly by the arc filter in GSAK. Of course GBSBabel is working hard behind the scenes and arc filter functions could be performed by GPSBabel alone if you're so inclined.

This tutorial is divided into four sections:

  1. Setting Up A Route In Streets and Trips
  2. Converting the Streets and Trips file to a GPX file.
  3. Uploading the GPX file to the Caches along a Route page on Geocaching.com .
  4. Using the EST or GPX file with GSAK's Arc/Poly Filter.

The example used is a route between Edmonton and Calgary Alberta.

If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me.


Setting Up A Route In Streets and Trips



On the Standard toolbar, click "Route Planner"





Select the beginning of the route with the cursor. In our example Edmonton is selected and appears in the route planner window. Click on the "Add to Route" radio button.





Edmonton has been set as the first point on our route.





Repeat the process to add the second point on our route.





A tip from cacher Windchill gives another method of adding additional points along a route. To use this method first define the start and end points of your route and click on the "Get Directions" radio button to generate a set of driving instructions. Your route will be highlighted in green on the S&T map.

"I figured there must be an easy way to allow S&T to automatically generate the route, then go back and add the intermediate stops at major turns. Using the "enter a name" metiond to add a stop in the middle of an already generated route is kind of a pain. I found that if you click on the route itself, the pointer changes to a little flag. If you then click again, and drag just a little bit it will insert a stop for you."

Another geocacher, Rick of "Two Left Feet", uses the following method to set up the route.
"At the bottom of the map is a button for placing a push pin. Just click on it and then place the pin. it will come up with a default name (untitled). Just close the window as the name is not important. Each pin you place after that will add a number after the "untitled". So you end up with a string of push pins along the route you want to cache. When you are finished you view "Legends and Overview", right click on "My Pushpins" and then "Add Pushpins as Stops". It will make a route with a start, end and stops. Just save at this point as a .est file."

Additional points are added to complete our route to Calagary. Points should be added at major turns in the route to avoid cutting across corners. Streets & Trips will handle almost any number of points without complaint so adding more points at this stage is easy to do and increases the accuracy of the process. However, routes need to be under 500 miles and less then 500 points for use by Geocaching.com

An important point to note here is that while the route generated in Streets and Trips will follow the roads between the points we created, Geocaching.com will assume straight lines between these points. So again, use as many points as required to define your route accurately but stay below the 500 point limit.

Save this Streets&Trips file somewhere you can find it easily again! In the example below it's saved to the GPSBabel directory/folder.

Some users have reported problems with long file names or unusual charaters in the file name for the Streets&Trips file. To avoid potential problems in the remaining steps below use eight character files names with no spaces for the .est file.

Note that as of December 2005 GSAK offer native support for reading route points directly from Streets&Trips files. Accordingly the routeA.est file can be selected in the "load from file" dialogue for GSAK's arc filter function as described in section 4 Using the Arc Filter In GSAK.





Although not necessary for our project you can click on the "Get Directions" radio button to generate a set of driving instructions before shutting down Streets and Trips. These can be useful if you're travelling on strange roads or planning a longer trip.


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Converting the Streets and Trips file to a GPX file.



An open source freeware program
GPS Babel is used to convert the Streets and Trips .est file to a .gpx file that can be used by Geocaching.com. Download it from here and unzip it into a suitable directory. To simplify usage we're going to create a batch file similar to what's described here.

Using Notepad create a BATCH file called ESTtoGPX.BAT in the same directory as GPSBABEL.EXE. In that batch file, put a single line

gpsbabel -r -i msroute -f %1 -o gpx,gpxver=1.1 -F %~n1.gpx

You can copy and paste the line above if you want. Be sure to save the file with the .BAT extension.






For this to work properly next we'll create a shortcut to the batch file as shown above.





Now drag and drop the .est file onto the shortcut icon to convert the file. This will create a GPX file with the same name as the EST file.





Congratulations you now have a GPX file with the route points you created in Streets and Trips.

Geocacher Rick of "Two Left Feet" uses the following method with the GUI for GPSBabel. "I use the GUI interface and found that if you set the input format to "Microsoft Streets and Trips Pin/Route Reader", the output format to "GPX XML", then force the output options to "gpxver=1.1" it will produce the same results and you can pick files and name them as you save them."

Note: Do not double click on this GPX file as GSAK will want to open a database for it.


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Uploading the GPX file to the Caches along a Route page on Geocaching.com



This file can now be uploaded at the
Caches along a Route page on Geocaching.com as shown above.



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Using the EST or GPX file with GSAK's Arc/Poly Filter




Open GSAK and click the filter icon on the tool bar.





On the Set Filter Arc/Poly tab (1) select Arc/Line for filter type (2) select load from file (3) highlite the gpx file we just created and (4) select Open.


As of December 2005 GPSBabel and GSAK offer native support for reading route points directly from Streets&Trips files. Accordingly the routeA.est file can be selected in the "load from file" dialogue.






(1) GSAK imports the coordinates of the route points from the GPX file. (2) Now set the distance from the route that you want caches selected. Save this filter if you want to use it again in the future. (3) Select Go to run the filter.





GSAK filters the database to show the caches within 10km of the route. In my example 238 out of a total 758 caches in the Alberta database are shown in the filter.

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So How Do I Know?

... if the process worked correctly? Streets and Trips has a function similar to the arc filter so let's check our results in the .est file that we created earlier.



Export your GSAK complete (not filtered) database to a Streets and Trips CSV file which is a plain text file in which each line represents a waypoint description consisting of a comma-separated list of values. Import this file as described in Importing waypoints to Microsoft Streets & Trips





Now that you've imported your caches (in my example they're indicated by the geocaching box icon) select "Find Nearby Places" from the Tools menu.





In the Find Nearby Places window (1) select Around Entire Route (2) set Search to match our GSAK filter (in my example 10km) (3) click on Search (4) and the results should show the same number of caches. In my example 238 caches are indicated to fall within 10km of the route. I've also circled in blue a couple of caches that fall outside the 10km wide zone on both sides of the route (highlited in yellow) and are excluded from the list.

If your results don't match it may be a result of having to few route points. Remember that while the route generated in Streets and Trips will follow the roads between the points we created the Arc filter in GSAK will assume straight lines between these points. So again, use as many points as required to define your route accurately.



Many thanks go to the developers of GPSBabel - Robert Lipe -Chief Babel-Head (and all the rest of the Babel-Heads) and Clyde England - GSAK . Thanks also to all the sites I've linked to.

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Related Information Links

GPS Babel

Download GPSBabel here

Drag and Drop for Windows - example

Importing waypoints to Microsoft Streets & Trips

Tips for hand-building routes to use as arc files

Hyper Optimizing Trips with Microsoft Streets & Trips

GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife)



Geocaching Along a Route
GPX, KML, EST And ARC File Creation Resources


Markwell's Route Planning: Waypoints Along a Route

Geocaching and Route Planning

Golden Horseshoe Geocachers - ARC Builder

Using Google Earth to Generate Routes For Geocaching

Using Streets & Trips to Generate Routes For Geocaching

Using Streets & Trips to Generate Waypoints For an Arc Filter to Find Caches Along a Route in GSAK

Using Streets & Trips to Generate Routepoints For A GPX File For Use With The Caches Along a Route PQ at Geocaching.com

Using Streets & Trips to Generate Polygons For an Arc/Poly Filter in GSAK


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Updated 2008/02/14
Oh Canada Alberta
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