Living with a Garmin:

Three Ways to Beat the Waypoints Limit

Garmin GPS devices have a specified Waypoint Limit. For most modern models, this is at least 1000, for older models it is often 500. You may need to store Routes totalling more than this number of points - here are some ways to do this.

If you have a modern GPS model, or if you only ever plan day rides or weekend trips, or if you prefer to use autorouting rather than the direct route method, or if you prefer just to follow Tracks not Routes - if any of this applies, then you don't need to know more, you will never encounter these limits, you can stop reading now.

If you use an older GPS, or if (like me) you plan big multi-Route projects for longer cycle tours - and (like me) you prefer to use direct (or off-road) routing mode - then you will encounter the Waypoint Limit, and you should read on ...


The key to all this is that the Waypoint Limit applies to 'User' Waypoints, that is, points made by using the Waypoint Tool in your software.

It does not apply to Routepoints - that is, points made by using the Route Tool (in Mapsource, and in some but not all other software). The Routepoint limit is much higher and you are very unlikely to encounter it.

The limit is in any case only applicable to your GPS - it is not apparent in the software on your PC or online - this means that you could do a lot of planning and only discover there's a problem when you come to transfer the Routes - you will see this error message (left) - but if you don't notice it during transfer then the first you'll know is when your Route runs out half-way, on the road!.

This Routepoint limit varies from model to model but trials show that the total number of Routpoints your GPS can store is typically between 2400 (for older models) and 5000. I've planned several different multi-week, multi-route trips and never yet gone beyond 1400 Routepoints, and never had any problem storing those on an older low-spec GPS.

Method 1 - plan using a mixture of Waypoints and Routepoints.

You would do this because User Waypoints are more useful and flexible when it comes to naming, moving or re-editing them later.
This is probably the best method, provided of course you know what type of points your software is generating.
To find out, use your usual methods to construct a short, local route - just 5 points, no more, should do it.
Save it out as a GPX file and/or transfer it to your GPS (clear the memory first).
You can open the GPX file in a text editor and inspect it to find Waypoints - which will be near the start of the file and always start with
Or on the GPS, you can use 'Find' to look for the waypoints.

Try various alternative methods of Route generation to see if any of them don't lay down Waypoints. If successfull, you would still see a Route in the GPX file, or in your GPS, but no Waypoints.

For example, in Mapsource, if you use the Waypoint tool to lay down 5 points, then go back and use the Route tool to draw over them - the tests above will show 5 Waypoints.
However if you just use the Route Tool to click on map junctions without using the Waypoint Tool first, the tests will show no Waypoints.
Or you could lay down 2 Waypoints (name them Start and Finish say) and draw a 5-point Route from one to the other. In this case you would find only 2 Waypoints on the file, and in the GPS.

Other software may, or may not, behave like this.

So I'm suggesting, use this technique to reduce the number of Waypoints you lay down. If, for example, you use Waypoints at major turns and destinations, and then draw your Route incorporating these, you might end up with a 50-50 mix of each type of point, and this simple technique effectively doubles the storage capacity of your GPS.

Method 2 - don't upload the Waypoints to the GPS.

This is a rather sledgehammer, all-or-nothing approach, but, surprisingly, it does work.

Instead of this (left) ...
       ... do this (right).

I don't recommend this method if you prefer to use autorouting (follow road) mode.
Autorouting works much better with at least some real 'User' Waypoints to use as mini-destinations.

NB - if you want to save your Waypoint-free file for future use - just transfer it back from the GPS, it will be the same as it was but with all the Waypoints stripped out!
What you have left are (uneditable) Routepoints that retain all the important attributes (name, symbol) of the Waypoints that have been removed.

Method 3 - manually edit the GPX file using a text editor.

This is a more hard-core approach, but is ultimately the most flexible, and it's the best way to eradicate almost all waypoints just leaving a few key ones in place.
Using this method I prepared a 17-day Land's End-John'o'Groats project that uses 1254 Routepoints, only 38 of which are Waypoints.
It's not at all difficult though.

Save the project out as a GPX file. (For clarity, I usually split a big project into smaller chunks, such as daily Routes, at this stage - then re-combine them later - otherwise the text file is huge).
Open this file in a text editor, such as Notepad. (NB other text editors are much better - if you do have to use Notepad, you'll need to turn Word Wrap ON, after you've opened the file - a peculiarity of Notepad and one of several good reasons not to use it. A decent free improved text editor is called Editpad.
If you've never opened a GPX file like this before - it's a bit daunting at 1st sight, but actually we're just going to look at a few obvious lines out of the many.

I've done an example, as I write this, using Mapsource which is my usual choice of software.
Scanning down the text, skipping the first few lines I come to a wodge of text around line 10 that starts with

this is the first (User) Waypoint and in my case the whole wodge (ie, 1 Waypoint) looks like this:
so look in your own file for any lines starting

each wodge of text starting like this denotes a Waypoint, which would be one of your 500 limit (or 1000, for newer Garmins).
NB the rest of the text wodge may look very different to mine - the key thing is the opening [wpt] and closing [/wpt] tags.

All the Waypoints are handily grouped together, at the top of the file (after a few header lines), and if you scroll down further you'll find the Route which is a single very long wodge starting with

So to edit out all the Waypoints, simply leave the Route alone but select all the text from the first [wpt] to the last [/wpt] and delete it. Then save with a .GPX extension.

It's also very easy, using this method, to delete just some of the Waypoints but not all. The Waypoints are listed in alphabetical order (not Route order) so if you have named them methodically it's fairly easy to identify each one and delete it, or not, as you wish.

With my particular workflow (using Mapsource) I find that I now need to use a clean-up utility, GPSBabel is excellent, to convert the GPX back to a Mapsource file. Just opening it direct doesn't work very well, for some reason. With other software you may not have to do this.

Francis Cooke

Some basic stuff:
Living with a Garmin: Etrex Basic Setup
Living with a Garmin: Battery Runtime and Etrex Jitter
Living with a Garmin: The Waypoints Limitation
Living with a Garmin: The Follow Road Trap
Living with a Garmin: The Circular Routes Problem
Living with a Garmin: Declutter the Page Sequence
Living with a Garmin: Living with Metroguide Maps
Living with a Garmin: Waypoint Naming (for direct-style routes)
Living with a Garmin: Colour your Tracks and Routes
Living with a Garmin: Create a Route on the GPS
Top 5 GPS Tips (pdf) reprint of Arrivee article published Feb 2007
Some GPS FAQs web version of Arrivee article published Nov 2008
NEW - Garmin Etrex 20/30 essays:
Etrex 30 review reprint of Arrivee article published Jan 2012
Etrex 20 & 30, Basic Setup
Taming the Etrex 20/30: Restore the 'Page' key.
Dakota 20 review reprint of Arrivee article published Feb 2010
Living with a Garmin: Waypoint Naming and the Dakota 20 / Etrex 30
More Garmin essays - not-so-basic:
Garmin Etrex C Menu Map (pdf, July 2008)
Living with a Garmin: Full Reset
Living with a Garmin: Track, Route or Autoroute
Living with a Garmin: Three Ways to Beat the Waypoint Limit
Living with a Garmin: Three Ways to Beat the Trackpoint Limit
Living with a Garmin: Less is More
Living with a Garmin: Add Contours to your GPS Maps
Living with a Garmin: Struggling with GPX  &...  More GPX
Living with a Garmin: Screens you don't see every day
Living with a Garmin: Downgrade your Mapsource
Living with a Garmin: Put an OSM Map on your Garmin
Living with a Garmin: GPS Soak Test files to test your GPS waypoint capacity
OpenStreetMap and Mapsource Add OSM to your Mapsource collection
A Google Maps Workflow Create, Edit, Save, Share and Export a route