GPS Tips & Tricks

Understanding GPS Coordinate Formats

GPS coordinates use Latitude and Longitude to describe a point on the earth. Lines of Latitude are horizontal lines that run laterally around the earth, Lines of Longitude are vertical lines that run from the North to South poles around the earth (here's a good read if you're new to GPS).

In the examples below we will use the kiosk in the Vernon Snowmobile Association Parking Lot as our sample location.

Decimal Degrees (DD)
Most phones and GPS Apps use a GPS Coordinate Format called Decimal Degrees (DD). This format consists of a whole number followed by a decimal point and 3 or more decimal places (more decimal points for greater precision) without any spaces.

Decimal Degrees   50.361770, -119.094990

Degrees Decimal Minutes (DDM)
This format looks very similar to Decimal Degrees (DD) except there is a space between the whole number and the following numbers. The meaning is very different than DD, if you enter DD format coordinates into your device  using DDM you will be off by a considerable distance.

Decimal Minutes   N 50 21.706    W 119 05.699


Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS)
It should be difficult to confuse DMS with the previous two formats because we now have the degree symbol ( ° ),  single quote ( ' ) and double quote ( " ) and spaces used. This format is commonly used on paper maps.

Decimal Degrees   
N 50° 21' 42.3714" W -119° 5' 41.9634"


Comparing the 3 GPS Coordinate Formats

The 3 different formats are shown in the table below so you can see they are similar but not the same. All 3 sets of coordinates describe the location of the kiosk in the VSA Parking Lot.

Type Latitude / Y Longitude / X
Decimal Degrees (DD) 50.361770 -119.094990
Degrees Decimal Minutes (DDM)      50° 21.7062' N 119° 5.6994' W
Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS) 50° 21' 42.372" N      119° 5' 41.964" W

The purpose of showing the different formats and the subtle differences is to illustrate the need to know which format your device uses so you can enter coordinates using the correct/matching format.


Use Avenza Maps App

Download the Avenza Maps App using the appropriate store link for your phone.


Download the VSA Trail Map

After installing the Avenza Mapps App scan the QR code (over there >) with your phone's camera to load the map.

Search within the Avenza App:

  1. click the Store (icon on bottom bar of app)
  2. search the Keywords field using vernon snowmobile
  3. click the Free button to download the map to your device



The Vernon Snowmobile Trail Map is georeferenced to display your current location on the VSA trails. 


Navigating with Avenza Maps App 

Download the Avenza Maps App using the appropriate store link for your phone.

Cross Hair Icon - this shows the point the map is currently centred on and the GPS Coordinates of that location are shown at the bottom of the map.

You may pan around the map to change the location of the cross hair icon or you can set the map to follow your location (if you're within the boundaries of the map) by clicking the location icon at the bottom left corner of the screen. 

To find a location by coordinates click the three dots on the bottom right corner of the screen then click the Find by Coordinates menu item.
Enter the coordinates you want to find then click the Search button. The cross hair icon will be centred over the location you searched for.