GPS Device Configuration

This page is intended to act as a reference guide for my preferred settings for various GPS logging tasks.

Table of Contents

Bad Elf GPS Pro+

Driving Logs

For more details, see Logging GPS Tracks With a Bad Elf GPS Pro+.

Setting Value Notes
Power Settings
Auto-on with USB power Yes If the Bad Elf is charging while turned off, it keeps the backlight on. Since I’m often charging it overnight in a hotel room, I’d prefer the backlight to be off, so this ensures the device is turned on while charging. It also means that the device keeps track of its location overnight, so I don’t have to try to get a GPS lock from a cold start when I first start driving in the morning.
Auto-off when idle 30 min Optional, but it conserves battery life if I’m not logging data.
Datalogger Settings
Logging Rate 60 per min (once per sec) 1 Hz is a reasonable default for driving logs.
Smart Filter Cycling (over 4mph/6.5kph) I leave the device recording all day, and rely on the smart filter to pause recording when I’m not moving. However, the Driving threshold is too high and fails to capture some low-speed driving (e.g. navigating parking lots), and I’ve found it works a lot better if I set the speed threshold to Cycling.
Auto-logging Disabled Though auto-logging with external power is tempting, I’ve found that it doesn’t work well with a lot of cars. Instead, I rely on the smart filter and just leave the device recording all day.
Bluetooth Settings
Enabled on startup Never On some cars, having an iPhone connected to CarPlay while the Bad Elf is connected via Bluetooth causes the iPhone to pop up with “Accessory Not Supported” notices. While both CarPlay and the Bad Elf still seem to function fine, having Bluetooth disabled avoids this notice, and has the bonus of saving battery life.

myTracks (iOS)

Driving Logs

For more details, see Logging GPS Tracks with iOS and myTracks.

Setting Value Notes
Recording Settings
Accuracy Threshold Medium For driving, medium is a good balance between capturing most points and excluding the worst ones. (I’ve tried Adaptive, but it seemed slow to adapt and tended to leave out long stretches of points when the GPS signal weakened.)
Time Interval 1 s 1 Hz is a reasonable default for driving logs.
Record in motion only Off If this is on, you can start to lose points going around turns, leading to more jagged tracks. I’ve found it better to leave this off and accept the larger file size.
Smooth recording On This averages consecutive track points and does a reasonable job making driving tracks look less noisy.


For sample heatmaps, see my City Heatmaps.

Setting Value Notes
Recording Settings
Accuracy Threshold Low In denser cities, many points won’t have a high accuracy and will get skipped, which is a problem for heatmaps. The extra noise from low accuracy points is less of an issue with a heatmap (which cares more about points in the aggregate).
Time Interval 30 s This is frequent enough to capture walking in a straight line, while still avoiding recording too many points.
Record in motion only Off Heatmaps require capturing stationary points, so that places where you spend a lot of time are “hotter.”
Smooth recording Off Not necessary, since points won’t be connected by lines.

Garmin DriveSmart

Driving Logs

For more details, see Extracting GPX Files from a Garmin Automotive GPS.

Setting Value Notes
Travel History On This is needed for the Garmin to record driving tracks.
Map & VehicleMap Layers
Trip Log On Not strictly necessary, but this setting lets you see your trip log data on the map.