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Getting it done: Hema High Country expedition


Words Julija Zivanovic  Pics Hema Map Patrol, Capture Factory

Over three massive months, the Hema Map Patrol and Alpha Teams captured an extraordinary amount of data in the Victorian High Country to inform our whole suite of products, both print and digital, so you can have the most reliable maps at your fingertips. Learn more below. 


Planning Vic High Country fieldtrip Hema Maps

Hema Map Patrol and Alpha Teams planning their routes 


Here at Hema Maps, we’re constantly updating our enormous trove of data so you can have the most up-to-date and reliable maps at your disposal. We’re incredibly proud of the work we do, and we go to great lengths to ensure the mapping data in our system is the most accurate and trustworthy so you can explore even the most remote parts of our country with confidence. 

In March this year, the Hema Map Patrol and Alpha Teams set out to complete three months’ worth of data capture in the iconic Victorian High Country to update our whole suite of Hema products, from our print and digital maps (more on this below) to our new (4th Edition) High Country Victoria Atlas & Guide and our 4X4 Explorer app.

Our three-month-long fieldwork was successful, and we want to share some of the best bits with you, including some minor setbacks. But the important thing we want to highlight — that a lot of customers may not realise — is that this fieldwork is only the first step in the massive amount of grunt work we do to make sure all our products contain the most accurate and up-to-date mapping data. By visually verifying and experiencing/driving the tracks, we are comfortable to put the ‘Hema Map Patrol field checked’ stamp of approval on it. 

A lot of mapping data that exists in our world currently is informed by satellites orbiting Earth — satellites that aren’t actually the best at capturing accurate data in the sense that a satellite cannot see what a human on the ground can see. Unfortunately, they can miss important details such as unexpected and temporary road closures, fail to distinguish when a road is on private property (therefore impassable and may incur a hefty fine) and will just take you onto roads that don’t exist anymore.

This is exactly why we do the fieldwork we do, to ensure each road/bridge/4WD track that claims to be there is actually there, and that it’s in a suitable driving condition so you can traverse it safely. When you’re in the outback 1000km or more away from civilisation, having an accurate map to follow could be the difference between life and death, and this is why we put such an enormous amount of effort into our fieldwork expeditions. 


The stats


Tracks at Vic High Country Hema Maps

All the tracks (in purple) that the Hema Map Patrol and Alpha Teams remapped during this year's expedition


The Hema Map Patrol and Alpha Teams had quite a hefty goal ahead of them, aiming to remap 38 key iconic tracks and approximately 20,000km in the Vic High Country. The fieldwork was a success — the teams were able to capture 33 of those 38 tracks including hundreds of new POI (Points of Interest). We completed the fieldwork in June 2024 with 8414km captured. 

The remaining kilometres and tracks we could not capture were mostly due to the conditions at the time. We couldn’t enter some areas due to restrictions, backburning, weather events and road closures. So we’ll be back next summer to hopefully finish the job.


We love a good fieldwork story

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Map Patrol trip if we didn’t encounter some setbacks. The hallmark of a good trip, we say. When you’re out in remote areas mapping tracks that are often untouched for months at a time, you’re bound to run into a few issues. These issues can range from encountering a track that is so overgrown with trees and shrubs that you can’t actually drive down it, to public land changing hands to become private property thus rendering the track impassable … and everything in between. It’s a constant reminder to all to drive to the track conditions. 

One of our favourite stories from this year’s High Country fieldwork trip has to be from GIS Officer Rhys Holmes, proving that certain setbacks can turn into the most entertaining stories. When fellow GIS Officer Patrick ‘Pat’ Kemp was recapturing the N15 Champion Spur Track, Rhys was mapping another track nearby. Unfortunately, towards the end of the day (approximately 3:30pm), Pat called in mayday on the radio as the Toyota 79 Series LandCruiser Map Patrol car he was using to capture the data was completely stuck. 



Champion Spur Track Vic High Country Hema Maps

Moments before the 79 got stuck!


Pat tried everything he could to recover the car with the recovery equipment he had, but it was well and truly stuck in a deep rut and it was now getting dark (5pm). Rhys was concerned about Pat camping in the middle of a remote track alone so made his way down the track. Despite the track being graded as medium, Rhys quickly realised after a relatively easy part of the track that recent weather events had rendered the rest of the track extremely washed out, rutted and rocky. He knew it wasn’t wise to take his Prado down the remainder of the track so left it in a safe spot and continued on foot to Pat.

It was already dark when Rhys had nearly completed the 7.5km walk to where Pat was stuck. The boys eventually met each other, relieved, at around 7pm and opted to wait until morning light to recover the vehicle. They lit a fire to keep them warm and keep the stray dogs away, had some dinner and with only one swag between them, Rhys opted to sleep in the back of the 79 Series. 

When morning came, they began working by filling the deep ruts with firewood they had in the car and surrounding area and then covered these with a pair of MAXTRAX. They then used an electric winch and tree trunk to assist this combination and finally freed the car from its position. They definitely took the rest of the track very slowly when returning to Rhys’s car!


Just the first step 

Our extraordinary team of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Officers have a very important role at Hema Maps. And they were joined by multiple arms of the Hema Maps team — including editorial and finance — on this trip to assist the team with data capture, and just to get a feel for what it’s like out in the field assisting in the very first step in our product development. 


Hema Maps at Vic High Country


The captured mapping data including hundreds of new POI will also be used to update our 4X4 Explorer app digital maps, our Victorian High Country print maps (including our best-selling High Country map) and the four-region Victorian High Country map pack, and of course, our HX-2+ GPS Navigator

Now that the snow has begun to fall and tracks closed for winter, it’s time to process the data and work on the product update for 2025. Meanwhile the field team will move on to the next Map Patrol focus area — outback New South Wales.


Next steps

At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.

Did you find this information useful? If so, please share it with your fellow explorers. Whether it's by sms, social media, or email, your friends and fellow adventurers will appreciate the valuable tips and insights we've shared.


  • kmdc: June 13, 2024

    We done guys, your efforts are much appreciated. I have been a long time supporter of HEMA products with many many purchases, both initial and updates etc.
    Your products are the most up to date and acurate both in digital format and in printed form. I’m now 81 years old and while the mind is still in 4WD Low Range, my body is less so. Too may physical issues to allow me to get out there as much as I wished I could.
    I still buy your updated products, just to keep me informed on current situations. I also ‘advise’ some of my more able bodied 4WD friends of any significant track changes for their respective up coming trips.
    A few of them will be tackling the Canning Stock Route track this year, or maybe next year. While I cannot participate, I will be keeping up with their progress via Sat Phone etc.
    Keep up your exceptional work you all do. It is very much appreciated . Thank You. Regards kmdc (Don Clark).

  • Rudi: June 12, 2024

    I live with the Vic high country as my back yard I use only paper maps mainly HEMA as I found them more upto date.

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