How to get free maps onto your Garmin
Adding decent maps onto your Garmin opens up a new world of discovery. No more following the very patchy default maps and trying to guess whether the purple line is a left turn or straight on as you glide along at 20mph not watching the road.
While you can buy expensive maps from Garmin, there are free crowdsourced maps available from a number of sources that are good enough, if not more.
But how do you get free maps onto your Garmin? You’ll need to purchase a MicroSD card and have a compatible Garmin that can accept them, for example the Garmin 800.
- Acquire a MicroSD card. 4GB should be sufficient and shouldn’t costs you more than £10.
- Head to http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/
- If you plan to cycle, then make sure you select ‘Routable Bicycle (Openfietsmap Lite).’ Bear in mind that this may send you down some tracks unsuitable for road bikes – try and have a look on Google Maps and drag the Streetview man onto the road or hover over the dots on your chosen route to try and preview the junction and work out whether you’re heading down a farm track or not.
- Select the country of your choice. You can go back and do a second or third if you need to, although bear in mind the limitations on the size of your MicroSD card. For example, the UK was around 400MB zipped up.
- Click on ‘download map now’
- From the options available select the ‘gmapsupp’ one with the description of ‘Compressed file containing a single image that can be placed directly onto the SD-card of the GPS.’
- Download it and then make sure you don’t forget to unzip it and rename it to something obvious to you, e.g. UK_maps
- Place your MicroSD card in the slot in the Garmin (next to the charger point) and then connect the Garmin to your computer via USB
- When you use ‘Finder’ on a Mac or ‘Windows Explorer’ on PC you should see two hard drives showing up, your Garmin and your MicroSD
- On your MicroSD, create a folder named ‘Garmin’ as you have on your actual Garmin. No need to copy the Garmin’s files across
- Drop your unzipped IMG file into the new folder on your MicroSD card named ‘Garmin’
- Safely eject the Garmin and MicroSD drive from your computer
- It will then populate the new folder with the standard set of Garmin files, e.g. NewFiles, where you drag and drop new routes (routes copied in, show up under ‘Courses’ with the prefix ‘SD’
- Now you need to select your new map
- Go into menu > system > map > map info > select map
- Enable the new map
- Through the same menu, disable the default one
- Open up one of your courses and you should now see a detailed map in place which should make navigation easy, particularly when you have turn-by-turn directions in place
- Enjoy your ride!