If you’re navigating with a Garmin GPS, you’re in luck. There’s a really easy way to make FREE, custom, up-to-date navigational maps that are fully routable. It will only take a few minutes!
In a time of technology manufacturers trying to lock us into their ‘ecosystems’, there is a big movement to provide people with free alternatives to expensive software and programs. Once you’ve spent big money on your Garmin GPS, you’ll of course be expected to pay US $70-100 per mapping region or area…
But you don’t have to!
When it comes to FREE mapping, OpenStreetMap is where it’s at. OSM is created by people like you and is 100% FREE to use under an open license. The maps are built by an online community who contribute and maintain data on roads, trails, services and much more, in most countries around the world.
The accuracy of the OSM maps depends on the region, but it improves every day. I’ve found that OSM maps are typically better in cities as they are updated much more frequently, whereas Garmin maps tend to be more accurate in unpopulated areas. Across the board, Garmin maps are more likely to be consistent but you obviously have to pay for that luxury.
Ok, let’s do this thing.
What Do You Need?
You will need:
– A Garmin GPS with navigation capability (Edge 810, 1000 etc)
– A micro-SD card of up to 32GB storage (for compatibility reasons)
– A micro-SD card adapter (that will likely come with the card)
– A SD card reader for your computer
– An Internet connection and email
How Do You Make The Maps?
Making an OSM map used to be a real chore, but nowadays there are incredible website/servers that make the process SO easy. I’ve found the best to use is garmin.openstreetmap.nl as it offers maps/tiles across the world, available on a super simple interface.
Choose your map type. Select ‘Routable Bicycle (Openfietsmap Lite)’
Choose your region. You can select one from the drop-down menus or you can ‘enable manual tile selection’ by ticking the box, then clicking on the regions you’d like to download.
Enter your email address and click ‘build my map’.
Now the computer/server at the other end will build your custom maps. It may take a bit of time, as there will sometimes be lots of users requesting maps – sometimes I’ve had to wait a few hours, other times I get my maps built in around 5 minutes.
You’ll get an email with the status of your request.
How do you download the maps?
You’ll get a second email when your maps are ready to download! Click the link provided to be taken to your maps on the server. They will be automatically deleted after 48 hours, so get in quick.
Download the openfietsmap_lite_gmapsupp.zip file which is designed to go straight onto your micro-SD card.
How do you install the maps?
The file you downloaded is a zip file. You’ll need to unzip it to get your mapping file. Double click the zipped file and the gmapsupp.img file should end up in the same folder. Important: DO NOT OPEN IT – this is your mapping file ready for your Garmin!
Put your micro-SD card into the adapter, then into a card reader on your computer. When it shows up, create a folder called ‘Garmin’.
Move the gmapsupp.img file into your ‘Garmin’ folder.
You now have a micro-SD with OSM maps installed! Congratulations!
How Do You Enable The Maps?
Put your micro-SD card in the slot, and start up your device. It may take a bit longer than usual to boot up while it looks through the new mapping file.
The mapping file should automatically enable, but if not, here’s how to manually enable on a few different devices.
Garmin 705: Menu > Settings > Map > Next to “Openfietsmap Lite” select the checkbox under ‘Show’
Garmin 800: Menu > Wrench Icon > System > Map > Map Information/Select Map > Select “Openfietsmap Lite” and choose Enable
Garmin 810: Wrench Icon > Activity Profiles > Your activity profile name > Navigation > Map > Map Information/Select Map > Select “Openfietsmap Lite” and choose Enable
It’s That Easy
Your maps are now on your Garmin. They are routable – enter in a specific address or destination, and it’ll give you instructions on how to get there. Points of interest are also included.
I am no tech guru, but if your maps aren’t showing, here’s where you may have gone wrong.
Make sure your micro-SD card isn’t bigger than 32GB.
There are some compatibility issues with some Garmin products and larger micro-SD cards.
Make sure you definitely created a ‘Garmin’ folder and put the gmapsupp.img file INSIDE it.
You may have accidentally left it outside the folder.
If you use a Mac, make sure you didn’t open the gmapsupp.img file that you unzipped from the original download file.
Macs use .img files for disk images, so your computer may try to open the file in Disk Utility.
Your micro-SD might need reformatting if it’s been used for something else.
Reformat to FAT or FAT32 using disk-utility on Mac, or … on Windows.
Try the process again.
Go on, start from scratch with a reformatted micro-SD card.