Free user-generated U.S. and international maps
UPDATE: Here’s a step-by-step guide to putting routable OSM maps on your Garmin GPS.
This was originally intended as a follow up to my international maps for your Garmin GPS post. Yet those sticking closer to home should investigate this too — the sources below include road maps of U.S. cities and some very nice topo maps of greater detail than you can find elsewhere. The image below is from a 1:24,000 scale Lake Tahoe map.
Besides being free, these maps are often available for areas not covered by Garmin and other commercial providers. Unfortunately though, turn-by-turn routing is less likely to be found with these maps.
One other thing before we get to sources of these maps — they utilize the Garmin .img format, and will require some special techniques for loading them to your unit. More on that below.
Sources of free maps for your Garmin GPS
Here are the best places to start looking for these maps:
- Map Center – Undoubtedly the most comprehensive source of user-generated maps for
Garmin GPS receivers. The screen shots at the top of this post and below show maps of Sydney, Australia that I downloaded and transferred to my nuvi.
- Free Garmin maps – Another comprehensive list.
- Australia – Tracks 4 Australia
- Canada – Canadian topo maps
- Caribbean – This Caribbean maps site also has maps of Japan, Bermuda and Antarctica
- China – Yunnan Explorer
- Greece – Greece GPS maps
- Maps of Morocco
- New Zealand – New Zealand Open GPS project
- South America – Argentina, Uruguay and more in the works. Turn by turn routing too.
- U.S. topo maps – 40 foot contour interval maps of Colorado and Wyoming
Thanks to Free Geography Tools for several of the above sources.
OpenStreetMap is “a free editable map of the whole world.” They aren’t quite there yet, but they are making progress.
- Here’s a how to post from Free Geography Tools on how to convert OpenStreetMap data to Garmin compatible maps.
- OpenStreetMaps that have already been converted to Garmin format.
Tips for searching for free international maps
When searching for international maps, try using the country name + “.img” + “Garmin” + “maps”.
Loading user-generated maps using IMG2GPS
There are many ways to skin a cat and likewise, there are many ways
to load these custom maps to your Garmin GPS. This gets to be a
complicated subject and I will only go through one method here.
This technique allows you to upload multiple maps using IMG2GPS, so called because it transfers the Garmin-compatible .img map files to your GPS. Here are the steps I followed…
- If you have pre-installed maps on your GPS, make a copy to back
them up. I have a nuvi 660 and I simply copied the nuvi’s “Garmin”
folder to my hard drive. While I did not have any problems with this process
replacing the pre-loaded maps in my nuvi, it is still a highly
advised safety precaution.
- Using one of the sources above, download the .img map files you want to send to your GPS.
- Download and install IMG2GPS.
- Run IMG2GPS. I could not get a direct upload to work with my nuvi,
so I used IMG2GPS to create a file and then copied that to the “Garmin”
folder on my nuvi. To do this select “Folder/Card” and “Create File
instead of Upload” as shown below. Then click “Load Folder” and
select the .img map files you wish to transfer. Finally, click “Create
File.” A window will briefly appear on your screen as IMG2GPS compiles
a GMAPSUP.IMG file. You will be prompted for a destination
directory for the file.
- Copy the GMAPSUP.IMG file and the .img map files to your GPS (I sent mine to the “Garmin” directory on my nuvi).
- You should now be able to zoom in and see the detailed maps of areas you transferred to your device.
Finding other GPS data
If you’re just looking for waypoints and tracks, you might want to check out my GPS data search engine.