Garmin TOPO US 24K review
Garmin recently finished rolling out their new TOPO US 24K map sets. They are available as downloads and on micro-SD cards, with larger regions available on DVD. All three formats can be purchased directly from Garmin as well as various retailers. The new product offers several advantages including routable trails and detailed highway coverage, and the DVD and micro-SD formats are not locked to a single device, so you can still use them if you buy a new unit.
Let’s go over the different features, one by one:
Accurate and routable roads
Strangely enough for a topo product, this is one of the best reasons to buy TOPO US 24K. Garmin’s 1:100,000 scale topo products utilize TIGER data for roads, which are almost invariably off from the road’s true location. People look at their unit and think it’s a GPS accuracy issue, but it’s just that the road is misplaced on the map. TOPO US 24K maps use the more accurate NAVTEQ road data however, just like Garmin nuvis. So that’s one point in its favor.
The other is that these roads are routable. This means that if you have a waypoint for a trailhead, you can mount the GPS receiver on your dash and get turn-by-turn directions on compatible Garmin handhelds (as shown at right). Sure, you won’t hear audible directions, but you don’t have to transfer waypoints to a second device (like a nuvi) just to navigate to the trailhead. Life just got simpler.
More detailed contour maps
The TOPO US 24K maps give you greater detail, with more closely spaced contours. In the images below, a 100K scale Garmin map is shown at top, with TOPO US 24K below it. In this case, common in the eastern US, the 24K map shows 40’ contour intervals vs. 100’ for the 100K scale map. Still, with plenty of free topos at GPS File Depot, this just doesn’t rank as a reason to buy Garmin’s product.
Many people have reported that there is less trail coverage in Garmin’s 24K maps than their 100K products, and I have found this to be the case in spot checks of various areas. Indeed, you can see it in the images above. But truth be known, both products are really bad. Those screenshots above? The Appalachian Trail runs that ridge, but it’s missing from both Garmin mapsets! The surest way to get good trail coverage is to download a .gpx file from a trusted source, but another good option is Jim Bensman’s free MyTrails map (or NW Trails if you live in the Pacific Northwest).
The one thing trailwise that TOPO US 24K has going for it is that the trails are routable. But if you load .gpx tracks onto a newer Garmin handheld, the advanced track navigation feature offers many of the advantages of routable trails. And since many trails are missing, this feature isn’t nearly as useful as it could be.
The DVD and micro-SD TOPO US 24K products are not locked to a single device, allowing you to move maps with routable roads from one Garmin handheld to another (downloads are locked to a single device). Now I know most readers probably don’t own an entire stable of GPS receivers, but many of you do upgrade from time to time. And it’s very nice to be able to use them on your new
Points of Interest (POI) comparison
In my testing, the POIs (and number of POIs) in this product were comparable to those found in Garmin’s City Navigator product.
Don’t confuse with US TOPO 24K National Parks
The older National Parks series maps have very limited coverage.
Other Garmin TOPO US 24K resources
- The official Garmin TOPO US 24K Web page lists all the products (states and regions) in this series
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