Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Open Street Maps for Garmin GPS

In a few hours, I'll be on a plane heading to Bilbao, Spain.  We spend a bit of time in Spain's Basque Country before starting a cave and wine driving tour of southern France.  We booked the car a couple weeks ago and I promised to provide the maps so we wouldn't have to pay extra for an on-board GPS.  I said that I'd bring my Garmin GPSmap 62s loaded with all the maps we'd need.  Then I forgot about it.

I started looking for the maps a few days ago and quickly ruled out buying them - the official Garmin Topo maps of Spain and France are over $600 US.  I didn't really want to pirate them, but while searching some of the back alleys of the internet I found out about OpenStreetMap, which is a kind of cartographic wikipedia.  There are a few ways to play with and download the maps on OpenStreetMap itself, but to get them onto your Garmin GPS you need to checkout another site called: Free routable maps for Garmin brand GPS devices (garmin.openstreetmap.nl). Which is free and awesome.

Selecting an area around Bordeaux
The interface on garmin.openstreetmap.nl is simple and the instructions are easy to follow.  To select the maps you want all you have to do is highlight them on the big blue map of the world.  You can pick one tile or several.  When you have the maps selected all you need to do is enter your e-mail address and click "Build my Map".  Your map request is added to the queue and you are sent an e-mail with a link to check on its progress.  I've used it twice and the first map set was supposed to take an hour or so to build and it was actually done in about nine minutes.  My second map took closer to the promised hour.  When your map is ready to download you are sent a link with several download options.  I picked the "Installer for Garmin Mapsource" option and it took 5-10 minutes to download my map and another 5 minutes to install it.  When it was installed I could add it to my GPS from Mapsource or Mapinstaller.

Free OpenStreetMap from garmin.openstreet.nl of Bordeaux, France.

The same area from Garmin's TOPO France v.2. Not free, at all.

The resulting map looks great.  I haven't had a chance to ground truth it yet, but in Mapsource, it looks as good or better than the $600 Garmin product.  However, I did notice that when I downloaded and installed a second set of maps it overwrote the first set that I'd download, even when I changed the folder name. If someone figures out a way to fix or avoid that, I'd be grateful.  Even so, I'm definitely keeping  Free routable maps for Garmin brand GPS devices (garmin.openstreetmap.nl) in my bookmarks.

Photo Credits: 
1) Tim Rast
2) Screen grab from garmin.openstreetmap.nl
3,4) screen grab from Mapsource on my computer.


2 comments:

  1. After using these maps in Spain and France, how did you find them? I've been toying with upgrading my GPSr and and trying to factor in all the extra costs (like maps) and am wondering if these measure up.

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  2. They worked great. We traveled over 1800 km in foreign countries and used the maps pretty much every inch of the way. One time we found a small country road that wasn't on the map, and there was a pedestrian only alley that the GPS told us to drive on in Lourdes. But those exceptions proved the rule. The maps were spot on 99% of the time. And even when the GPS told us to do something that was impossible to do in a car we were never lost -- we were always right there in the middle of the map screen.

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