Free maps for your Garmin GPSr from Open Street Map

Since I purchased our Garmin GPSr I have always relied on the Garmin Great Britain TOPO maps to “show us the way”. This however, isn’t the only option for maps on our handheld GPSr’s. There is a free option – Open Street Map.

Map options

Garmins come with a worldwide basemap installed. It’s not very exciting though. Some sea, land, a few roads and rivers, etc. To start seeing contours, minor roads, footpaths and more detailed terrains then you need something else. There are a few options for UK cachers…

An example of the base map - No footpaths

There are the Garmin TOPO Great Britain maps. These show countours, roads, rivers, POI’s trig points, and some tracks and paths. They retail at £150. We’ve used these for about a year, and despite Garmin stating the data is provided by the Ordnance Survey not all footpaths are included, and in some cases there are footpaths included that we have walked over to only to be confronted by a gate that says “PRIVATE” on it. The maps are OK. I can’t say they are great.

The Garmin TOPO maps - Some footpaths, minor roads, forests, etc.

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Top 10 Tips for preparing for a caching trip

We’ve been on 4 caching trips away this year and found many hundreds of caches. I’m a very organised person and I like to plan things to the last detail, and our caching trips are no exception; however I did miss out one quite crucial thing from our last trip away: I forgot to load on the TOPO maps for the area we were going. Therefore instead of a nice green background with features and paths we had white nothingness. So I thought I’d add this blog entry as a bit of a check list if for going away for a caching trip. This is just my personal check list and others may do things differently. If you have something that you’d like to add leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.

1. Batteries
If you’re using a dedicated GPSr you’ll have an idea of how long your batteries will last in it, therefore it’s a good idea to pack as many sets of rechargable batteries as you’ll need for the amount of days you’re away and perhaps a spare set or two of non-rechargables just incase. Double check that all batteries are fully charged by popping them in your GPSr and checking the levels. If you’re caching with a smartphone ensure that you have the necessary tools to keep you juiced for the trip. Car chargers, solar chargers, replacement batteries, etc.

2. Maps on your GPSr
We’re lucky enough to have a full set of GB TOPO maps that I load onto the GPSr as needed. The area and surrounding area where we live is always loaded on, but I load additional areas on if I’m going to them when I need them. This caused problems in our last trip to Nottingham as I totally forgot to add that northern set of maps on! Although TOPO maps don’t give you all of the footpaths, they do have some and give you a basic idea of nearby paths which we do find really handy. They also show you altitude so you can get an idea if the trail you are following will require you to climb a couple of 800ft hills!!! There is also a site with Open Street Maps that you can load onto your GPSr. I haven’t checked these out yet, but will do soon to see how they compare. Unlike the TOPOs, these are free! 🙂

Our Dakota with and without TOPO maps

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