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GPSFileDepot – Free Garmin GPS Maps

GPSFileDepot Home Page - Free GPS Topo Maps for Garmin GPS Receivers
GPSFileDepot Home Page – Free GPS Topo Maps for Garmin GPS Receivers

If you own a Garmin GPS receiver, you can save yourself a chunk of change by downloading and installing the free user contributed maps available at GPSFileDepot.com which has an excellent collection of US topographic maps, as well as maps from all over the world. The site provides also provides an excellent set of tutorials that describe how to load their maps onto a Garmin GPS device as well as advanced tutorials on how to make your own GPS maps, which you can redistribute.

I got turned onto GPSFileDepot by my bushwhacking buddy Kris, because the repository has maps that contain unpaved forest service and abandoned logging roads that aren’t drawn on the commercial GPS maps available for the region we hike in. I’m also a frugal hiker and would rather not pay for commercial GPS maps.

Despite being user contributed and free, the quality of the GPSFileDepot topographic and transparent maps we use is outstanding.  The maps are all reviewed and rated by an editor so you won’t waste your time loading less complete maps.

Free New Hampshire Topographic Map available from GPSFileDepot.com
Free New Hampshire Topographic Map available from GPSFileDepot.com loaded into Garmin Basecamp

Here are the three maps I use on my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS Receiver and in Garmin Basecamp, Garmin’s desktop route planning tool:

  • New Hampshire
    • Data Sets included:
      • Transportation – Census TIGER (2010 Nov.- 2011 Feb) – enhanced
      • Hydrology – USGS NHD (2010 Sep)
      • Contours – 20ft – created from USGS 1/3 arc sec (about 10m point spacing) NED (2011 Feb)
      • POI’s – USGS GNIS (2011 Feb) – enhanced. NGS benchmarks
      • Boundaries: State & County from Census TIGER (2011-Feb)
      • BLM surface management data (2011 May)
  • Northeastern United States (part 1 of 3)
    • States: All of Connecticut, Maine,  Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota,  New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania
    • Map Features:
      • Topographic Data
      • Street Data
        • Roads – Interstates, highways, arterial roads, residential roads, limited unpaved roads
        • Railroads
        • High resolution water data – lakes, rivers, streams, and washes
        • Federal Land Usage – Wilderness area, national parks, and military bases/ranges, native american reservations
        • Borders – County and state boundary lines
        • Elevation contours – 20ft intervals
        • GNIS Points of Interest – summits, mines, falls, dams, cemeteries, towers, populated places, etc.
  • My Trails, which has tens of thousands of trails obtained from numerous sources and points of interest data for 37 states including all of the Eastern US, that are transparent and overlay the current map you’ve selected on your GPS. This map also includes parking, restrooms, water, campgrounds, showers, scenic areas, boat ramps, buildings, picnic, etc. It also has also lots of unpaved roads (particularly in the National Forests) and boundaries of things like Wilderness, Recreation Areas, etc.
Northeastern United States (part 1 of 3) map loaded into Garmin Basecamp
Northeastern United States (part 1 of 3) map loaded into Garmin Basecamp

Installation

The maps you download from GPSFileDepot are packed into PC and Mac installers that you run on the computer you use to connect to your Garmin GPS receiver. Once run, the maps are installed into Garmin Basecamp, which is the tool you use to create waypoints and routes that get transferred to your GPS Receiver. All of the map authors that publish maps on GPSFileDepot package their maps up using the same installer software, so downloading new maps and installing them on your computer is the same across different map authors.

GPSFileDepot provides excellent tutorials that explain the map download and installation process as well as how to transfer the maps to your GPS device. I didn’t have much experience using a modern Garmin GPS when I installed these maps on my eTrex 30 GPS Receiver, but I found the process very easy to follow and use.

Here are a few example tutorials that illustrate what’s involved:

MyTrails is a transparent map that is superimposed on top of your current map when transferred from garmin Basecamp to your GPS receiver
MyTrails is a transparent map that is superimposed on top of your current map when transferred from Garmin Basecamp to your GPS receiver

Transparent Maps

Some of the maps distributed on GPSFileDepot are transparent, meaning they get superimposed as overlays on top of topographic maps. That’s the case with the MyTrails map listed above, which contains detailed trail and point of interest information. Garmin prohibits transparent maps from being displayed over topos in Basecamp on your computer, but they can be displayed on your GPS device. Simply “enable” the transparent map and the topo you want to use on your GPS and you’re good to go.

This is what the combined maps will look like on your unit:

MyTrails Transparent Map and POI data overlayed onto topo maps
MyTrails Transparent Map and POI data overlayed onto topo maps – 4 examples

Conclusion

I’ve been using GPSFileDepot maps on my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS receiver close to a year now. I think they’re great and I really don’t see any need to purchase commercial maps for the regions that I frequent. If you’re interested in using free GPS maps, or in creating your own custom maps for Garmin GPS devices, I’d encourage you to check out GPSFileDepot.com. It’s a fantastic navigational resource and a great way to save money on GPS maps.

See also:

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for the heads up. Added this to list of resources.

    • For once I actually saved someone some money! Chuckle.

      • [email protected]

        U have saved me lots of money .Buying the right equipment the first time.

        Thom

  2. Been using topo maps from that site for years. They work great. For driving, I also use the US map from openmapchest.org http://www.openmapchest.org/maps/united-states). Free and routable streets and even the hiking trails are routable. The data is open source from OpenStreetMap so it doesn’t have everything google maps has, but it works for me. Plus it’s fun to add data to it, if you’re a map geek. Besides streets and POIs, I really enjoy adding trails to the map.

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