Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting more interested and more knowledgeable about mapping on my new Garmin, having previously been through the pain of creating and installing my own custom icons.

After a discussion made during a long walk around Rutland last weekend a friend asked me how I have managed to install Ordnance Survey maps at 1:25000 onto my Garmin using Garmin’s BaseCamp tool.

The issue is, you see, that on my Montana the onboard storage for the GPS is about 4Gb, which doesn’t leave a huge amount of room for maps, especially if you’re a hoarder like me and want to have absolutely everything you’ve ever bought available all the time. So I needed to figure out how to load my custom maps onto the Montana’s MicroSD card – I bought a 32Gb MicroSD card for some trivially small price off Amazon.

When I got the Montana it came installed with the Garmin base maps, but these are next to useless for Geocaching.

Following a few links on Facebook and elsewhere I ended up buying TalkyToaster maps, which are based on OpenStreetMap. These are fairly cheap but I did find the style to be a bit heavy looking on the screen of the GPS, so I wasn’t over keen on using them for “big” days out.

So now I have switched over to two different mapping layers, depending on what I’m doing.

  • Freizeitkarte maps for “casual” caching, times when I’ve not been able to “do it properly,. and times when I’m not going to be spending much time, so the investment in more detail isn’t justified
  • BirdsEye Select OS 1:25000 maps for days when I’m going on a splurge – Obviously these cost £20 for a 1500 square kilometre block, but you can have as many different blocks as you want, and once the credits are paid for they stay on your account for a year or so, hence there’s no urgency to spend it all at once.

Of the two, my personal preference is the BirdsEye Select maps, mainly because I find the colour scheme more relaxing on the eye, especially when I’m going to be using the GPS all day. However, Freizeitkarte has three distinct advantages over BirdsEye Select :

  • It is totally free
  • It is available at the same level of detail (and usable in both BaseCamp and on the GPS) for around 28 different European countries. They also offer some bigger-area, less-detail versions too, but I went through the pain of downloading all 28 sets and installing them, and they seem to work well.
  • BirdsEye Select provides raster maps, not vector ones, so when you zoom in too much, it all goes fuzzy.

So having originally said I like the BirdsEye Select maps, I’m sort of moving back towards Freizeitkarte for use in BaseCamp, and, indeed, for non-UK use on the GPS.

Installing Freizeitkarte on the Garmin’s MicroSD Card

The process for this is quite straightforward, as follows :

  • Select the country (or countries) you want and download them – ensure you pick the “Install Image for MicroSD Card” versions, but if you want to use them in BaseCamp there are separate files for those. I’m not going to cover that here though.
  • The download copies down a ZIP file called <LND>_en_gmapsupp.img.zip – where <LND> is the name of the country concerned, e.g. GBR for Great Britain. On some of them the “en” part is a “de”, presumably meaning that the map is in German, not English. This applies to all the German-speaking countries (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). All the others came in English.
  • When you have the ZIP files, unzip them one by one. Each contains a single file called gmapsupp.img
  • If you are going to install more than one country on your device then you’ll need to rename these image files individually to gmapsupp_BEL.imp, gmapsupp_GBR.img, gmapsupp_DEU.img, and so on.
  • Once you have your gmapsupp.img files, connect your GPS to your PC and wait until it starts in “mass storage mode” – i.e. you can see the device and the MicroSD card in the list of “disks” in File Explorer.
  • Copy the gmapsupp.img files and paste them onto the MicroSD card device in the GARMIN folder.
  • Disconnect the GPS from the PC and switch it on.
  • That should be it.

Here’s a pretty picture of what Freizeitkarte image files look like in BaseCamp.

You can see the level of detail in the window on the right and can see how my “dashboard” looks with the Freizeitkarte and BirdsEye entries installed.

Installing BirdsEye Select on the Garmin’s MicroSD Card

I’m not going to go through the process of explaining how to set up a Garmin account, install BaseCamp or actually buy some BirdsEye credits because all of those are covered elsewhere.

The key question to answer is how to install the things on your MicroSD card rather than in the GPS devices’s onboard storage once you have it.

  • When you buy the map extracts and download them, they download into a semi-hidden folder structure that BaseCamp installs, but they will also appear on your dashboard window at the bottom left of BaseCamp when you have the “My Collection” item selected at the top left. You will have this selected, because the maps won’t download if you don’t.
  • Look at the picture below. You can see the list of my downloaded BirdsEye extracts on the bottom left and you can see my GPS at the top left – particularly notice the Montana unit, beneath which is “Memory Card (N:)”, beneath which is a “User Data” folder – this is where the BirdsEye maps need to go.
  • When you are downloading the map extract into BaseCamp you’ll see a tiny checkbox asking if you want to “Install onto the GPS when download finishes” – ensure this is not checked. It will copy the image onto the GPS’s onboard storage.
  • So when you have a screen looking something like the image below, you can simply drag-and-drop the relevant BirdsEye file (from the bottom left) onto the “User Data” folder – the image file copies over.

When you do this you will see a file with a “.JNX” ending installed onto the \GARMIN\BirdsEye folder of the MicroSD card (you can see it in File Explorer but not in BaseCamp). I make safety copies of the “.JNX” files somewhere on my PC’s hard drive too, just in case the MicroSD or GPS crashes at some point.

If you do accidentally install the BirdsEye maps into the GPS’s onboard storage then you can find the same “‘.JNX” file in the GPS device’s\Garmin\BirdsEye folder, so you can simply move it to the MicroSD card and delete from the onboard storage if you want to.

The map below shows an installed bit of the BirdsEye Select map (for Marsh Gibbon) overlayed onto the Freizeitkarte map for the UK. My GPS does the same. Somehow it knows to use the BirdsEye map if there is one, and the Freizeitkarte if there isn’t.

This final picture shows an overview of the UK with all of the areas I’ve downloaded from BirdsEye. The amount of entries and coverage shown here is about 2000 square kilometres. And yes, you can tell from this picture exactly where I’ve been caching since Christmas.