I moved on to Garmin’s Basecamp tool, after spending some of the last few weeks gained more knowledge about mapping on my new Garmin Montana. I’ve experienced the pain of creating and installing my own custom icons.

The Basecamp discussion started during a long walk around Rutland last weekend when a friend asked me how I have managed to install Ordnance Survey maps at 1:25000 onto my Garmin using Basecamp tool.

Basecamp IconWhen I got the Montana it came installed with the Garmin base maps, but these are next to useless for Geocaching. The Montana has onboard storage for the GPS of about 4Gb, which doesn’t leave a huge amount of room for maps. I’m a hoarder, and I want to have absolutely everything I’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.

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. 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
  • 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. Once the credits are paid for they stay on your account for a year, so there’s no urgency to spend it all at once.

Of the two, I prefer BirdsEye Select maps. I find the colour scheme more relaxing on the eye when using the GPS all day. However, Freizeitkarte has three distinct advantages over BirdsEye Select :

  • It is totally free
  • The level of detail is good for around 28 different European countries and looks the same on the Montana and in Basecamp
  • 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. It gives a consistent level of detail across the whole of Europe.

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.

Basecamp with Freizeitkarte Maps

You can see the level of detail in the window on the right. This shows 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.

So once you have the maps, how do you install the things on your MicroSD card rather than in the GPS devices’s onboard storage?

  • When you buy the map extracts and download them, they download into a semi-hidden folder structure that Basecamp installs. They appear on your Basecamp dashboard at the bottom left when you have the “My Collection” item selected. 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:)” and its “User Data” folder – this is where the BirdsEye maps 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, and you don’t want them there.
  • Install BirdsEye Select snippets onto the GPSr by dragging-and-dropping the files (from the bottom left) onto the “User Data” folder.

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. You can simply move it to the MicroSD card and delete from the onboard storage if you want to.

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

Basecamp with Freizeitkarte Maps

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 you can tell from this picture exactly where I’ve been caching since Christmas.

Basecamp with Freizeitkarte and BirdsEye Select Maps