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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone have any experience with this new release of Garmin's topo maps? I had the old one, and it was good for hiking w/ my 60cs, but the software itself was kind of old & clunky. It kept bugging me for serial port info. I don't think I've used a serial port in 10 years.

Anyway, the maps are still 1:100000, instead of 1:24000, which sucks. In the previous release when you zoom in, the map image doesn't look great since it isn't vector graphics. I'm sure that's still the case. The Garmin writeup says you can search for lakes and such, but doesn't specify if that is on the unit or only on the computer.

Sadly, I don't know of any other way to load good, 1:24000 topo maps on to my unit, or I would.



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I have not even seen the 2008 version, but I have not looked. I would buy it in a heartbeat if it was better than the old version. I would love to have easy to install 1:24,000 scale maps on my 60CSx.

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95 Posts
I have the older version of the Garmin Topo maps and I hate them, they are really poor quality.

I found a great way to hack a topo map on a Garmin unit (from a downloadable DEM file from USGS). I cannot take credit for finding out how to do it but it works great. It is pretty easy to follow (once you have the reqiured software installed and have done it once or twice). I am a GIS nerd so if you have any questions, I could probabally help you. Following are basic instructions (overview) along with the detailed instructions from the source I found this from (I didnt write the detailed instructions, but have followed them many times)...

1) Download DEM of area your interested in.

2) Convert DEM to a TOPO contours using the program specified

3) Edit map (topo contours) and add any other information you want (downloaded lakes/rivers/roads/etc). Great download site:

4) Convert map document to a Garmin compatabile image (using software listed).

5) send garmin image to the garmin unit.


DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS (not my write-up):

Making Custom Topo Maps for a Garmin GPS
A GPSMap 60CS is used in the example below

-Creating custom topo maps
-Adding streams
-Creating road maps

How to make detailed topo maps for your Garmin mapping GPS:
Custom road and topo map with the basemap.

-can easily be more detailed than the Garmin Topo 1:24K series.
-Transparent so you can see your basemap and waypoints at the same time.
-No tracing involved.

Download and install the following software:

Þ DEM2TOPO v1.6 from
... which requires ...
Þ IDL Virtual Machine from:

Þ GPSMapEdit from

Þ cGPSMapper from Just unzip, nothing to install.
... and ...
Þ SendMap from Just unzip, nothing to install.

1) Download high resolution DEM (digital elevation) data from the USGS:

-Use the graphical map interface to zoom in (red box) on the region of interest
-Click the "download area" icon, draw a (green) box around your area of interest.
-When the new window opens click "Change the download details"'.
-Select: NED, .3 arc second, GeoTiff format. (wait for the screen to completely update between each mouse click). Note that this "NED .3 arc second" elevation data is extremely good. It has 10m resolution versus 30m for all the other DEM data sources (i.e. 24K topos).
-Download and save.

2) Convert the raw GeoTiff elevation data to contours using DEM2TOPO:

-Run dem2topo.sav to start the program, The IDL application will automatically start.
-Select units (feet or meters) and set your desired contour levels (i.e. 20', 100', 500')
-If it is a large map change the Plot Refresh Interval to 30 seconds or more.
-Click Create .mp File

3) Edit the .mp file in GPSMapper:

-Open the .mp file in GPSMapEdit
-Change the displayed units to "feet" if needed: Tools, Option, Units, Elevation/Depth.
-Click File, Map Properties.
-On the cGPSMapper tab select "Map is transparent"
-On the Header tab provide a unique map ID number and give it a name (will display in your GPS)
-Add stream (and possibly other) DLG data by Importing a Shapefile: File, Import, ESRI Shape. (see details in next section)
- <advanced> In the Levels tab you can change the "zoom levels" that the various contours appear on the GPSr (see details at the bottom of this page).
-Save and Exit.

4) Convert the .mp file to a Garmin .img map file using cGPSMapper:

-Copy cgpsmapper.exe to the same folder as your map (.mp) file.
-Drag and drop the .mp file onto the cgpsmapper.exe file.
-It will execute in a DOS window and create an .img file.


From within GPSMapEdit select File, Export, Garmin Image. cGPSMapper will fire up and run automatically. Be patient, it will appear to hang for a couple minutes as the data is first read in and processed.

5) Upload to your GPSr using SENDMAP*:

-run sendmap20.exe.
-Select your map file(s) and click upload.


-Associate .img files with sendmape20.exe.
-Then, just double-click the .img and the upload will starts automatically.

* Þ Want to use Garmin MapSource to send your map(s) to your GPSr? Damel has documented it here!

Adding STREAMS and ROADS to your custom map

You can add Streams and other "line" features (roads, railroads etc) to your topo map, or, you can create a separate map for them.
I usually put Streams on the topo map and Roads on a separate map (see section below for comments on creating a separate map).

DLG "digital line" data (roads, streams, railroads, contour lines) comes in various formats, each require different handling. Each feature type comes in its own file and has to be downloaded separately: Transportation (roads), Hydrography (water), Boundaries, Hypsography (contours), Public lands...

Formats of DLG data:

Þ Shapefiles, has a .shp file extension: This is a simple and generic format for containing line data and names. Typically in a Lat/Long coordinate system and WGS84 Datum.

Þ DLG-O (O is for "optional"), has a .dlg file extension: This is the older traditional format. It contains all the "line" data you typically see on topo maps. Usually in the UTM coordinate system with a specific "zone" (1-60, MAKE NOTE OF THE ZONE NUMBER) and NAD27 Datum.

Þ SDTS, has a TAR.GZ file extension and unzips to several files with .ddf file extensions: This is the same data as in DLG-O files but is in the new USGS format. Typically in a UTM coordinate system with a specific "zone" (1-60, MAKE NOTE OF THE ZONE NUMBER) and NAD27 Datum.

Other programs you may need to download and install:

Þ Global Mapper


Procedures for using DLG data:
DLG data is usually Imported into GPSMapEdit as a "shapefile":

DLG-O data:
1) Open a DLG-O file in a program like Global Mapper and export it as a shapefile. File, Export Vector data, Shapefile.
2) Import the Shape file into your custom topo map using DPSMapEdit: File, Import, ESRI Shape.
- When prompted, select the "Type of data" you are importing: road (0003=thin or 0004=thicker), stream(0007), etc.
- On the next screen, if you see the actual road or stream names then highlight that column, otherwise uncheck the "select field for labels" checkbox.
- Enter the correct Coordinate system (and Zone # if UTS), and select the correct Datum.
- Select Layers 0, 1, and 2 (if listed) as the "Zoom levels to import".

SDTS data:
Follow the instructions above for DLG-O to convert a SDTS to a shapefile.
If it is a 24K SDTS file you may convert it directly to a .mp file using the SDTS2MP program.

ShapeFiles data:
Import these directly into GPSMapEdit as described in DLG-O above.


A note on where to get DLG stream and road data:

- Excellent water (hydrography) data can be downloaded from , a real advantages of this site is that the data is high resolution, already in shapefile format, and it contains the stream names ! It is much more detailed than the SDTS data from GeoComm and certainly better than the minimal water data from seamless. The user interface at NHD looks similar to seamless but the commands are different. You must read the "How To Extract" help (the help icon is on the left) to get it to work:

-Zoom in to the area of interest
-Select (check mark) NHDFlowline, NHDArea, and NHDWaterBody
-In the Hydrologic Units tab on the right place a 'dot' in the Subbasins circle
-Click Redraw Map
-Click the Polygon Extract icon on the left.
-Click once on the map on the area you want to download (a "data ready" email will be sent to you)
-Select shapefile as the data format

- The Shapefile DLG data from seamless ( in not very good. The "BTS" road data, and the "atlas" data is based on 1:200K maps so it is not very detailed, or accurate. But, it is the only road data I could find that contains all the road names. Also, it is already in shapefile format so you won't need to convert it using Global Mapper. Your choice depends on whether you need accuracy (use the SDTS data below) or road names. Seamless has very little water data available.

- The SDTS format DLG data from GeoComm ( is the same data as the USGS puts in typical "24K topo" maps. It is somewhat accurate although somewhat dated. Their 100K DLG data is just as accurate and detailed as the 24K data, it simply covers a larger area.


Creating a separate ROAD map,
rather than putting roads into your topo map:

Unlike the custom topo maps which provide a map that may NOT be available otherwise,
creating a custom road map will typically result in a map inferior to Garmin's road maps.

Creating an empty map:
You will need to create an empty map in GPSMapEdit that you can import the Shapefiles into. If the DLG data is a 24K SDTS file then you can convert it to a 'map' using SDTS2MP and voila, a nice separate map. If not, then the only way I know to create an empty map is to open an existing map (.mp) then delete everything in it: highlight everything, press delete.

Setting up Zoom Levels:
You should set up your "GPS Zoom" layers/levels in GPSMapEdit before importing items: Edit, Map Properties, Levels.
5 or 6 layers will cover most things:

-Layer 0 set for 24 bits- contains "minor" contours, all roads and streams
-Layer 1 set for 22 bits - contains "intermediate" contours, all roads and streams
-Layer 2 set for 20 or 21 bits - contains "major" contours, all roads and streams
-Layer 3 set for 19 bits (you can skip this layer) - "major" contours can go on this layer instead. Contours only import into layers 0, 1 and 2. If you want the major contours to end up on layer 3: Create a new layer using the "Insert Before" option to place the new layer before layer 2. It becomes the new layer 2 and the existing layer 2 becomes layer 3.
-Layer 4 set for 18 bits - this layer should ONLY have one small point or polyline on it: View, Levels, Level 4; then Tools, Create Object, place a point or draw a line anywhere. The purpose is that this layer will HIDE your custom map when you zoom way out on the GPSr
-Layer 5 set for 17 bits - This layer has to be totally empty.

IMPORTANT: Even though the "Mapsource Zoom" field is not used for our purposes you have to set it so that it increases as you go down the zoom list. The map will not compile (in cgpsmapper) otherwise.

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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
GISX said:
I found a great way to hack a topo map on a Garmin unit
(cut for length)

You sir, are the man. :cheers:

I had seen this info before, but I couldn't find it on the web anywhere.

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48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Mosi said:
I can get Topo 2008 for you if you want. I can get the SD cards or the full DVD.
Nah, I'd much rather use 1:24k if they are available. I had the old release, but it was craptacular. Since the maps are bitmaps and not vector graphics, it makes the maps suck. If we had 1:24k, we wouldn't have to zoom so much.


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95 Posts
You sir, are the man.

Done it many times and love the result. Have not been displeased yet. The only other thing that I could use is a color screen (I only have the BW Garmin Legend GPS unit) & more memory...

Sometimes i put in areas of clear-cuts or aspen fields as polygons, and sometime I put the actual surface ownership (so I know I am on public land). You can always make a few maps and upload all of them on the unit and only turn on the ones you are interested in. I usually do the following

map 1: contours 1:24K + Water (lakes/rivers)
map 2: Roads/trails
map 3: Surface ownership
map 4: Areas of interest - Clear cuts from logging operations, aspen fields, meadows (hunting purposes).

Then you can turn them on/off from the garmin unit (select which maps to display). You can display multiple maps together so I would show the areas of interest with the topo maps so I know when I am comming up to a clear-cut or meadow, etc....

Good luck!
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