When it comes to free Garmin GPS Maps, there are two great options available.
The primary favorite is OpenStreetMaps, followed by GPSFileDepot. Both websites are free, and the process is simple.
Throughout my time hiking, I have found that I prefer the free maps through these sites over commercial (and pricy!) maps. The peer-review and contribution process ensures the accuracy and ongoing reliability of the trails available.
For a number of obvious reasons, Garmin isn’t quick to let customers know that their GPS units can take any maps. Albeit, the maps need to be in the correct format in order to function on the device.
Note that some units come with maps installed already, and may not require added map data.
If you are considering a new GPS device purchase, check for features like “preloaded topo maps”. This means that the topographical maps are included with the unit.
Wondering if the free Garmin GPS maps will work on your existing device? Visit the Garmin website and look up the spec sheet for your device. There is a feature called “ability to add maps”. This will identify if your device is able to upload the free Garmin GPS maps.
Let’s take a look at the two options available now.
Using OpenStreetMaps For Free Garmin GPS Maps
When it comes to acquiring free Garmin GPS maps, OpenStreetMaps is the go-to for me.
At OpenStreetMaps, members contribute to, confirm, and edit map data. As a result of this public accountability and updating, maps are up to date. I have found the maps to be among the most accurate maps available.
There are three key benefits that make this option a leader when it comes to free Garmin GPS maps:
- The maps are “routable”. Being able to create routes is a leading benefit. Say goodbye to dotting location points to plan your route. It’s now done for you!
- There is a selection of hiking trails included in the maps.
- Maps are topographic with added elevation contours.
Downloading the Free Garmin GPS Maps
Visit the GMapTool website. Click the following link to visit the USA OSM Topo Routable webpage.
The landing page will look as follows:
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the region you are seeking. Download the map files.
Install the Free Maps
GMapTool has a great installation instruction page.
View their instructions page by click here. For reference, the landing page should appear as follows:
I use a Mac, so the following will apply to Mac. I recommend referencing the instruction page linked above if you are a Windows user.
Downloading the free Garmin GPS maps to your computer, you’ll need 3 free software programs.
You’ll notice that the map files come in a file type you likely haven’t heard of before. This format is 7z, and at it’s core is a ZIP file.
Head to keka.io/en and download the 7z extractor.
Garmin MapInstall and MapManager
These two programs simplify the technical side of things, making the installation of the maps a breeze.
Access the downloads for this software on this Garmin page and should appear as follows:
Unzip the free Garmin GPS maps
The map files are large, so they will take time to download.
Once the download is complete, open it in Keka or other 7z extractor. This will unzip the map files, placing them in an unzipped folder.
Open the new folder and click on the largest file with “.gmap” file extension.
Provided you have the Garmin MapManager, double clicking the file should launch the program. A pop up window will ask you if you’d like to install the selected maps.
Click “yes” and the map files will copy to your Garmin directory.
Due to the massive size of the files, delete the zip and unzipped folders after they are in your directory.
Get Free Maps On Your Garmin GPS Device
Now that you’ve downloaded the files, let’s move them to your GPS device.
Power up your GPS unit and connect it to your computer or laptop. Before continuing, ensure that your computer recognizes the device.
Once connected, load your Garmin MapInstall application that you downloaded earlier. In the top box, your GPS device should appear.
MapInstall is going to show you how much storage space remains available on your device. If you do not have enough space, you will need to go through old maps and remove them from the storage.
Once you have the necessary storage available, click on the maps you want to be installed. Once complete, go to your settings and ensure that the maps are fully uploaded and functional.
Nothing worse than getting to a location and realizing the file didn’t fully upload!
If OpenStreetMaps free Garmin GPS maps don’t work for you, try the following instead.
Using GPSFileDepot for Free Garmin GPS Maps
You’ve troubleshooted OpenStreetMaps and just can’t figure out how to get your free Garmin GPS Maps to your device.
No problems, we have a back-up plan for you!
This next software has many of the same benefits as OpenStreetMaps. The GPSFileDepot.com has an added benefit too! It contains unpaved forest service roads and abandoned logging roads. This is a feature not available on most commercial maps.
These maps are built through user contribution and are free. They maintain quality, are accurate, and undergo review processes.
Installing GPSFileDepot Maps
The map installation process is simpler than OpenStreetMaps. The map files install via PC and Mac installation processes that run on your computer.
Upon completion, map files transfer to your Garmin Basecamp. As you are aware, the Garmin Basecamp software transfers map files to your GPS device.
The support available on the GPSFileDepot is phenomenal. They have an extension tutorials section on their website. You can access the tutorial page by clicking here.
The Bottom Line
Paying full pop for commercial maps is always an option. Knowing that there are free Garmin GPS maps available provides an extra option for you.
Downloading the maps is a simple process. You can rest assured that the maps are also accurate through peer and editor reviews.
Our recommendation would be to try downloading the free hiking maps to your device first. If that process proves too difficult or the maps don’t meet your expectations, then go the paid route!
While you are online and doing some research, be sure to check out these hiking map app essentials!