Free Topo Maps for Garmin GPS

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast/geocacher and you’re looking for just the right map set for your Garmin GPS, I have a great suggestion for you.

I’ve been looking for the right balance between accurate street-level information and accurate TOPO data for my GPS, and I’ve found a way to get both. GPSFileDepot has free, user-contributed map sets available for download. Since I live in Illinois, I’ve provided the following information and links for Illinois map sets, but if you don’t live in Illinois, you can likely still find the maps that you’re looking for on the main GPSFileDepot page.

If you have a map set which includes street-level maps on your device (such as a vehicle device with City Navigator NT), simply install a transparent topo map, such as the Illinois Transparent 24k Topo map, alongside City Navigator NT. This map features topo contour lines with the remainder of the map being transparent so you can have both this map and City Navigator NT enabled at the same time. Topo lines will appear along with the street maps, and turn-by-turn navigation will work as well. Topo lines only appear at a certain zoom level, so you won’t have the clutter of topo lines when you’re driving on the highway. (See important note below)

If you have a hand-held device and you’re looking to get both street-level and topo contour lines in a single map set, I have to recommend the Northeast Topo United States maps. This particular mapset covers Illinois in two sections [one, two] (There is a third segment but it does not contain Illinois maps). These feature accurate topo data along with fairly recent street-level data, giving you the best of both. Unfortunately, these map sets don’t include auto-routing (turn-by-turn) navigation, but if you’re on a trail, it’s not a feature you’re going to need or miss.

Important note(s) about installing map sets: Installing maps to your device requires you to have MapSource installed on your computer. If you have one map set (such as City Navigator NT ) on your device, and you plan on installing another map set along side it, make sure you have all of the products installed on your computer and map segments selected in MapSource before transferring to your device. Transferring one map set to your device via MapSource will overwrite any map sets already on your device. If you need assistance getting a product (such as City Navigator NT) installed in MapSource, please contact Garmin for assistance.

If you do not have MapSource, you can use the free BaseCamp software.

Please share any thoughts or feedback in the comments below.