How do the Garmin 24K Topos compare to GPS File Depot Maps?

Started by QuestionsGPS, January 21, 2013, 09:15:30 PM

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I just bought a Garmin Southwest 24K DVD version from REI the other day.  I haven't opened it up yet.  Although REI has a really good return policy, I assume I won't be able to return it after opening the packaging since it's a DVD version, so I'm trying to figure out beforehand how worth it this software is before opening. 

I'm curious how these particular paid version maps compare?  How easy are these maps to read on your GPS compared to the typical GPS File Depot free version map?  How detailed are they?  Do they label national forests, swamps, etc, etc, similar to the GPS File Depot versions?  How easy is it to differentiate the BLM, national forest, and national park areas from each other?  I guess the big difference is the Garmin 24K are shaded relief, and routable for paved roads (although I believe some GPS File Depot maps are routable)?

Indrid Cold

have you seen Garmin's interactive page that shows this map in action?


What device are you using? That might make a difference...(e.g. are you using one of the newer devices that can support multiple IMG files with different names?). If so, you might be satisfied with a combination of OSM, maps from here, and KMZ files. If you want something simple, you might be happier with the single Garmin $$ solution. Or you might be satisfied with just one of those free solutions. You really need to try everything for yourself...

I went through the same question that you face back a couple of years ago when I got my 78sc. I downloaded almost everything I could find, both here on this website and from other sources. For me, here in New England, I eventually decided to pay the $$ for the DVD of the Garmin 24K Topo Series, and I'm happy with my decision.

One of these days I'll make screen shots of all the different maps so you can see the difference and how I made my evaluation. But what works for me might be far different than what works for you - too many variables: coverage in your location, quality of OSM data in your area, quality of freebie (here) maps in your area, and your budget. There is no easy answer and no one-size-fits all answer.

My custom KMZ map collection:


Quote from: Indrid Cold on January 22, 2013, 04:51:47 AM
have you seen Garmin's interactive page that shows this map in action?

I went there earlier, but you can't click on a place to see if it says "(such and such city) BLM" or"(blank) National Forest)".  With my Oregon 450, I can click and a label will appear in a box at the top of the screen.  The GPS File Depot Maps for Utah have BLM's, National Parks, National Forests, labeled.  I didn't know how the Garmin 24K are in having these things labeled.

Indrid Cold

Ok them, that's a start. The Garmin 24K TOPO WEST DVD that I have does not have BLM lands marked, it does have a transparent PLSS layer that provides Township and Range blocks. I am going to assume the the SOUTHWEST 24K TOPO DVD is similar, but that would have to be confirmed by someone that has the SOUTHWEST 24K TOPO DVD map product.


hi, new here and to gps. longtime map/compass horse camper in gtnp/ynp.  just got a montana 600 and going through this same process.  was 24k topo previously available for areas on dvd, as it now isn't, looking at mountain north (or west) on garmin site as seen here?  (sorry, link not allowed.) i've downloaded basecamp from garmin and applicable trail maps from here, but there now seems to be no way to get a 24k garmin map into basecamp via either sd card or download...apparently only via no longer available dvd. is that correct?


You can get the West DVD: and North Central DVD:

Do either of these cover what you need? The SD card and downloadable versions are subsets of the DVD - they cover smaller areas. You can use the download and SD card versions in Basecamp, but you cannot install them on your computer. Place the card in your GPS or a USB card reader connected to your computer. Basecamp will see the card and access the map - it takes a minute or so the first time you do this, but then you can use the map in Basecamp.

To avoid using the original card, make a copy of it to a USB flash drive. Basecamp will treat that the same as the original card.


thank you. i had the misconception that you needed the map on the pc. is it then correct that  one could make a custom map using that garmin topo (off a usb drive copy) and one of the transparent overlay trail maps (such as 'my trail') on your site and send that composite to the montana or to a blank sd card placed in the montana?  (i take it that the montana can access maps from either its internal memory or the onboard sd card?)

Indrid Cold

That won't work, you'll need the DVD version if you want to combine with an overlay map set


Quote from: buol on February 07, 2013, 08:21:50 AMand send that composite to the montana
Current devices can access multiple maps at once, you don't have to combine them. You can use custom names for map files preserving extension .img. I think that for Montana maps should be placed in directory \Garmin on internal drive or SD.


You can have the Garmin topo data as one mapset and the overlay trails mapset as another.
The Montana 600 will display them as if they were a single mapset.

If the Garmin topo is on a prerecorded Garmin micro memory card then put any addition mapset in the Montana's internal memory.
If the Garmin topo is transfered from the DVD, then (depending on available space) both could be sent to the Montana's internal memory, a 'blank' micro memory card, or either to each.


Another nice trick with the Garmin topo - if you enable it along with another map that has a higher draw priority (like City Navigator or many of the maps on this site), the shaded terrain will be applied to the other map.


thanks so much.  i've been searching and reading for days and this  is all totally new and good info!
for my purposes in the mountains the garmin topo elevation info seems to be important for me to have.

regarding aerial views, i've seen where you can make a map overlay of google earth on a topo map for a small area, which seems somewhat cumbersome.  and from what i read the garmin birdseye function is raster-based and lower res than google earth. is this  (significantly) so and, if so, is there a way one can get pieces of google maps/earth onto the gps?  if so, it would seem like i perhaps should get the dvd, keep the topo on the pc/then into internal memory and build over time areas of the parks onto one or more sd cards. that would also at some point allow me to work with the topo map on the pc, should i get that far!!


BirdsEye is supposed to be 2 feet per pixel, and I can confirm this for my own area. That is pretty good IMO. I don't think there's a standard for Google Maps/Earth. Their imagery is worse than Birdseye for me. But image quality and source varies depending on location. I think you can just connect your Oregon, start Birdseye and download to your computer without buying anything. You only have to pay if you want it on the GPS.

There are various ways to aid in making custom maps - use google to check out g-raster, mobile atlas creator, googletrail and mapc2mapc for starters.


thanks. i'm ordering the 24k dvd for starters, and i'll look into those map-related tools when i get more oriented to/informed about the map and the montana.  you folks and your site are a great resource of knowledge.   thanks for sharing it with novices.