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Which Maps to get

Started by Barry E, January 10, 2015, 09:13:50 AM

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Barry E

Hello, first Post.  I've been wandering around in the mountains with a map, compass and altimeter for 40 years.  Now I'm going to try this GPS stuff.  I have an Oregon 600.  Primarily I'll be in SE Oregon, N Nevada, The Great Basin, Moab, Telluride, etc, climbing, mtn biking, BC skiing, hiking.  The Garmin 1/24000 CD has a number of negative reviews.  I'm not concerned about buying maps or getting them for free, I just want them to work in the unit.  Many of the places I'll be going are quite remote and just have coordinates, no road names or numbers.  Which maps will be the best for my situation.  Thank you.


I think this is something only you can answer, based on exactly where you're going and what you expect. For starters, you could just download everything here that interests you. Since (most of) the maps here are free, there really isn't much downside. Install them on your computer and spend awhile comparing them to the paper maps that you normally use.

There are two basic map categories: vector and raster. Traditional garmin maps (like the 24k topo series that you mention which are distributed on DVD) are vector based. This kind of map is really just a database of coordinates along with instructions for how to connect them as either lines (like roads), points (like cities) or polygons (like lakes).

Raster maps are actually images that have been aligned to the surface of the earth. If you like the USGS 1:24000 paper maps, Garmin offers scanned versions as part of the Birdseye series. You get unlimited downloads for $30, which is really reasonable IMO. It is a subscription that expires after a year, but you can keep whatever you download forever without renewing.

Since they are images, they become "blocky" if you zoom in too far and hard to read if you zoom out too far. Vector based maps don't have this limitation, however they also don't have the appearance or uniques details found in raster maps.

One other thing to consider, vector based maps can be "routable", meaning they can provide turn by turn directions to reach a destination. Most of the maps here at GPSFileDepot don't have that capability however (it requires that the map be made in a certain way). Garmin's 24k topo series has routable roads and all the Points of Interest (POI) that appear on their highway maps (gas stations, stores, restaurants, etc). You won't find this kind of feature on GPSFileDepot maps either.

Finally, the Garmin 24k topo maps contain 3d terrain data that can produce 3d views and hill-shading. None of the maps at GPSFileDepot have this feature either (Garmin doesn't share the software that is needed).

So these features (routable roads, POI data, 3d terrain) are reasons why some people might prefer to purchase Garmin 24k maps:


One of the few routable maps on this site just happens to cover a lot of your area of interest.  It's big though.