Sunday, August 29, 2010

Germany Bike Maps - For Free!

I've known about the OpenStreetMap project for some time, but I've never taken advantage of it before. But as I was hunting around for a Linux mapping program (and found "qlandkarte gt"), I stumbled across OpenStreetMap-based maps that you could use off-line. And among those were detailed bike trail maps of Germany. But loading them on to my GPS proved a bit complicated because I don't have a Windows box around!

First, I found the maps here:

Then I had to download 7zip in order to unpack the map files (which are bundled in a Windows executable). qlandkarte was immediately able to use these map files locally. And they looked very detailed and accurate! But how to get them on to my Garmin Etrex Vista C (an older handheld model)?

Unfortunately, Garmin only provides map loading software for Windows and Mac. There appears to be an open-source project to do this, but it didn't look well supported or easy. Since I have a Mac, I downloaded Basecamp (i found many recommendations to skip Garmin's RoadTrip project and use the more stable Basecamp).

Next, you have to convert the Windows maps into Mac maps (why oh why does Garmin have separate formats for different programs?). Garmin provides a converter program that runs under windows (, but fortunately, there is an open-source project called Gmapibuilder that does the same thing.

Next, I ran the Garmin Map Manager on my Mac (came bundled with Basecamp) to load the maps into Basecamp. Then, I used Garmin's Map Installer applications (also bundled with Basecamp) to select my GPS unit and load a subset of the map on to it. I was happy to discover that I was able to pick a subset because my eTrex Vista C only has 24MB of memory and no expansion slots. So I was able to reduce the map to just the area that I wanted. And voila! I was done!

I got some good help in this process from, but since it seemed missing a couple steps, I thought I'd document it all here.