Open Street Maps for Garmin first thoughts review

When I took the plunge and bought my Garmin 800 a couple of years back, I really went for it and bought the all singing top of the range bundle with heart rate monitor, cadence and full European City Maps. Up until recently I’ve been blissfully happy – everything’s just worked and I’ve racked up over 13,000kms with my Garmin.

Just before Christmas though I noticed a weird issue – for some reason the two “drives” that show up when I connect my Garmin to my PC after ride had become just one. Then I noticed that my map view on rides had changed – in fact the mapping seemed to have disappeared. I contacted Garmin who kindly said, take out your memory card as sounds like it’s corrupted, send it to us and we’ll see if we can reload the data. Great I thought, except it wasn’t. Apparently I’d broken the card somehow (strange as I’d never removed it) and I needed to buy a new copy of the Garmin City Maps if I still wanted to use them. Whilst disappointed that my maps license was locked to that specific memory card that was now damaged, and without dwelling on the fact that I don’t think that’s a good model for customers, I started to consider what might be a plan B.

One of my riding buddies who bought exactly the same spec Garmin as mine – including the City Navigator, never even plugged those maps into his Garmin (he probably should have bought a cheaper version!). His preferred mapping option from day one was Open Street Maps – an open source mapping community solution that offers you the chance to have comprehensive, routable and free mapping suitable for Garmin cycling GPS devices like the 800.

I ordered a couple of new Micro SD cards for the sum of about a tenner as I needed a new memory card for the experiment I was about to make (and I wanted a backup).

I then found this fantastic blog post from the amazingly thorough DCRainmaker site that walks you through the entire process in some detail. In fact if you’re not especially technically confident, I’d just follow this process step by step (I did):


You’ll end up on this site for choosing the actual maps you want:


In my experiments, setting up most of Western Europe was about 2.5gb of data and the UK maps only are about 570mb. I’ve now got both 4gb and 8gb MicroSD cards on hand – so there’s an abundance of space left after the maps.

Following the instructions from either DCRainmaker or the Open Street Maps site – is pretty straight forwards. As is copying them onto a Micro SD card and plugging them into your Garmin.

Once they’re installed – it just business as usual. If you’re using routes you’ve created yourself or downloaded from somewhere – everything is just like it was – you’ll probably just notice more colourful maps with a few more feature markers like symbols of trees to represent woods/forest etc.

I’ve been using the maps I downloaded for over a month now, which is about 500km and they’ve been great. It’s hard to imagine switching back and right now, if I was to buy a new Garmin (I’d have no hesitation in buying another Garmin by the way), I’d probably just buy a base unit (I do quite fancy an 810!).

If you’re thinking of a Garmin Edge 800 or 810 and you have the budget – then yes, why not go for the full fat bundle with City Maps too. However if price is an issue – rest assured you can buy the unit without the maps and be confident that Open Street Maps is a good solution. It’s food for thought as the difference between the pricing on the base unit and the bundles can be significant.

Thanks for reading