If you’re working with Garmin’s BaseCamp* application, and you’re interested in a serious and ‘free’ alternative for Garmin’s topographic maps, you might want to read this article.

(*) BaseCamp is Garmin’s versatile pc application to create and edit tracks, routes and waypoints for eventual use on gps-enabled devices.
BaseCamp is available for free and you can use it even if you don’t combine it with a Garmin outdoor gps system. The gps files produced by BaseCamp can be saved in the standard .gpx format which can be used on almost any gps device or application (outdoors and smartphones).


OSM for Garmin: free, useful and perfectly legal

Many of us are looking for an alternative to Garmin’s expensive topographic maps that are normally used in BaseCamp and on Garmin’s outdoor gps devices. That alternative is OSM.
OSM is the abbreviation of OpenStreetMap, an open source initiative to map the world.

Open source means that volunteers cooperate over the internet in developing and maintaining computer applications and tools which are made freely available to everyone, as opposed to commercially licenced computer programs. Even the source code is available, hence the name. This way their expertise and knowledge serve the common cause and not only commercial interests. Open source products are based on the use of universal industry-standards which keeps them free from commercial influences and guarantees maximum useability on a wide range of computing platforms.
There exist widely accepted open source alternatives for many of the wellknown commercial applications and tools. Examples are Linux (open source alternative for Windows or MacOs), Libre Office (alternative for MS Office), Mozilla Firefox (alternative for MS Explorer), Mozilla Thunderbird (alternative for MS Outlook), GIMP (alternative for PhotoShop), Joomla! (alternative for MS Expression Studio or Dreamweaver)…

OpenStreetMap (OSM) (take a look at www.openstreetmap.org) is the open source alternative for the mapping community. All over the planet ‘mappers’ are adding their region, country or specific geographic information to the map of the world. It’s their alternative for the Googles, the Bings and the other commercial map producers. OSM is a work in progress which means the map gets more complete every day and constantly evolves. For the Benelux many regions on the map are already very detailed, some even claim that for specific areas it’s superior to any other commercial map. The situation varies from country to country. Some area’s may look quite ’empty’, others show lots of details. It all depends on the work being done, but that it’s getting better and more complete every day, nobody will deny.

But what have concepts like open source and products like OSM to do with Garmin and BaseCamp?
Well, there’s nothing that prevents people from using other maps than Garmin’s (or their partners) in application programs like BaseCamp. It’s only a matter of adapting these other maps to the requirements of Garmin’s application environment. There’s nothing wrong in doing that, as long as the maps and tools used don’t violate any intellectual properties or copyrights. Of course, you can’t expect Garmin to promote these possibilities, but a well-informed user can benefit from it in a perfectly legal way without harming anyone.

However, making a map fit to function in a program like BaseCamp, is quite a complicated technological process, especially for non-experts like you and me. There exist industry standard methods and tools that should make maps, tracks, routes, poi’s… perfectly exchangeable, but almost every supplier finds reasons to add his own version to the standards. Sometimes this results in interesting additional functionality, but more importantly it means that for each supplier a different map version needs to be developed in order to make it work on that supplier’s devices and software. That’s also the reason why a Garmin map won’t work on another supplier’s devices, and vice versa. The supplier of course wants to protect his customer base and makes it difficult for customers to switch to other suppliers. Yet, for outsiders wanting to access that supplier’s market it only makes things more difficult and complicated.


OSM for Garmin BaseCamp

Being an outsider, the OSM project a few years ago decided to produce a version of its maps, useable with Garmin’s BaseCamp application and devices. By doing that OSM has become the only source of ‘free’ maps that can function as-is in BaseCamp. No wonder OSM has become extremely popular amongst Garmin users in no time.
For our countries (Belgium and Benelux) the OSM maps for Garmin can be found on two websites. We’ll discuss both of them and will also explain how to install more than one OSM map in BaseCamp.

1. Free Maps for Garmin brand GPS devices: OSM maps from virtually any country in the world.

2. OpenFietsMap: OSM maps for the Benelux and a number of other European countries, targeted specifically towards bikers, but also useful for hikers.

3. Installing several OSM maps in BaseCamp: a procedure to apply each time an additional OSM map has to be installed.


1. Free Maps for Garmin brand GPS devices

On garmin.openstreetmap.nl (Free Maps for Garmin brand GPS devices, despite the .nl domain a website written in English) we find ready-to-go OSM maps for virtually any country in the world.
The number of maps that can be downloaded and installed is unlimited, as long as there is space available on your computer.
Just remember that if you want to install several OSM maps in BaseCamp you’ll have to apply the procedure described in point 3. If you don’t, the additional maps will stay invisible.

The website is in English, and so is the Manual link which is shown on the left side of the page. Below we summarize the procedure, specifically oriented towards those wanting to install the OSM maps of Belgium.

1.1. Choose the type of map you want. For hikers that will be ‘Generic Routable’. Bikers will choose the ‘Routable Bycicle’ map. The latter is a light-version of the OpenFietsMap Benelux map discussed in point 2, but limited to Belgium. This light-version shows the same roads and paths as the ‘Generic Routable’ map, but also indicates the LF-trails (from Groteroutepaden) and the biker’s network node numbers.
These maps don’t show altitude lines. There is a way to add them, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. Altitude lines are part of the Benelux OpenFietsMap, see point 2.

1.2. In the next field choose the ‘look’ (TYP file) of the map. Only the ‘Generic Routable’ map offers a choice: standard (none), or ‘Mapnik’. Mapnik shows a bit more contrast on the map, so just choose ‘Mapnik’.
The ‘Routable Bicycle’ map doesn’t present a choice because the map has its own built-in ‘look’.
1.3. Now choose a country. For Belgium click the field ‘Europe’. A list of all European countries is displayed. Select ‘Belgium’. On the map below the page all the tiles that make up Belgium appear in a darker shade. On the left side of the screen the names of the tiles appear.
Benelux is not one of the standard choices. If you want the Benelux you’ll have to download subsequently the maps of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, or you’ll have to manually adjust the country choice (see 1.4). You can also download the Benelux Openfietsmap (see point 2.).
If the standard country selection is what you need, you can immediately download the files. Above the map the ‘Download map now!’ button will show. Click it and then go to point 1.7.

1.4. The standard tiles selection of a country can be edited by adding or removing tiles. To do that just mark the field ‘Enable manual tile selection’. This may be handy if for instance you live near the border and you regularly hike or cycle a bit further away over the border. Clicking one or more tiles extends the standard ‘Belgium’ map selection to the regions you’re interested in. Clicking those tiles again removes them from the selection.

1.5. It’s also possible to select a map area without first selecting a country. Just leave the country choice open and mark the ‘Enable manual tile selection’ field. Position the cursor on  the map and click-drag the cursor to select the area you’re interested in.

1.6. When doing a manual selection as described in 1.4. and 1.5. you won’t see the message ‘Download map now!’. You will be asked for your e-mail address and then you’ll have to click the ‘Build my map’ button. The reason is that the standard country selections (see 1.3.) are regularly prepared in advance and are available for immediate download. Manual selections have to be prepared upon request and that may take a while. Below the map you can see what the current workload is. When the map files are ready, you’ll get an e-mail with the link to the files.

1.7. The ‘Download map now!’ button or the e-mail link will open a page listing the map files. Depending upon the map choosen, the names will differ. As a Windows user you’ll need the file ending with …windows.exe. It’s a program that will install the map on your pc and make it available from within the Garmin BaseCamp application. Click the windows.exe file to download it to your pc. Normally it will be downloaded to your local ‘Download’ map.

1.8. Doubleclick the …windows.exe file in your Download map. A setup procedure starts. This may take a while, but the procedure is almost completely automatic.

1.9. When the setup procedure finishes, just close it. Start the BaseCamp application. Click on the ‘map’ button above the map area. A list appears and you should see the name of your OSM map amongst the other maps in the list. If you choose the ‘Generic Routable’ map, it should show ‘OSM Generic Routable’. Click the name of the OSM map and the map should show in the map area. It’s as simple as that! You can now use the OSM map in BaseCamp as any other map.

1.10. If you want to install the OSM map also on a Garmin gps device, you just have to follow the instructions given by the BaseCamp application. You can also install the OSM map directly on a Garmin gps device by using one of the files we’ve seen in 1.7. It’s the file name ending as …gmapsupp.zip. The procedure is beyond the scope of this article. Our goal was to install an OSM map in BaseCamp, and that’s what you should have accomplished by now.


2. OpenFietsMap

On www.openfietsmap.nl you’ll find an interesting OSM map: the complete Benelux map for bikers. It shows the LF cycling trails as well as the cycling networks nodes, and the map is routable. The map also shows altitude lines, which is not the case for the maps we’ve discussed in point 1.
The map can also be used by hikers and it can be combined with a ‘hiking layer’.

The website is in partly written in English, and partly in Dutch.

The procedure to install the Benelux (Full Version) map in BaseCamp is clearly explained (partly in Dutch). Basically you have to download the zip file, unzip it, and then execute the …windows.exe file. The procedure is the same as what we’ve described in 1.8 before.
If you already have one or more other OSM maps installed in BaseCamp, then apply the procedure described in point 3.

Remark: the procedure to install the OpenFietsMap with the ‘hiking layer’ in BaseCamp is different. It’s also described on the website.


3. Installing several OSM maps in BaseCamp

Once you’ve installed an OSM map in BaseCamp, you cannot install additional OSM maps just like that. The new OSM map will replace the previous one. Basically you’ll only see one OSM map, no matter how many others you’ve installed. Why? Garmin assigns a unique ID and name to all its maps, so BaseCamp can distinguish the maps and show them all. The OSM maps don’t have unique numbers and therefore BaseCamp can’t make the distinction. They’re all the same.

There exists an application to solve this problem, and it’s free: JaVaWa GMTK. You can download it at: http://www.javawa.nl/gmtk.html
Each time we want to install an additional OSM map in BaseCamp we’ll use his application.

The website is written in Dutch. But don’t let that put you off. JaVaWa GMTK is a highly technical application with lots of possibilities. However, if it’s only to use several OSM maps in BaseCamp we’ll just use a very small part of the application.

3.1. On the right side of the JaVaWa website you’ll notice a download link: ‘Klik hier om te downloaden’. It opens a page with a ‘Downloaden’ button. That’s the one you need as a Windows user. Below if is a link for the Mac-version. Click the ‘Downloaden’ button and save the GMTK_Setup.exe file.

3.2. Locate the .exe file on your pc, doubleclick it to start the installation procedure. The application requires administrator rights, so you might have to type your pc’s administrator password. The procedure then asks the usual questions (a.o. language) and finally has the program installed on your pc.
Once installed JaVaWa will always ask for your administrator rights when you launch the application.

3.3. At this point we assume you’ve already installed a first OSM map as described in points 1. or 2. If that’s the ‘Generic Routable’ map of Belgium, you should see it in BaseCamp as ‘OSM Generic Routable’. Close BaseCamp and start the JaVaWa GMTK application program.

3.4. JaVaWa will automatically detect the maps you’ve already installed and will list them. The list includes also the Garmin maps you’ve installed. Somewhere in the list you should see the ‘OSM Generic Routable’ map. If everything is OK there’s a green tick in front of each map. If something’s wrong (like when you have already tried to install additional OSM maps) JaVaWa will show a red tick in front of that map. For now we just assume you’ve perfectly followed this manual and all ticks are green.

3.5. Select an OSM map by clicking on it. Then click the Extra button in the JaVaWa menu. Choose ‘Kaartnaam en ID wijzigen’ (Change Mapname and ID). A tip window appears, just close it. Now you’ll see a window showing a number of fields. You should modify the content of these fields so the OSM map can be distinguished from other OSM maps you might want to add later on.

3.6. There’s no need to modify the field ‘Family ID (FID)’. JaVaWa automatically assigns a unique ID number to our OSM map.

3.7. The fields ‘Naam op computer’ (Name on the computer), ‘Naam op toestel’ (Name on the device) and ‘Mapnaam’ (Mapname) show the standard names of our first OSM map. Change those names into recognizable and unique names. For instance, you might want to change the name of the OSM Generic Routable map of Belgium to ‘OSM Belgium generic’. If later on you add the cycling map of Belgium you might name it ‘ OSM Belgium biking’. Use the same name for the 3 fields.

3.8. Click the ‘Wijzig’ (Change) button. Now the list should show the new unique name. Close the JaVaWa application and open BaseCamp. Your OSM map of Belgium should also show the new name.

3.9. Repeat this procedure starting at 3.3. each time you installed an additional OSM map. JaVaWa will assign a unique ID number to each map. The other names you’ll have to modify yourself, taking care that each name has a unique name.

3.10. Changing names and ID’s of your maps will only work for non-Garmin maps. JaVaWa cannot change the lockprocedures associated with the Garmin maps.

JaVaWa offers lots of features. Amongst them are procedures to repair wrongly installed OSM maps. These features exceed the scope of this article. If you want to know more about it, consult the forum and info on the JaVaWa website.