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How to install detailed maps on an older Garmin – for (almost) free!

Maximise the functionality of your Garmin for navigation

This applies to the Garmin Edge 520/705/800/810 GPS devices

I recently helped out one Dittons Velo rider to install a map on her Garmin 810 before a trip to Mallorca. Whilst there, she intended to explore unknown countryside and hills. On her return she loaded a UK map. In three years of Garmin ownership, she admitted that she had never seen a decent map with road names on her Garmin!

If you’re a Garmin user (see list above), it’s likely you’re using the device with it’s very basic map. If all you ever want to do is record an activity – where you have been,  speed and other statistics – then it’s absolutely fine and you can stop reading now!

However, if you want to use your Garmin to navigate a route (there are plenty to download from the DV web site!) you’re going to need a better map; one with road names and more details!


openstreetmapbasemapAs shipped, the above Garmin units come with a “basemap” installed. If you zoom in to the map you see very few details apart from some main A-roads and rivers (compare the images)! On those devices apart from the 520 you can add a detailed map via a micro SD card (see image below).  Newer devices including the 820, 1000 and 1030 have a navigable Europe map factory installed.

The good news is that maps are easily available: options include purchasing maps on an SD card or via download, from Garmin for £35 (as of November 2018) or Ordinance Survey  1:50k Full Country SD Card for £109.99!

The Free map option…

Alternatively, if you have a microSD card with a capacity of 1GB or larger (I found one in an old phone), you can install the incredible and free OpenStreetMap map https://www.openstreetmap.org/about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenStreetMap
You can buy an 8GB SD card for under £4 online – it doesn’t need to be a digital video, high speed SD etc card.

To install the map you simply need to download the map as a gmapsupp.img file and copy it to the microSD card in a folder named Garmin (there is not enough free space in the main memory).

sd slot

There are detailed instructions available to follow on the internet e.g. https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/05/download-garmin-705800810.html 

You can even create custom maps at http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ or download a range of ready-made maps for free at http://alternativaslibres.org/en/downloads.php#Europe

If you are lucky enough to travel abroad to cycle, simply download and install a gmapsupp.img file for the destination country before you travel (remember to change it back on return to the UK!).file structure

With a 16GB microSD card I keep a number of gmapsupp.img files on the card and simply rename them when required (see screenshot). Note the current gmapsupp.img file in use is a custom area of South of England only.


Happy navigating!

David Matthews

November 2018

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