OpenStreetMap & Garmin

Garmin eTrex 20xThis summer I tested my new Garmin eTrex 20x handheld GPS. It comes at just under € 200 and already has some (basic) maps on board. However, since I really like the OpenStreetMap project, I installed these on the MicroSD card. Earlier I have written about the pleasures of OpenStreetMap (in Dutch). So far I used the OsmAnd app on my Android powered Fairphone. That does work alright and the 4.3″ LCD display is really nice, but the GPS receiver on a smartphone is not always as accurate as one might wish for. For example, my phone told me I walked many more kilometres than I actually did.

A real GPS, like the Garmin, even if it is just a basic model, is much better in finding and tracking the buzzing satellites over our heads. The eTrex can locate both the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS networks. Conclusion: the eTrex 20x passed its test very well.

For those who, like me, are new to this way of navigating: you can of course buy the GPS device online. But I would suggest you visit a decent outdoor shop to actually see and try the thingy. I went to Bever Zwerfsport in Groningen and got good advice for free as well.

Then: try to understand the basics of GPS navigation. If you happen to have a son who is professionally trained in Dynamic Positioning methods, you may soon be overwhelmed with highly technical information… A good start for the novice is the Wikipedia page on GPS devices.

And then, of course: just go out walking and learn by the best proven method of all: trial and error.

OSM on Garmin

To get your OSM maps on your Garmin start reading the dedicated Wiki page. There is also a page on where to find suitable OSM maps. After some searching and testing I settled with the German Freizeitkarte. But there is (much) more, for example on Kukuk’s website (aye, that’s German again), or from this Dutch project.

Once you have downloaded the maps, you need to make them available on your Garmin device. The trick is to copy them to the MicroSD card and place them in the /garmin folder.

The eTrex 20x has a USB cable to connect it to a PC. That way the MicroSD card should be made easily accessible. Yet, for some silly reason the device did not appear file manager, whatever I tried… Och… the reason was very silly indeed: I plugged the USB cable into a USB hub, which does not give the required 5V on each port. So, I just had to plug it directly into a USB port on my PC. Then it worked: both the internal Garmin memory and the MicroSD card were mounted. Also in Windows running in a virtual machine, making the Garmin software available.

The alternative is, of course, to take the MicroSD card out of the eTrex and insert it into a card reader. That will do the job. (The MicroSD card can be found behind the batteries.)