Author Topic: which GPS map for US ?  (Read 5617 times)

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Offline kaer23

which GPS map for US ?
« on: January 15, 2023, 03:52:07 am »
Dear All,

for my plans for a bicycle tour through the US this year, I am currently wondering which map I should use for my Garmin GPSMAP device.
Garmin offers the US Cycle Map as well as the TopoActive North America - both based on openstreetmap data, similar price and apparently same coverage.
I tried to call Garmin, but the only person I could reach did not know either of the maps...

Does anyone know what the differences are (if there are any at all) ?

Thanks a lot !

Offline John Nettles

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Re: which GPS map for US ?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2023, 05:21:21 pm »
I did not know the maps even existed either and looked at the Garmin website thinking you were mistaking them for the City Navigator or TOPO series.  Yep, the ones you mentioned existed so it just confirms you can learn something new.

I have always used the City Navigator series and the TOPO series and the City Navigator is fine overall and is updated annually(ish).  The original TOPO series has, to my knowledge never been updated but very well could be since it is so old.  I "think" it is based on very old US Geological Survey maps but again not sure.

I am interested to see if others have used the ones you mentioned.  I personally am torn with the OSM base map.  While it is frequently the most current, sometimes the most usefully things like a bike path do not "connect" to a road so the routing does not go on the bike path since the mapping program thinks the bike path is a dead end.  When I create routes in BaseCamp or RWGPS, I can just connect the open space via a "draw lines" method but if I were using to route on the bike, it would be frustrating.

I would want to know what date the Garmin Cycle Map data uses (is it from 2018 or 2023 OSM data)and more importantly how often it is updated and at what cost before buying it.

One thing to consider is how you create your routes.  Do you create them at home on the computer using RWGPS, BaseCamp, or other mapping programs?  Do you just route on the bike while riding?  If you use say RWGPS and enjoy their proprietary RWGPS base map or the OSM series of maps, it probably would match up best with the US Cycle Map since both appear to be based on OSM Maps.  If you prefer the "Map" map on RWGPS, then I would say the Navigator would match best.  There are at times very subtle differences between the two maps, i.e. the "intersection" may be placed just differently enough so that the static GPS point thinks you are now in say the opposite lanes of a 4-lane divided highway to it tries to dutifully route you to that point when in reality it did not need to do so. However, this can happen also with the same map as it updates over the years.  I frequently have to move a waypoint from an route created many years ago to its updated location so it routes properly. 

If you end up with the Cycle series maps, let us know how it works for you.

Tailwinds, John

Offline kaer23

Re: which GPS map for US ?
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2023, 02:16:46 am »
So the latest reply from Garmin was: The Cycle maps are (surprise !) for cyclists, topoactive is for hiking - additional trails on the topoactive are apparently not suited for bicycles. So I decided to start with the cycle map and compared the details shown with the details and resolution of the topoactive for Europe. At least for details shown and resultion-wise, there seem to be only minor differences.

Offline voschix

Re: which GPS map for US ?
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2023, 11:15:48 am »
back in 2016 I used successfully the US map on an Garmin etrex 20 for the Route 66 for general orientation, but not for navigation.
Velomap is donation ware, using the same OSM data that Garmin is using.
If you are travelling along ACA routes, use ACA maps in addition. Their information is audited and normally up-to-date. OSM data, and hence also Garmin maps are not audited.
In addition, the quality of OSM data is very variable. In particular in Arizona, NM, California, the map contained, and still contains, many "tracks" without classification, which may be anything between non-existing or a rough 4-wheel trace on private land to a minor public road. I think the situation has improved since 2016 but I still find many places with this problem. So don't trust any bicycle navigation in those areas (and consult the ACA maps).
(Padova, Italy)