After the release last year of Magellan MapSend Topo UK for Magellan GPS’s, I was keeping my fingers crossed that Garmin would strike a similar deal and produce a similar product as part of their Mapsource line for my eTrex Vista. Taking a look at the selection of countries with Topo coverage that their third-party programme had provided it was starting to get quite odd that there was no UK coverage.
For those people not aware of the situation in the UK, the government does have an agency that has a complete digital topographic map of the UK, the Ordnance Survey. Aside from the well known printed maps in 1:25000 and 1:50000 they do a variety of digital maps well above the level of detail needed for a consumer GPS. The big problem, as always comes down to money. Whilst there are quite a few products such as MemoryMap Navigator that are based on some of their raster data (although note the lack of complete 1:25000 coverage), the vector data needed for handheld GPS units is only available at a significant premium. Whereas Garmin can obtain the relevant data for the United States and Canada the official response to enquires about a UK Topo product from Garmin is that the licensing cost is too much. For a UK resident this is particularly annoying as we’ve already paid for the mapping to be done by way of our taxes!
Anyway, I recently came across talk of a page by the Scottish Mountaineering Club which was hosting a set of UK contour maps produced from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission by another disgruntled Garmin GPS owner who wanted topographic maps for his GPS. The solution is a somewhat manual process, but the result is a contour map for the whole of the UK and Ireland that can be loaded into a Garmin GPS. I downloaded the maps this afternoon, and within about 20 minutes had them all loaded into my copy of Mapsource.
Of course there is a certain irony to the fact that whilst through my taxes I’ve paid for the Ordnance Survey to keep an accurate digital map of the UK, but I’m having to load data paid for by the US taxpayer, but available for free onto my GPS!!!
Update: It looks like the link is now long since dead. Having said that, in the intervening time, Garmin have now produced an official topographic mapping for the UK.
Update 2: There is an update of this post with the much wider selection of options now available for Garmin GPS owners here.