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Author Topic:   Advice Request - Maps for Garmin Handheld GPS
K Albus posted 06-20-2010 01:12 PM ET (US)   Profile for K Albus   Send Email to K Albus  
I recently purchased a Garmin Oregon 450 to use as a backup on my boat, and also to use while hiking on the upcoming Continuous Wave Isle Royale trip. I'd like to purchase some maps/software, and I like some advice on the best way to proceed. The maps/software I would like to purchase are the BlueChart g2 and the Topo 24K map for the Great Lakes region. I may also wish to purchase City Navigator North America NT. I have already purchased a blank 4GB micro-SD card for the unit.

The BlueCharts g2 software appears to be available only as a pre-loaded micro-SD card, or as a download for a micro-SD card. The Topo 24K map is available on DVD, on a micro-SD card, or by download. The City Navigator software is also available on DVD, on a micro-SD card, or by download.

Assuming that I purchase all three map/software products, can they all be loaded and stored on to the unit at one time, or will I have to switch out micro-SD cards to move from one map to the other? For instance, on the upcoming Isle Royale trip I would like to use the Oregon 450 first as an in-car routing GPS, which would use the City Navigator maps. Once I arrive at the boat launch, I'll want to use the Oregon 450 to navigate my boat from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale using the BlueChart maps. After arriving at Isle Royale, I'll want to use the Topo 24K map for hiking. Is it possible to have all of the software/maps loaded into the unit, and switch between them, or will I need to carry a bunch of micro-SD cards with me and switch them out as needed?

Also, if I purchase the software/maps by download, do I then need to copy the files to micro-SD card in order to use them, or can they be transferred to the unit's internal memory through the USB cord? If I purchase the software/maps by download, can I back them up to a CD or a DVD?

Marlin posted 06-21-2010 09:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marlin  Send Email to Marlin     
Partial answers to your questions:

I have a GPSMap 76csx, onto which I've loaded both the Topo maps and City Navigator. I have loaded both packages onto a single micro SD card, and I can enable/disable the map packages individually. I presume this would be true for BlueCharts as well, but I cannot say for sure.

From CD/DVD, you can load the files directly onto the micro SD card (for example, through a USB card reader), or you can load directly to the SD card while it is installed in the GPS, again through a USB cable. You can copy the files from the SD card to other media for backup purposes, but you should understand that the maps are licensed only to one GPS serial number, and you can't use them on a different GPS. And if you lose or otherwise replace your GPS, you cannot re-license the map software to the replacement -- instead, you need to buy another set of map software. Lousy, but true.

As an aside, I found that the topo maps give excellent shoreline detail, but contain relatively few navaids (not a problem for you if you're also loading BlueCharts). On my old GPSMap 76, there was nothing I could do about it, but on the 76 csx, I was able to re-load the basemap points of interest database to recover the fairly comprehensive navaids from the basemap.


K Albus posted 07-23-2010 10:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
After getting only one response here, and no responses to the same questions posted on The Hull Truth electronics forum, I tried to call Garmin customer service to get the answers to my questions. When I called I was told that it would be approximately 30 minutes before I would be connected to a customer service representative, so I hung up.

For whatever reason, I decided that my best course of action would be to buy all three map products on MicroSD cards. I purchased what I thought were the City Navigator and Great Lakes Topo 24k cards from REI. I then purchased the BlueCharts g2 MicroSD card from West Marine. When I got home, I realized that REI had actually given me two copies of the Great Lakes Topo 24k card and no copy of the City Navigator card.

I put one of the Great Lakes Topo cards into the Oregon 450, and I hooked the unit up to my computer using the USB cord. I opened the free Garmin Base Camp software, hoping to find that I could load various portions of the Topo maps and use them for route planning. When I was unable to accomplish that, I decided it was time to call Garmin customer service again.

After waiting on hold for 30 minutes or so, I spoke with a customer service representative. I explained to him what I was trying to accomplish, and he told me how to do it. He said that I needed to purchase the DVD version of City Navigator and the DVD version of the Topo maps I wanted, which would be the Northeast Topo 24k (the Northeast Topo 24k DVD covers a slightly larger area than the Great Lakes Topo 24k MicroSD card, and costs a little more). The DVD maps could then be loaded onto my PC, and from my PC I could load various segments of the maps to the internal memory of the Oregon 450.

With regard to the BlueCharts g2, he recommended purchasing the download version which could then be saved onto as many blank MicroSD cards as I wanted. Unfortunately, however, there is no way to load the map data from a BlueCharts g2 MicroSD card into the internal memory of the Oregon 450.

I asked the customer service representative about returning the Great Lakes Topo 24k map card to REI since I had already put it into my Oregon unit and activated it, and he said it should be no problem. I returned both Great Lakes Topo 24k map cards to REI and picked up the DVD versions I needed. I also decided to keep the BlueCharts g2 MicroSD card I had purchased from West Marine.

When I got home, I loaded each of the DVDs into my PC using Garmin's free Base Camp software. I then connected the Oregon to my PC using the USB cord. After that, I opened the Garmin Map Loader software, also free, which allowed me to select various portions of the City Navigator and Northeast Topo maps to load into the internal memory of the Oregon 450. When that was done, I disconnected the USB cord, and I inserted the BlueCharts g2 MicroSD card into the Oregon.

I now have everything I need for my Isle Royale trip loaded into the Oregon. The City Navigator maps will allow me to use the Oregon as an automotive-type GPS for the car ride to Copper Harbor, providing turn-by-turn directions, as well as information about gas stations and restaurants. The Oregon 450 also provides various trip computer functions such as miles traveled, miles remaining, time on road, maximum speed, average speed, etc.

When I get to Copper Harbor, I can deactivate the City Navigator maps and activate the BlueCharts g2 maps with a few key strokes on the Oregon 450's touch screen. This will allow me to use the Oregon 450 as a back-up to my Furuno chartplotter for the voyage to Isle Royale, and for the various legs of the trip around the island by boat.

If I want to go for a hike on the island, I can deactivate the BlueCharts g2 maps and activate the Northeast Topo 24k maps with a few keystrokes.

A few additional notes:

- It is not necessary to activate and deactivate the various map products for different legs of the trip. They can all be left active at all times. However, it seems to take longer for the unit to redraw when all of the maps are active.

- The Oregon 450 will allow me to easily record and later download to my PC all of the various segments of the trip to a map I can share with others. Although I believe my Furuno chartplotter also has this capability, it is a much more cumbersome process, and I don't have all of the equipment necessary to do it.

- Garmin's website provided virtually no help with regard to my questions. I searched Garmin's website and the rest of the internet for days trying to find my answers. I found nothing helpful at all. I was willing to spend hundreds of dollars on Garmin's map products but couldn't find any answers to what I thought were pretty basic questions. Contacting Garmin customer service by telephone solved all of my problems, and essentially confirmed that my questions were pretty basic. After waiting on hold for more than 30 minutes, my conversation with the customer service representative only lasted approximately two minutes, and all of my questions were answered. It would be nice if Garmin added a simple tutorial to their website about buying and installing maps to Garmin products, and a page discussing the pros and cons of purchasing the maps on DVD, MicroSD cards, or by download.

- The Oregon 450 is one of Garmin's newer products and there are still some bugs to be worked out. For instance, when the power is turned on and the BlueCharts g2 chip is installed, the unit detects the chip as a "map upgrade" and asks if you would like to install the upgrade. If you answer "yes", the unit appears to start some type of process but then locks up and stops responding. If you want to keep the BlueCharts chip installed, you must answer "no" to the upgrade question every time you turn the unit on.

- Before purchasing the Oregon 450 I read numerous reviews online. The only potential problem I read about was the brightness of the screen. The screen on my Oregon 450 is plenty bright, even in direct sunlight, and even while wearing polarized sunglasses. It should be noted, however, that it appears that the touch screen is made of polarized glass (or the equivalent) - as you rotate the screen in various directions, it appears darker or brighter depending on the angle.

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