Garmin Handheld Pre-loaded Maps Options

Now that most of the Garmin Handhelds have had a refresh in the last 3 years, it is time to take a look at a common question that arises when owners are shopping to upgrade their handheld or new users looking for an upgrade.

eTrex 22x 32x – Montana 700 Series Pre-Loaded Maps

Garmin included with the updated eTrex 22x, 32x and the recent Montana 700 series handhelds a new map product called Garmin TopoActive which includes data from OpenStreetMap which is fantastic for users outside of the US where Garmin map products were not that in detail or freshness with the waypoints.

The main features of the TopoActive maps are routable roads (not highways), trail, walking path and waterways among the main options. Contour line data from OpenStreetMap and Garmin POI data layer. Automobile routing is not available for units that have this Garmin OpenStreetMap product, but rather you’ll need another routable map set for highway turn by turn navigation.

The biggest advantage of this map product is more frequent updates which appears to be within the 4-6 month timeframe. I’ve covered in another post about submitting updated to OpenStreetMap and one of things is to see how long an update would appear.

Overall I find this map layer pretty good for my region (Canada). For the eTrex 22x or 32x, you will be using this handheld outdoors on the trail, biking or paddling, so the highway navigation is not a big deal.

However, on the Montana 700 series, while this handheld is meant for off road usage, the fact that you have to buy another map product for highway driving is a bit of a pain. The device has a lot of internal memory so slapping on Garmin City Navigator or another map set that has routing enabled for roads isn’t a big deal but still a pain.

GPSMAP 66st – inReach Explorer+ Pre-loaded Map

These two handheld while not that much older than the eTrex 22x or Montana 700 series are pre-loaded with older and different map products.

First off, the GPSMAP 66st is pre-loaded with Garmin topo V2 North America. While pretty good product for the United States, Canada resolution is lacking and POI are often out of date. Now I can’t tell if you buy a 66st 2 years after I did that you’ll get the new TopoActive map, but if you are stuck with the Topo V2 then I would recommend buying an SD card and either load it with a OSM map or another product like Backroad maps for Canadians.

Another handheld which has different map products is the Garmin inReach Explorer+ which has map originating from the inReach portal. These are based on OSM so they are considered in my opinion pretty good maps for your region, just you do not have the routable option as in the TopoActive maps. The further benefit is that you can sync updates fairly easily when you have the device plugged in via USB to the inReach portal.

SD Card Slot Is The Key For New Maps

If you have an archive of custom maps from years of GPS usage then getting your hands on a GPS handheld that has a SD card slot is important. After all, from the SD card we can load many map products and choose which ones to make visible or not. For example, I will be grabbing the SD card that is in my GPSMAP 66st and swap it into my Montana 700 if I need to do road navigation or even on the eTrex 22X. Unlike the inReach Exploer+, you can’t import your older maps, so that is part of the reason why I think that an all-in-one GPS handheld with satellite communication may not be the best option. I tend to think that based on my activity, I will use the Handheld best for the job and carry a ZOLEO satellite communicator.