You bought a Garmin GPS (probably handheld) and now you’re looking for maps for it. While Garmin’s Topo Canada is a great product, it’s also $150.00. Lucky for you, there is an alternative (if you are prepared to give up the 3D DEM topo shading):
A few years ago, Dale Atkin, the geocacher known as Ibycus did the Canadian geocaching community a great favour. He released a Topo map product for Garmin GPS units based on the Canadian Government’s free topo data. This is a free map, won’t cost you a thing outside the bandwidth to download it and a blank DVD. If you make use of the project, you might want to consider sending him a donation though.
He also released a Topo USA map product but I’ll be concentrating on the Canadian one here. Back when Dale started his project, the maps were hosted on his server and you would download them from there …. but due to the overwhelming popularity of this project he had to stop hosting it there. Now, it’s a bittorrent download – note this is 3.5 gigabytes, and will take some time to obtain.
To get started using these maps, you will need to obtain two pieces of software (one you may already have):
You will need to have a copy of MapSource. If you already own a Garmin map product, chances are you already have it. If not, here’s a little trick to getting a free copy of it:
Next you will need a Bittorrent client. I use the official one.
Once you have Mapsource, and Bittorrent, you can use Bittorrent to get the map data.
The torrent links can be a real pain to locate, so I have posted a few of them here. dfx updated the tracker links with improvements, so I’m linking to his version for the download:
- Bittorrent Link for Ibycus Topo 3.2, courtesy of dfx
- Bittorrent Link for Ibycus Topo 3.2 for Mac computers, courtesy of dfx*
*These instructions do not cover MacOS but I included the link for completeness
Once you open the .torrent file, you’ll be asked where to save them and it will begin downloading. Note, due to how bittorrent works, you’ll also be sharing it to other people. That’s how the process works. The download process will take anywhere from hours to days depending on your connection speed and how many people are sharing the file when you request it. It took me four hours to download my copy on a 10Mbps link.
After a long while, you will have a file: IbycusTopo32.iso. Using your favourite DVD burning software, burn this image to the DVD. You can usually just double click the IbycusTopo32.iso file to start this. You want to actually open the ISO file in your burning software – don’t just copy the file to the disc, that won’t work.
When you’re done, you should have a disc with a few files on it:
Find the file called “IbycusTopo.exe” and double click that one.
You’ll be asked if you want to install Ibycus Topo, select “Yes” to proceed with it
You’ll be presented next with a licence agreement. This is where you agree that the responsibility for using these maps are yours alone, Dale doesn’t offer a warranty and it’s up to you to watch where you’re going when using this map on your GPS. There are, in fact, known inaccuracies. Blame the Canadian Government for those.
Pick a place to install it (I recommend you leave this at the default setting) and then hit next.
This next step takes the longest, as it copies 3 gigabytes of data to your hard drive. This would be a good time to go fetch a coffee. Perhaps fetch it at that coffee shop around the corner with the LPC micro….
You’ll eventually be greeted with a dialog box that tells you the product is installed.
Take the DVD out of the drive and put it in a safe place.
Start up MapSource, then pick “Ibycus Topo 3.2” from the pull down at the top left. You can now view the map in MapSource, or send it to your GPS using the usual methods. We’ll cover sending maps to your GPS in a future tip.