How To Create Garmin Topo Maps - Part 1 - Setup
Author: Dan Blomberg | Last updated January 18th, 2016 at 03:25pm
The purpose of this series of articles is to educate map makers on how to create Garmin compatible topographic maps. In 2008, this original series of articles has been written as I created the topographic map of the state of Mississippi; however, since then updates have been made and will include sample files for whatever map was being updated at the time. In 2016 a fundamental rewrite of this tutorial occurred with better software options and different data availability.
This part details how I setup my computer, folder stuctures, and tracking information to make downloading and processing all the data easy. Many of the lessons in this part are based on my experience and that of others.
Download & Install Required Software
While there are many different methods that can be used to accomplish this, this tutorial will use a few key pieces of software. Please download and install this software so we can use it. If the software takes some configuring click on a link to read the setup tutorial. Unless otherwise mentioned all the software used is free (possibly with a couple caveats).
- FWTools - used to manipulate data from the command line (tutorial used v2.4.7)
- PostGIS/PostgreSQL (tutorial) - data manipulation
- Optional: GPSMapEdit - shareware software specifically designed for working with Garmin MP type maps (the license just removes the label saying made with GPSMapEdit and adds a few more export features we don't use)
- GPSFDshp2mp - tool to convert shapefiles into polish text (MP) files (optional for Global Mapper users)
- cgpsmapper - program to convert the data into the final Garmin map (note: original website is no longer available; this is a mirror provided by GPSFileDepot)
- NSIS - creates setup files (free)
- MapSetToolkit - allows easy creation of the preview files (free)
- GIS (Geographic Information System) software
- Global Mapper - $499 - powerful software for editing the data; faster than other methods. Also makes exporting to the .mp type very easy compared to QGIS.
- QGIS - Free - open source GIS program; works well but has a slower process for some parts and is faster for others (newly added to the tutorial as of 2016). We do need plugins installed as well:
- Install the MMQGIS plugin. Go to Plugins > Manage and Install Plugins. Search for MMQGIS. Click on it and click Install Plugin.
- Install the Table Manager plugin. Go to Plugins > Manage and Install Plugins. Search for Table Manager. Click on it and click Install Plugin.
- Install the GridSplitter plugin. Go to Plugins > Manage and Install Plugins. Search for GridSplitter. Click on it and click Install Plugin.
Data Folder Setup
This is how I have my folder structure setup:
- borders - contains state and county borders as well as the 100k grid
- complete - folder where the completed segments end up
- dem - contains all the elevation data
- federal_land - contains all federal land data including reservations and the following folders
- gnis - POI files
- nhd - hydrological data
- random_trails - trail data that is acquired from sources other than the BLM, Forest Service, and Park Service
- release - folder that will contain final image files and setup information
- transportation - contains road data and railroads
Obviously your folder structure does not have to be exactly like this and some states will have more or less data.
The most important lesson learned is that the key to successfully creating these maps is being able to track what you've downloaded, processed, and prepared. Originally we used excel sheets to track all the data downloaded; with USGS' upgrades to the map download process, this is no longer necessary. The key to tracking data is to follow the tutorial and keep everything in its folders.
Download Data Used Throughout
Boundary polygons will be used throughout this tutorial to make sure our map doesn't have excessive/partial data that goes past the state boundaries. This is a new addition in the updated tutorial and makes the maps more clean cut.
Download Federal Boundary Data
- Open the National Map Viewer (Download version)
- On the left click the box for "Boundaries - National Boundary Dataset"
- For File Format make sure Shapefile is selected
- Now zoom in to the state you want.
- Click the draw point button and draw a point inside the state
- With the point drawn click Find Products in the left pane.
- Download the USGS National Boundary Dataset for your state
- Open the zip file and extract all the files to the federal_land folder.
- Now delete all the files EXCEPT: GU_CountyOrEquivalent (all 4 files), GU_NativeAmericanArea (all 4 files), GU_Reserve (all 4 files),GU_StateOrTerritory (all 4 files)
Process the State Data
You can process the state boundary (which will be used throughout this tutorial) in either QGIS or Global Mapper. Directions for each are provided. This will allow us to have a single polygon for the state. It will be used to limit the other files to just the state as well as for the next step where we create the borders.
- Open QGIS
- Add the vector layer GU_StateOrTerritory.shp (Layer > Add Layer > Add Vector Layer...)
- Right click on the File in the Layers Panel and select Open Attribute Table
- Click the Edit button
- Select each record that is not the state you are working with (click the number on the far left and hold CTRL to select them all)
- Click "Delete Selected Features"
- Click the Edit button again
- Click Save
- Close the attribute table
- Close QGIS
- Open Global Mapper
- Click open and add GU_StateOrTerritory.shp
- Click Search>Search by Attributes, Name, and Description
- Under Searh Criteria Attribute/Item select STATE_NAME
- Change = to !=
- Type in the state's name
- Click New Search
- Click Select All
- Click Delete Selected
- Close the search tab
- Click File>Export>Export Vector Format...
- Select Shapefile and click OK
- Click the Area checkbox and save over the existing GU_StateOrTerritory
- Close Global Mapper
Now that we are ready to start, we will start by downloading what used to be the most time-consuming part; the elevation data. The next article will detail how to start downloading elevation data.