How to: Installing Free Maps on your Garmin Fenix 5/6, Forerunner 945, or MARQ Series watch

Some six years ago I did a post on how to add free maps to your Garmin Edge series device. Back then, Garmin didn’t include any meaningfully detailed maps for any Edge devices, you had to buy those separately – often costing $50-$100 per map/region. These days, things have changed a bit. Garmin now includes maps for the region you bought it in (such as North America if bought in the US, or Europe if bought within Europe), but they still don’t include any way to freely download maps for other regions (such as going for a trip from the US to Europe).

Somewhat astoundingly for a tech-specific post, everything I wrote in that post all those years back is still actually correct in terms of steps. However, for the sake of cleaning things up (and search optimization), I’m going to refresh both of those posts. Starting today with the wearables side. Back then Garmin didn’t have any wearables that could do maps. But these days they do support it on a few units – so we’ll start with that today, and then on Friday I’ll give you the refreshed version for the Garmin Edge Series.  Though, spoiler: It’s the exact same steps as below.

Note that while Garmin would prefer you buy the maps from them, they actually go out of their way to allow you to download free maps from 3rd party providers. They simply note that it’s unsupported (but doesn’t void any warranties or such). Meaning that if the 3rd party map data isn’t perfect, it’s not their fault. But here’s the dirty secret: It’s the same underlying map data.

For virtually all of Garmin’s maps included on Edge/Forerunner/Fenix/MARQ series devices, the base map itself is OSM (OpenStreetMap). What differs is some of the special sauce Garmin adds atop it (heatmap type data), as well as the exact layers Garmin does or doesn’t display (how it looks, but also things like topographic lines).

I myself often use the freely downloaded variant I describe below (because I live in Europe, but often buy my units in the US). Or, for the European units I have when I travel to the US/Canada, like two weeks ago. And thousands of you every month do the same following these previously published steps. With that, let’s get into all the supported units and requirements and a few minor caveats below.

Requirements/Caveats:

While this post probably looks long, it’s mostly my attempt at answering any questions ahead of time. In reality the entire process is super quick and easy. I’m just overly thorough in my screenshotting excitement. The actual active time for you to do this is like 3-5 minutes tops.

You must have a computer – Mac or PC (or even Linux). You cannot do this from an iPad or such. It’s technically possible to do it from an Android device with the right cables, but you’re on your own for that!

As for compatible devices, here’s the list of devices this will work on. It also will work on most of the handheld type outdoor devices too. If it supports Garmin maps, it’ll support 3rd party maps.

Compatible Wearables: Garmin Forerunner 945, Garmin Fenix 5s Plus, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, Garmin Fenix 5X Plus, Garmin Fenix 5X (non-Plus), Garmin Fenix 6S Pro, Fenix 6 Pro, Fenix 6X Pro, Fenix 6X Pro Solar, Garmin Epix (RIP), Garmin Descent MK1, Garmin MARQ Series, Garmin D2 Delta PX

Compatible Bike Computers: Garmin Edge 520/520 Plus/530, Garmin Edge 705, Garmin Edge 800/810/820/830, Garmin Edge 1000/1030/Explore/Touring variants

Now you may be asking yourself, ‘What if I have a non-Garmin unit? Will it still work?’ – and the short answer is basically no. There may be some 3rd party units that work with these maps, but nothing major. Plus, many other competitors like Wahoo, Stages, and Sigma simply make it easy for you to download maps without all this fuss. For this post, it’s all about the wearables, so I won’t focus on some of the nuances of having a microSD card for some of Garmin’s older/larger bike computers. That’ll be a separate post.

Finally, since I know some of you will ask, the following are most definitely *not* compatible. And the reasons are simple: They don’t have the storage, or they don’t have the processing power to handle maps. The ship has sailed on all of these (read: they’re definitely not getting map support),

Non-Supported Wearables: Garmin Forerunner 15/20/30/35/45, Garmin Forerunner 225/230/235/245, , Garmin Forerunner 610/620/630/645, Garmin Forerunner 735XT/910XT/920/935, Garmin Fenix 5S/5 (non-Plus, non-X), Fenix 6S (non-Pro), Fenix 6 (non-Pro) Garmin Fenix 3/3HR, Garmin Fenix (original), Garmin Vivo-anything, and countless others. Consider this just a ‘starter list’ of non-supported units.

Non-Supported Bike Computers: Garmin Edge 20/25/130/200/500/510, and probably a few really old others.

Note that for unsupported watches there is a hail-mary option, which is DWMap. This works on a slew of newish watches that don’t support maps (like the FR645, FR735XT, and FR935, among a number of others). It’s not a perfect mapping replacement per se, but it’s definitely a solid option when there’s nothing natively. It’s also won Garmin’s Connect IQ app of the year award as well, so nothing sketchy about it at all! Full details here.

Last but not least – note that Garmin does add ‘special sauce’ to their maps – most notably what they call ‘Trendline Popularity Routing’, which is basically a variant of heatmaps. The main use for this is when you ask the device itself to create a route on the fly (such as roundtrip routing) that it leverages heatmap data to give you routes that people use more often. However, this is only applicable if you create/re-route on the device itself. You can still take advantage of that concept by simply creating the routes on Garmin Connect or Garmin Connect Mobile first, which will use that same data from the cloud.

In addition, there are some slight nuances to how the maps look in terms of exact styling. You’d never know unless you had the two side by side, which you’ll see below. At left is what the default Garmin maps look like, whereas at right is what the free OSM maps look like:

I find the shading/clarity of the Garmin maps to generally be better/optimized. But both are perfectly functional. However, you also won’t get topographic contour lines when using the free maps. Technically speaking you can download them and merge them together, but that’s beyond what I’m going to cover here.

Part 1: Downloading the Maps:

This entire post is ‘made possible by’ OpenStreetMap, which are free community-driven maps.  OpenStreetMap has become in many areas just as good as maps from traditional providers.  And best of all, they’re free.  The below site simply does all the hard work that you used to have to do manually a few years ago if you wanted to use OpenStreetMap.  Now, it’s literally as easy as 1.2.3. Seriously, you can do these clicks below in under 15 seconds.

First up, going to the site.  Which, will bring you here:

Note that every once in a while that website goes down – as if someone didn’t put enough coins in the slot. It’s a community-supported page after all. I’d strongly encourage you to donate occasionally (even just $5, it saved you like $100 anyway). I do. If the site is down, you can use another site here. The downloading steps are slightly different (select Garmin BBBike as the format, Map type OSM Mapnik), but ultimately all basically the same. I have no relationship to either site, it’s just what I’ve used for a long-long-long time now.

Once the page loads, you’ll want to select ‘Routable Bicycle’ as the map type.

Next, you’ll select the region/area of maps you want. If you simply select a pre-defined area (like a given country/state/province), then the site has already premade these for you, so they are instantly available. Kinda like picking up sushi from the case at the grocery store (except less sketchy). Whereas if you want something custom – perhaps across multiple countries/borders, then you can choose to create a custom map set.

If going for the preset sushi, you’ll start by choosing your continent, then country.  In some areas (such as the US and Canada), you’ll also choose the state/province. You’ll see that it automatically selects the coverage area in the map below.

If you don’t need anything custom, then just click ‘Download Map Now’:

That’ll bring you to this page. Select the one that the little MicroSD card icon next to it. DO NOT select the Windows, Mac, or Linux ones. It doesn’t matter what computer you’re using to download things, always-always-always select the one with the MicroSD card icon (also titled ‘GMAPSUPP.ZIP’ appended to the end of it).

Download and save that somewhere handy on your computer (like your desktop) and skip ahead to the installation section!

[Again: Skip ahead to the ‘Installation’ bulleted section if you’ve just downloaded your map!!!]

Whereas if you want to roll your own custom map with added areas, then you’ll select the checkbox titled ‘Manual Tile Selection’, and go from there. As a pro tip, if you’re just adding a bit more territory to an existing predefined set, then start by selecting that first, then checking the manual option. As you can see below, I started with the Netherlands, and then I checked the box and added a few more map tiles from Belgium/Germany/France onto the Southern portion of my Netherlands map:

Once you’ve selected everything you need to select, then put your e-mail address in the little box and select ‘Build my map’:

The reason you need to provide an e-mail address is because you go into a queue for the server to create your map. Like waiting for your name to be called at the DMV, except, more efficient. Here’s what it’ll show a second later:

And sure enough, just as it says I’ll instantly get an e-mail with my status:

And a few minutes later I get another e-mail with the download link saying it’s ready. Usually that’s all it takes. I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than 10-15 minutes.

Just like with the non-custom ones, select the one that the little MicroSD card icon next to it. DO NOT select the Windows, Mac, or Linux ones. It doesn’t matter what computer you’re using to download things, always-always-always select the one with the MicroSD card icon (also titled ‘GMAPSUPP.ZIP’ appended to the end of it).

And again, remember that there’s a ‘Donate’ button on that site (I have no affiliation with it). Obviously, good karma dictates that if you find their (free/community-hosted) service valuable, sending a couple of bucks their way is probably wise – especially given how much money you’re saving. Plus, it’ll probably make that map creation bit go faster for custom maps if they get more support.

Part II: Installing the Maps:

Installation of the maps is super easy. All you need to do is put the file in the correct folder and you’re good to go. All of the wearables we’re discussing here have plenty of space, so it’s unlikely that you’ll need to remove any existing maps unless you’re downloading a huge map or have a ton of music. If you do need to do that for some reason, then refer back to my older post with the Edge 520 instructions (even if you’re talking a wearable). That’s because that was a highly space-limited device and thus the steps would be the same.

To put it into context, the Garmin default map data sizes are roughly as follows (the maps you’d get by default for the region you purchased it in):

North America: ~5.6GB including topo data
Europe: ~6.3GB including topo data
Australia/NZ: ~2GB including topo data

And size-wise, you’ve got roughly 16GB of space on the Forerunner 945 and Fenix 5 Plus series watch, and 32GB on the MARQ units and Fenix 6 Pro Series. So you’ll want to do simple math to see if everything fits. For context, the download size for the Netherlands from the free maps is 0.37GB (337MB) – so pretty small. France is ~1GB. Again, should easily fit. But if you’re tight on space, you can always follow the custom instructions above and take a prepackaged map like France and make it smaller by removing areas you don’t need (if you’re staying in the Alps, you don’t need the entire Western portion of France for example).

In any event, let’s install things. First, connect your Garmin Forerunner/Fenix/whatever to your computer using the USB cable it came with.

Go grab that file you downloaded (openfietsmap_lite_gmapsupp.zip), and open it up (just double-click it). This is what you’ll see inside:

You need to copy that single file somewhere on your computer. Technically speaking, your ultimate goal is the Garmin folder on your wearable, but because of the way recent Garmin music-enabled devices show up in Windows, you won’t be able to copy it straight from the ZIP file there. Short version: Just copy that file to the desktop first.

Then select that file and then select ‘Copy’. Now simply paste that into the ‘Garmin’ folder on your watch. Do NOT copy/paste the entire .ZIP file, you need the file inside the zip file (like you see above). It’s called gmapsupp.img and needs to go into the Garmin folder on your device.

If you’re on a Mac, it’s a little bit messier these days. That’s because the Garmin wearables are in MTP mode, which is great for music, but sucky for installing maps. You’ll need to install a little (and crazy-widely used) utility called ‘Android File Transfer’, as well as then close/quit Garmin Express if you have it installed/running on your Mac (it’ll block access otherwise). Normally this utility is used to allow Mac’s to connect to Android phones. But works here well.

Once you’ve got it installed, open it up (again, remember to fully close Garmin Express first), and then plug in your Garmin device. It’ll show up just like below. Simply drag the gmapsupp.img file into the Garmin folder. Remember not to drag the .zip file, but rather the .img file inside the zip file.

Once it’s done copying, you should now see that file sitting in the Garmin folder. The names will be similar, but it’s the one ending in ‘Supp’ (like ‘supplementary’):

And with that, you’re done.

Side note: Need to have two extra downloaded maps? Simply append the country name to one of them to make it unique. Such as ‘gmapsupp-germany.img’ and ‘gmapsupp-france.img’.

It works perfectly fine.

Part III: Using the maps:

Actually, there’s nothing you have to do here. Once you’ve installed them they just work. If you haven’t added the map data page to your wearable, go into the sport profile of your choice (Hold the middle button > Activities & Apps > Choose your sport > Settings > Data Screens > Add New > Map:

However, in the event you want to turn off the downloaded mapset for some reason, it’s pretty easy to do (and you can always delete that single Supp.IMG file if you need the space after your trip.

To disable a given map though, on your device hold the middle button > Activities & Apps > Choose your sport > Settings > Map > Configure Maps > Toggle on/off the map that you just loaded. You can see below the Openfetsmap Lite-NLD, which is my Netherlands map. While above it is the Garmin TopoActive US Map since this was a US Fenix 5 Plus. By pressing the select button, it’ll turn on/off the different maps. Super easy.

And that’s it! You’ll be able to use these maps as normal. That includes things like elevation details for courses, planning between points, points of interest, and round trip routing. And on Edge series devices, even routing to specific addresses. But more on that later in my Edge-specific post.

As always, thanks for reading. And if you found this post helpful – consider becoming a DCR Supporter, I appreciate it!

(And stay tuned for the Edge-specific variant of this post on Friday)

DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (109)

  • It is now solved. I think I was doing something wrong. I tried today with a quite large map and worked fine. Many thanks.

  • Hi there,
    I have just downloaded a pair of maps following the instructions and when disconnect the device (FR 945) it says to me that the maps are not authenticated and ask for the help of the map provider. Have you had this issue before? Many thanks

    • Yeah, there must be something else going on here. I've used it without issue on the FR945 and Fenix 6 as recently as a few weeks ago. Do you have a forum link?

    • No, just as you explained. I have seen in other forums that Garmin has protected some of its last devices.

    • That's odd. That sounds like something went wrong. Did you delete something off (a file, or rename one) of the watch by chance?

  • Hi,

    On my Garmin 945 I cannot see the Topographic Map of Europe (the one provided by Garmin Express). I uploaded it with my Mac computer but when selecting that file in my watch it is empty!?

    Any suggestions?

  • Thanks for the awesome post! For trail running would you still use the "Routable Bicycle" option or better one of the "Generic Routable" options? Or another site?

    Thanks!

  • I have the US version of Garmin MARQ with the US maps build in.

    Europe: ~6.3GB including topo data

    Is there any way for me to download the whole Europe maps at once? I don't mind about the ~6.3GB.

    (Seem like I can't select many tiles in http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ which means I will have to download many different maps to cover Europe).

    Thank you for your help.

  • Hi,

    I was wonder if there is any option to use the maps on my Garmin for simple navigation for driving (such as Waze)?

    In an emergency case, if I'll lose (or break) my mobile phone I would like to navigation to my destination (by foot or by car) using my Garmin MARQ watch. Wonder if this is possible.

    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Yeah, sure, but you'll probably have to do a little work in preparation. I just checked my Fenix 5+, and it has a "Navigate" activity type. Diving down into the settings, in "Routing" I see "Automobile" is an option. That probably sets various avoidances to be suitable for driving (don't allow trails or gravel or bike paths, do allow toll roads and limited access highways, etc.). So you can either modify "Navigate" or copy it and create your own "Driving" option. There's already a "Walk" or "Hiking" activity if you're navigating by foot. The maps should work for either, although they may not have all of the information that City Nav (Garmin's car navigation maps) have. Unlike phones or Garmin's car navigation devices, there'll be no real time traffic information.

  • Just got myself a fenix 5x, loaded maps onto device via Garmin Express but I only have 2 options for EU cycle maps appear and i try reinstalling and nothing new happens on the device, any help?

    Currently maps just shows these blank squares with some numbers and degrees (cant remember the word for those)

    • Thanks for the post - I've got a Fenix 5S+ and use navigation for hiking and running (I don't cycle).

      Should I download "generic routable (new style)"?

    • I have attached a screen shot of what I see, the powerISO file is a .img file, havent tried moving things around so everything should be per Garmin Express loading things on

    • You won't see these maps showing up in Garmin Express. Only on the device itself. Are you sure only the .IMG files and only in the Garmin directory?

  • I prefer the maps of https://garmin.opentopomap.org . They're still OpenStreetMap maps but they update weekly (every Thursday or Friday), have a bit more topographic detail and they display contour lines too. But the detail may change between the two maps depending on what you want to see.

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