I'm using a QGIS 2.2.0 Valmiera on a Windows 8.1 system Desktop. I'm a forester and I would like to have a cheap solution to load maps into the handheld Garmin 60, 62 or 64 series GPS. Free would be even better, if possible.

There is a software that costs around $350 that creates an image (.img) that is easily loaded into GPS, but it's expensive AND I don't think it works with QGIS. The best solution I've found so far would be Mapwel, which costs $45 or $90. You just take the shapefiles you need and merge them, then load them to your GPS.

Does anyone know of a cheaper solution?

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  • garmin basemap will create custom maps garmin.com/en-GB/shop/downloads/basecamp – Mapperz Jul 1 '14 at 4:36
  • It depends on what kind of map you want to load. There are several questions on this topic here already, and the two most common suggestions are GPSBabel and DNRGPS. Take a look at the related column on the right, or put "qgis gps upload" into the search box up top. The age of the units is going to dictate what can be loaded and in what format. – Chris W Jul 1 '14 at 5:01

If all you need is combined background there is plugin for QGIS called GarminCustomMap to export map easily for Garmin devices which supports custom maps - series 62, 64 as defined here: http://www.garmin.com/us/products/onthetrail/custommaps

There is also video tutorial on youtube how to use that QGIS plugin:


Garmin maximum extent limit:

  • 100 jpg files max (typical - see Garmin FAQ)
  • 1 megapixel (1024x1024, 512x2048 pixels, etc.) max jpg resolution to avoid reduction in resolution on unit
  • 3MB max file size for any single jpg

Meaning the maximum square extent possible for 1m resolution is ~10x10km

Garmin Custom Maps FAQ

  • 1
    Unfortunately, the Garmin custom maps have strong limitations on the extent. – AndreJ Jul 1 '14 at 9:36
  • 1
    Well the worst limitation is that data must be converted from vector to image anyway. To be honest I don't know about limitation of extent but I expected that if plugin generates tiles into kmz it shouldn't be too bad. I tried export area of about 20x20km in resolution of meters and it looks ok in Google Earth but I don't have Garmin to try to load it there. – Miro Jul 2 '14 at 5:06
  • I found and updated info about maximum extent. – Miro Jul 2 '14 at 5:17

A zero-cost solution would be to use Openstreetmap data and the mkgmap toolchain.

If your area of interest is not detailed enough, feel free to add missing features (respecting the terms of use of the data you have).

For things that don't belong into Openstreetmap, I create gpx files using QGIS, and upload them with basecamp to the GPS unit. Alternatively, you can create own datasets, convert them to .osm format, and create separate map layers from them.

It surely takes some time to get into the subject...


There is a path to making true Garmin .img maps using free tools. It's explained over at GPSFileDepot. The description is for making topos, but you can generalize the steps to make anything you want. Specifically, if you have shapefiles, you can just focus on the few steps involving shapefiles. Be warned, this process is not for the faint of heart. It relies on several programs that have rather modest documentation, so be prepared for a certain amount of pain.


After you export your map to a tiff with world file, you can use the free program OKMap to convert it to a kmz file. You would use the Utilities-MapTiling/Garmin Custom Maps menu option. This file can then be used as a custom map in Garmin GPS units that allow custom maps, such as the 62. We do it all the time with our cruise maps.


Llaves mentioned GPSFileDepot as a good place to figure out how to do what you're asking. The tutorial he is referring to has just been updated and now includes steps using QGIS to take data sources, do the processing necessary to convert them for Garmin, and then compile them into maps you can install on your GPS. The new tutorial with QGIS included is here.

With QGIS and the plugins it has most of the steps can now be done with the GUI or a few automated batch scripts (already created for you). I know this is an old Q&A but I was trying to write the tutorial and found it so I thought others might as well.

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