One of the most frustrating (and lame) things I learned when researching GPS units was their crippled map capabilities. I really liked the features and price of the Garmins, but National Geographic TOPO (which, in my opinion, has the most comprehensive and powerful mapping tools) aren’t able to be displayed on the GPS unit’s screen.

Garmin has its own map software, but it’s overpriced, out of date, and missing giant chunks of hikers’ territories in the 1:24k resolution that’s best for the trail. Garmin’s MapSource TOPO West, for instance, covers the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest, but not the Angeles, Cleveland, or Los Padres. Until they update their data and give me more detailed maps, I ain’t handin’ over any hard-earned cash.

It’s not easy, but a temporary solution is here — free, user-created, Garmin-compatible GPS maps.

The gearheads over at GPS Tracklog have put together a comprehensive list of sources and instructions on how to get some free 24k maps from the internets into your Garmin GPS. It requires a bunch of different web sites and a Windows freeware download, but hey — that’s what we hax0rs have to do when The Man doesn’t give us what we need, right?

Some of the map sites they link to have great, detailed maps of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Lassen — but still no Angeles National Forest. So we’ve still got a ways to go.

Still, it’s free. So don’t complain.

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