Question on creating custom GPS maps

-- Last Updated: Nov-14-06 12:10 AM EST --

I am looking to buy a GPS with mapping features. My budget is under $200 (total cost including maps and SD cards if needed). I want to be able to create custom detailed maps based on free or low-cost 3rd software (like TerraServer). I just hate to spend another $100 for software and/or SD card.

Also, which GPS device has the most detailed map out of the box without downloading any additional maps?

By the way, my primary use of the GPS is for fishing in inland lakes. Knowing underwater contour is a big plus.

Thanks for your input.


Head over to and visit their forums. In the GPS section, they have a great description on how to make your own maps. It covers topography, but the same could be applied to bathymetry. You do need mega memory for this, though.

You will not likely find any receiver with basemaps that have any significant detail out of the box. I do believe there is a Brunton GPS that will be out soon that has the ability to download base maps from the internet…but its memory is quite limited, its screen is small, and if I recall, it lacks some other nice features.

Meridian Marine
The Magellan Meridian Marine has significantly better shoreline than the other models and I think than Garmin. Might not make much difference if you just paddle small lakes but the coast is better and it also marks the nav aids all the way up the major rivers. When I bought mine the topo contours were better than Garmin. No depths but what’s your draft, really?

Another site which features programs and reviews is

“Any day on the water is a great day”


Digital Navigation for Sea kayakers
Take a look at this magazine article that appeared in Sea Kayaker magazine a couple of years ago.


Not at that price, but…
The base maps for all handhelds on the market are not suitable for your needs. They only show major highways and bodies of water. You’ll get rivers like the Mississippi, Hudson, Delaware and very large lakes, but most smaller rivers, streams and lakes won’t appear on the base maps.

If you want depth information for lakes you will need to buy specialized mapping software like Garmin’s Recreational Lakes, or Inland Lakes.

Right now the closest to what you are looking for would be the Lowrance iFinder H20 Plus package. The “plus package” runs around $229 (if you shop around) and includes GPS, SD card, card reader and mapping software in the price. The Mapcreate Topo software that comes with the Plus package is pretty good. It shows good detail for smaller streams, rivers and ponds. Still, there is not depth/bottom info for the lakes. You will have to purchase additional software to get that.

A little more expensive would be the Garmin Venture CX. Its $150 right now with Garmin’s $50 rebate. That price doesn’t include the SD card, mapping software or data cable. Buying all that will add another $120 to the price (assuming you already have the USB cable which is the same one that comes with many digital cameras and cell phones).

The Magellan eXplorist 210 will run about the same as the Venture CX, but it it only has 24 megs of fixed map memory which may, or may not be enough for your needs.