Do you need OS maps on a Garmin GPS in the UK on an Outdoor GPS unit?

OS maps, TOPO Active maps, Which maps -

Do you need OS maps on a Garmin GPS in the UK on an Outdoor GPS unit?

Do you need OS maps on a Garmin GPS?

-- Chapters for the video --

00:00 – If you are buying a unit with Topo active maps do you need OS maps

00:20 – What is TOPO Active maps on a Garmin GPS?

00:45 – What are the Pros and Cons of the Garmin’s TOPO Active maps?

01:35 – Can you get away without buying OS maps on a Garmin GPS Unit?

04:00 – Should you buy OS maps for a Garmin GPS and the best way of buying this

04:32 – Many thanks for watching and if you have any questions about mapping on a Garmin GPS Unit


One question I get asked lots by UK customers

- Do I need OS maps on a GPS unit if the unit comes pre-loaded with TOPO Active maps?

- What are TOPO Active maps?

These are GPS units that currently are pre-loaded with TOPO Active maps -

Garmin eTrex 22x, 32x
Garmin GPSMAP 65, 65s
Garmin GPSMAP 66i, 67, 67i
Garmin Montana 700 series – 700, 700i and 750i

The pros and cons of the Topo Active maps

- Pros of TOPO Active maps – no extra cost, digital maps

- Cons of TOPO Active maps  – Just show everything as a path, not as a footpath, bridleway etc as you see on an Ordnance Survey map.

So why would you then add an OS map?

- OS maps shows rights of ways, which you really need in England and Wales as we have trespass law.

- We are just used to seeing and reading an OS map, as we have all been brought up using OS maps it's 'just what we are used to'.

So can we get away with not buying the OS maps and just using the TOPO ACTIVE maps?

Yes and No

- Yes – If you plan your route before you go on OS maps, something like the GPS training free OS route planning software.

- Then you can plan on 1:25k or 1:50k maps and this will just be overlaid on the Topo Active maps.

I did this on my ‘walk and talk’ with the Garmin eTrex 32x in the Scottish Borders. You can watch that video below and you can see how I planned on OS maps but followed it on TOPO Active maps on the GPS unit.

 But then there is also a NO!

- The big problem by this is what happens if you want to change your route part way through.

- On my second ‘walk and talk’ with the Garmin GPSMAP 66i, I came across a number of paths that where impassable. This was at 11.30 in on the video if you want to scroll forward on the video.

- Therefore you will see I had to initially ‘reverse my route’ then I planned my route directly on the unit.

The video below starts at when I got into problems.

- If was only able to do this because I had OS maps on the unit and I could see the ‘rights of way’ on the unit.

- This is where it would have come a little unstuck if you did not have OS maps on your unit, if you remember that video, it was late in the day, it was going dark and it was in December, a cold day in December.

Therefore, my thoughts are – If you can afford it please do go for the OS maps.

Buy them at the time of purchase as you get a bundled price, often you are getting the OS maps at up to 50% off.

 I very much hope you have enjoyed the video and please do take a look at the two ‘walk and talk’ videos I mentioned in this video. 

Further Reading

1. Garmin mapping options for an Outdoor GPS unit

2. Walk and talk series - let me take you on a walk with an Outdoor GPS unit

3. Raster and Vector maps - what are the differences



  • David Smith

    Just got my first GPS (Etrex 32x) and so glad I came across your site and the Route Planner. Thanks all.

  • George Lucas

    Hi, I have recently purchased a Garmin 66i and want to know How I get OSmaps on to it?
    Are you able to help

  • Jon Monks


    Thanks for your question. Your maps will work in an Oregon 700.

    You could trade in your unit if you are thinking bout getting a new one –

  • Peter Marriott

    I have a Garmin 650 with OS maps, if I purchase a 700 can I still use these maps?

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