Last month, Leszek Pawlowicz of Free Geography Tools hinted at a new project code-named MOAGU. He may ascribe a different meaning to the acronym for legal reasons, but let’s call it what it is — MOAGU is the mother of all Garmin utilities. What Leszek has created is a utility that will place a USGS topo map on your Garmin GPS. Actually, it will put any scanned, georeferenced map on your Garmin. It won’t work on just any Garmin mapping handheld yet; I haven’t been able to get the maps on my Colorado 300, though I’m hoping some of our more technically inclined readers can figure that one out.
I have used it on my Garmin 60CSx and I have to say that Moagu rocks! This really is revolutionary. Handheld users have been asking for 1:24,000 scale USGS maps for their GPS units for years. The DeLorme PN-20 and Magellan Triton series have implemented this, more or less successfully (respectively), but we haven’t had an easy solution for Garmin devices until now.
Let’s start out by taking a look at the process and limitations.
The installation process is very straightforward, though you will need to have the free version of cGPSmapper installed first.
Creating a map with Moagu
Moagu includes step-by-step instructions for the process that are very easy to follow. This is the simplest map creation method I have seen using cGPSmapper . The final stage of the process, compiling the map, does take some time and eats up your CPU power. I decided to compile the map at bedtime and let it run overnight, an option suggested by the developer.
Real USGS quad maps
These are not your typical cGPSmapper 1:24,000 scale vector maps. Moagu generated maps actually look just like a USGS quad map, complete with all the standard USGS symbols, place names, etc.
Map registration (accuracy) was spot on. In other words, when I was on a road, the display showed me on the road. Too bad Garmin Topo U.S. 2008 isn't as good at this!
Imagine the possibilities
You should be able to convert any map you can scan and georeference — PDF’s, aerial photos, etc. Be forewarned though, aerial photos will likely only work at hiking speeds (see below).
There are several things to be aware of here (of course, they are all balanced by the fact that you have a real USGS topo map on your GPS!). The main one is that map redraws can be slow. The initial map draw will look like it’s taking forever, but once it's loaded and you move around, the redraws keep up pretty well. The maps work great at hiking speeds and even on a bike. The first time I tested Moagu maps on a mountain bike, I noticed some map redraws at 5–10 MPH, though they were not problematic at that speed. On a 25 MPH downhill run however, I saw the screen go blank momentarily. There are less problems with this the further out you zoom. The second time I generated a map of a large area and selected the medium map tile size. Map redraws were a little more noticeable. After discussing this with Leszek, he did some additional testing and indicated that the small tile size is the way to go for biking speeds. He has already incorporated some changes that should improve map redraw performance, and has more on the list for future builds.
Don’t expect a wide range of zoom levels, though you can specify 0.2/0.3 mile, 800 ft and 500 ft (I understand that Leszek will be adding one or two more). I included the latter two in the maps I created, and used the 500 ft level on the trail, since it gave the best balance of detail and legibility.
Occasionally you’ll get a row of blank pixels, which can be seen upon close examination of the image at left.
I mentioned that Moagu works on my 60CSx, but not on my Colorado. According to the developer, it works best on the Garmin 60 / 76 / Astro family units; the response on a Venture HC has been slow.
Since the maps are based on raster imagery, they will eat up much more memory than a vector map for the same area.
Moagu is being offered at an introductory price of $19.95. A demo version will allow you try it out and make a map of a small area for free. You can get it at Moagu.com. (Disclosure: Though I do earn some revenue from GPS Tracklog, I have no financial relationship with Moagu or its developer.)
I highly recommend trying this out, if you have any interest at all in 1:24,000 scale maps. Leszek has a long list of planned future improvements and I expect that Moagu will only improve with time.