Garmin GPS Map Types Explained

An Overview of Garmin Map TypesGPS devices are used for a variety of purposes.  A typical map of roads will prove to be less than helpful if off-road or hiking.  Understanding the type of map that is required will help to ensure you have the right GPS and the proper set of maps.

We’ll explain the map types that are available from Garmin and provide some guidance on which GPS might be right for your situation.

Street Maps

The Garmin Zumo comes with pre-loaded Garmin street maps.  This is the same type of map display seen on a Garmin vehicular GPS such as a Garmin Nuvi or Waze on a smartphone.  This includes turn by turn instructions and navigational guidance.  Most of the Garmin Zumo models from the past several years include lifetime map updates.  As long as your GPS lives, so will your ability to update your GPS maps at no additional charge.

Many handheld GPS models do not have road maps.  If planning to use a Garmin handheld GPS on the highway, you can add a map package such as the Garmin City Navigator North America NT micro SD Card.  The City Navigator maps add roads to your handheld GPS.  These are available for most of the world and are typically purchased by region. So for example, if you want maps of France, Belgium and Luxembourg, select the Garmin City Navigator Europe NT – Benelux/France Card.

The Garmin City Navigator map packages will only work on a Garmin GPS.  So, for example, if you have a handheld GPS from Lowrance or Magellan, you need to stick with map packages from those manufacturers.

Topographic Maps

Garmin calls these TOPO Maps.  These are useful to hikers and off-road users.  These maps include terrain contours and points of interest.  You will see TOPO 100 which carries a scale of 100,000 and TOPO 24K which refers to a scale of 1:24,000.

These TOPO Maps are available on a regional basis.  For example, the Garmin US TOPO 24K Topographical Maps of United States Northeast Region covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  There are TOPO Maps available for single countries such as Canada.  I find the country specific TOPO Maps to be a mix of scales all in one map package.

Garmin TOPO Maps are available on a micro SD card.

Lake Maps

Garmin offers their LakeVu HD series of maps.  Now, you can’t use these in a Garmin Zumo, but we include these for completeness.  You can use these in many handheld GPS units including the Garmin Oregon and many GPSMAP models.  The Garmin LakeVu US Maps Micro SD Card will deliver maps of thousands of lakes with depth ranges and potential hazards.

Another option is the Garmin TOPO Boundary Waters.  This mapping pack includes freshwater lakes and rivers as well as high-definition shorelines, and underwater depths.  Unlike the LakeVu HD series, these maps can be loaded to many Garmin Zumo models.


Most motorcycle riders will likely be just fine with the default map set that comes with the Garmin Zumo.  If looking to take your Garmin Zumo off-road, the Garmin TOPO 24K series can be loaded.  While it’s unlikely many will use their Zumo on the water, it’s nice to know the TOPO Boundary Waters Maps can be loaded.

For handheld owners, there’s a good chance you have the opposite challenge.  There are good topology maps but nothing for the roads.  In that case, the City Navigator will be available.  Be sure to check map capability because the City Navigator will not work in some Garmin handheld models.