Monday, 12 April 2010

Ibycus Topo - Free Garmin Compatible Mapping for Canada

I've been looking at the Ibycus Topo Garmin GPS compatible mapping for Canada. I think it's pretty good and even better, it's completely free! The mapping can be displayed on most Garmin GPS devices and can also be installed on a PC and viewed with Garmin MapSource.
Ibycus Topo mapping is complied from freely available Canadian Government geodata resources, GeoGratis for the topographical information (essentially the data on government issue 1:50,000 topo maps) and GeoBase for the road network. The coverage is impressive (see this map), virtually all of Canada is included.

In towns and cities, Ibycus Topo compares favourably with Garmin's City Navigator® NT North America. The road network coverage appears identical.

Vancouver - City Navigator NT (click picture to enlarge)

Vancouver - Ibycus Topo

It's in the wilderness, though, that the Ibycus Topo mapping really shines. The mapping has 20m contour lines and better definition of topographical features such as lakes and rivers. This obviously gives you a greater appreciation of the terrain when viewing mapping on a computer. (Garmin offers a separate product TOPO Canada for showing this additional detail, but it costs of course)!

Squamish, BC - City Navigator NT

Squamish, BC - Ibycus Topo

One thing to note, the Ibycus Topo mapping is NOT currently routable. Nor does it have an address database or a general POI database (topographical POIs only). If you need any of these features, you'll still need Garmin City Navigator or equivalent mapping. At the very least, the Ibycus Topo mapping is great for viewing on a computer and for using as an additional mapping layer on a Garmin GPS device. I think I already mentioned this mapping is free!

Ibycus Topo is currently at version 3.1 (just released April 2010). Unfortunately, it can only be downloaded via a torrent (search for "Ibycus Topo") and the download file is huge at more than 3GB. If downloading torrents sounds scary, you can also get a DVD direct from the map creator for a small fee.

If you're only interested in a relatively small area of Canada (or like me, a narrow corridor across the country), an earlier version of the mapping, Ibycus Topo 2.1, is currently hosted at in the directory "NTS Grid (all data)". The IMG tile sets are arranged according to Canada's National Topographic System (NTS Grid map). Note that to install individual IMG files into MapSource is quite a technical operation and you'll need a couple of free 3rd party programs - cGPSmapper (free version) and either GMapTool or MapSetToolKit - and some reasonable googling skills...

Ibycus Topo and Open Street Map (OSM)

The collaborative mapping project Open Street Map is a great source of free mapping, but for Canada the coverage is currently variable. OSM data quality in large Canadian cities may even exceed commerical mapping, but can be good to patchy elsewhere.

That could be about to change. The same underlying Canadian Government geodata that Ibycus Topo uses is currently being imported into OSM. Once the import is completed, OSM should have comprehensive coverage of Canada. It's also possible to build routable Garmin compatible mapping with OSM data, so this development could be very interesting indeed! (See OSM Map On Garmin for some background reading and OSM Map On Garmin/Download for some Garmin compatible maps currently available for download).

The background and timetable for this data import initiative can be found at WikiProject Canada. Worth keeping an eye on...


Makenzie said...

There are many devices that can help you to navigate yourself when you are on a bicycle tour across different states. These devices help you to be en route to the destination that you intend on reaching. They are available in different price ranges and size.

Across Canada Trails said...

Thanks for the notice :)
Ya, if anyone wants help on creating garmin maps, im happy to help out directly. As well as show you how we are merging the canvec data.
The OSM Garmin Maps ARE routable, and alot of the road network is in place. So it's best to use both Ibycus & OSM as an overlay. So as your going on your trip and see things missing in both maps, you can edit OSM with the corrections.
You can also contact the discussion list, as others are able to help out.
I also have the Garmin IMG files available on a interactive webmap to download the ibycus tiles. it isn't done yet, so the mediafire folder is best for now.

Oh ya, im also working on creating a set of Garmin Maps that are just transparent contours (using SRTM data at the 10m accuracy), hopefully in the next few months it will be available. (this to be used in conjunction with Ibycus & OSM Canada)

Have a great trip across Canada!
Once this basemap is no longer patchy, i'll be going across myself. Aiming for 2011.
Sam Vekemans
Across Canada Trails
Victoria, BC