GPS for touring

Is there a GPS system that you would recommend for touring and off-road? My dealer has mentioned the Garmin Edge 800 performance and navigation bundle but I do not really want the performance section of it. I just want to be able to plan routes and save them for future use.

Margaret McNelis

See my review of the new Garmin Etrex this issue. It does all you want (and more) without the sporty stuff you don’t want.

For maps to put on this device, I recommend those you can download for free – or a voluntary donation – from These are based on Open Street Map data. Or if you’re more into mountain-biking you might prefer the more sophisticated depiction of paths and tracks provided by the same author on

Satnav, where you select a destination and let the GPS unit decide and instruct you how to get there, doesn’t usually work very well for cycling due to poor mapping of minor roads and paths, and because these ways aren’t prioritised from a cyclists point of view. But the author of Velomaps has done something clever with the coding that helps a Garmin plot quite sensible cycling routes.

I nevertheless prefer to plan my own, using a website such as with OSM Cycle mapping. That highlights the NCN in red and regional routes in blue, but zoom in and it reveals other bikepaths too (blue dash), plus bridleways (green dash), tracks (brown dash) and even footpaths (red dash). Bikehike also displays OS Landranger, but I find OSM more useful these days. Click out your routes on that with Options for Follow Road set to Open Street Map and Cycling, then name and save the gpx track on your PC. Connect your Etrex by USB and you can simply transfer those files to the GPX folder in its memory. Later you can select any of those tracks on the GPS unit and a wiggly line for you to follow will appear on its map.

To plot routes on PC without an internet connection, install Basecamp, a free planning and management program from Garmin, which will display the same maps (from Velomap etc.) as your GPS.

Chris Juden​

This was first published in the February / March 2013 edition of Cycle magazine.