When we bought our GPS, a Garmin Zumo 220, it included Garmin’s mapping software MapSource on a DVD-ROM. Using MapSource you could create routes on your computer and then transfer them to the GPS or the MicroSD card in the GPS. It’s really a handy thing to do and I was used to it because our old GPS, a BMW NAV I (actually a Garmin Street Pilot III) used it also and I was already used to it. Like any software there was a learning curve. When we got the GPS we updated the maps as suggested and both MapSource and the GPS then had the same maps. Garmin has started using software that’s a free download called BaseCamp to replace MapSource which they were phasing out. You see, MapSource was included free only with certain GPS units but you could always buy if from Garmin for a price that they were very proud of. But BaseCamp is a free download and is said to work with any Garmin GPS that you can attach to your computer via a USB cable. I decided to download it and try it out. Again there was a learning curve but using the tutorials on the Garmin web site I learned to use it and like it. Your routes were now in collections or lists (lists were in a collection) and I could never find where they were kept on my computer, unlike the GDB or GPX files that MapSource would create. In fact I was using BaseCamp as my sole mapping software after our installation of the Windows 8 Beta and final release. BaseCamp would use the maps installed on the GPS create routes if the GPS was connected to the computer. If the GPS was not connected to the computer, you’d get a very basic map. A while back, BaseCamp decided that it didn’t want to transfer routes to the MicroSD in the GPS anymore or to the GPS. Garmin’s first attempt at trouble shooting was to blame it on Windows 8. So I re-installed MapSource and the map in the GPS to my computer. They each have their advantages and disadvantages but I sure did miss MapSource!
Advantages of BaseCamp
- It’s free and you can install it on as many computers as you like.
- Because it will use the maps installed on the GPS you can use it on any computer you wish, without having to install the maps to the computer.
- You can see all your “Collections” and “Lists” in one place.
- Easy to transfer routes to GPS (although mine stopped doing that).
- You can set it for different activities such as hiking, motorcycling, driving.
Disadvantages of BaseCamp
- It can be cumbersome to use.
- It tends to show all your lists (routes) unless you delete them or hide them
- It tended to use a business on a corner as a waypoint instead of the intersection.
- To use the same maps as the GPS, the GPS needed to be connected to the computer (although after an installation of the maps for MapSource use that’s no longer required)
Advantages of MapSource
- It’s definitely more polished.
- Will easily save routes as a GPX (GPS exchange for other GPS units) or GDB (Garmin Data Base) to your hard drive or any folder of your choosing.
- Easy to transfer routes & more to your GPS when connected to computer.
- GPS does not need to be connected to computer to create routes using the same maps as in the GPS.
- GPS need only be connected to computer to transfer data back and forth.
Disadvantages of MapSource
- Only included with certain GPS units.
- Is not free if it did not come with your GPS.
- Software and maps take up quite a bit of room on your hard drive.
- Since it’s commercial software you’re only to install it on a single computer.
Below are pictures of both MapSource and BaseCamp showing the same location at the same zoom factor (0.5 mile) and same detail level using the default setting without the GPS attached to the computer.