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Which GPS Units support "Mass Storage Mode" #3784
Back To Discussion List Written: 2011.11.14 by: Robin Tivy

I recently discovered a much simpler way to get .gpx files off my GPS. Just plug the GPS into the computer and view the files with Windows Explorer. The GPS just looks like another hard drive. (On my PC, it looks like drive E:). Garmin calls the protocol that supports this "Mass Storage Mode".

What this means is you can easily use your GPS to capture waypoints for trails, or for trip reports. Just directly open the gpx file with notepad, and cut and paste the text into the Bivouac "track log parser".

What models of GPS?
 You can do the same thing with any of the newer models of Garmin GPS (see list later). What computers? Either a PC or a Mac, and I'd guess Linux. What operating systems? Anything in the past 10 years. I've been using Windows XP which was released in 2001, so anything newer than that.


All of the new Garmin models since about 2008 support "Mass Storage Mode". This includes the following models:

  Montana (all models)
  Oregon (all models
  GPSMap 62 (all models)
  Dakota (all models) 10, 20, 30

But not the following models.

  Etrex (superceded by Dakota)
  GPSMap 60 (superceded by GPS 62)

Here is a page that has pictures and Canadian prices for most models: GPS Central. Although they still sell new ETrex Legend, this model is being superceded by the Dakota models, which is almost the same size, but supports the new protocol. The Garmin GPS 60 was superceded by the GPS 62.


  1. What's the difference between Oregon and Montana?
     The Oregon is now superceced by the Montana. The main difference is a bigger and clearer screen. It has a 4" screen instead of the 3" screen. (An iPod touch or iPhone is 3.5" diagional. It is still a resistive touch screen as opposed to a capacitive like an iphone.

  2. Antenna
     As you know, the Garmin GPS 60 and 62 has a protruding plastic case containing the aerial, whereas the Oregon and Dakota do not, which makes them easier to put in your pocket. Since the protruding aerial models are more bulky, I thought there must be a trade off between compactness and performance. Surprisingly enough, the Garmin rep said that with the latest models, there is no difference. So I asked why they keep making the one with the protruding aerial, and he says it is because it is distinct model line, so they keep the appearance the same. He said that although the protruding aerial might be slightly faster to pick up a satellite, once either model locks onto a satellite, they are the same. Of course I have my doubts, if anyone sees a study to the contrary, please make a posting to this article.

  3. iPhone versus GPS
     How good are the true GPS receivers built into some smart phones. I'm not talking about the "pseudo GPS" functions of smart phones where they triangulate using cell phone towers, I'm talking about an actual receiver from the GPS satellites. I asked the Garmin rep, and we looked at a few articles on the web, but didn't find any sort of study that had done any sort of controlled experiment. So if anyone finds a study or has experience where someone takes a smart phone and a GPS side by side and does a few tests, I would sure like to know.

  4. What good is Garmin Basecamp?
     I used to use the free Garmin "Basecamp" program to manage the downloads of my .gpx files. I would plug in the GPS, then start up Basecamp, and then have to move the files to "My Collection" and then download my collection. These were unfamiliar operations, as opposed to just seeing the .gpx file directly in windows explorer. So what is the idea of Basecamp? The main idea is that Basecamp can act as your repository for all your .gpx files. Eg: you can keep adding things to "my Collection" and then interface with Google earth. He agreed that it is simpler and more direct to not use Basecamp if all you want is to get your gpx file off onto your computer.


#1573 - 2011.11.15 Robin Tivy - Topo maps are built into Mapping GPS
Paul mentions that you can use Basemap to load maps into the GPS. I just wanted to clairify some things. First, the Oregon GPS and many others already have a built in 1:50000 topo map, which shows the roads. In addition to the built-in topo map, these units take a micro SD card (a 2 Gig card cost me $12 at NCIX.) and you can load any map you want onto that card. So I loaded topos for all Canada). I bought a second Micro SD card which I put in when I go to the USA. I got the maps for this card from GPSFileDepot, see Uploading Free USA Topos to Garmin Legend GPS.

I didn't use Basecamp for any of this, I used the Garmin Mapsource program. But now that I think of it, I guess Basecamp is just an updated program that does the same thing as Mapsource. So Paul is right. Probably Basecamp is the new protocol and mapsource uses the old protocol. Once you've got the maps on a Micro SD card, the same card can be used in either GPS. I originally loaded the maps using Map Source and my old Legend Cx, but now I use the same card in my Oregon. The built in maps in the oregon are not as good as the ones I have on the card, because its very difficult to read contours in parks, because of inverse backlighting.

One other related concept is uploading a fresh "roads" layer on top of the basic contour data. With Bivouac, you can download any given trail or road as a .gpx file and upload to the GPS. And I intend to make it so you can upload a whole set of trails and roads as a .gpx file, similar to the way the roads are available on the "Topo" link. But first, I'd like to make sure there are enough bivouac members who are doing this kind of thing on GPS.

#1572 - 2011.11.15 Paul Kubik - Garmin Basecamp
With Basecamp you can load a topo map onto the GPS and use it for navigation in place of a paper map. Backroads Maps, for instance, can be loaded into Basecamp and transferred to GPS.

I don't use it but I've done many trips with someone who does. The big advantage over paper maps is that the road information is more recent, at least in the case of Backroads Maps. In many areas, where I know the roads or the terrain I never would need such a feature. It was helpful on our first two forays up the east side of Mount Brew because the road system is more recent than the paper maps. And in the case of those routes there is a lot of micro-terrain, i.e. contour lines running down the apparent direction of climb rather than straight across. So, yes it is useful sometimes.

Alternatively, we used the same technique (GPS/Basecamp) on Brohm Ridge in a whiteout and GPS adds no real benefit. It didn't get us any further than if we'd been using dead reckoning, altimeter and map.