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Custom POI's on a Garmin GPS

GPS imageOne thing I have found very useful on the Garmin GPS is being able to load your own custom POI's (Points of Interest). These custom POI's can show the location on your GPS of anything from campsites to Starbucks cafes. You can download POI files from various web sites, some are free and some you will have to pay for (see list of links below) or if you have the GPS co-ordinates of a series of way points and know anything about spreadsheets you can create your own .csv or .gpx custom POI files.

Remember that Garmin maps already come with certain POI's installed and you may be duplicating when installing some custom POI's. Also be a bit selective as to what custom POI's you do install as each one has its own custom icon and your GPS screen can get a bit cluttered with too many icons if you are not careful.

Custom POI links

Below is a step by step guide to installing custom POI's, although it is written for the Garmin Etrex Vista Hcx it is pretty much the same process for all Garmin GPS's that support the addition of custom POI's.

Downloading and installing the Custom POI's

  1. In order to install the custom POI's onto your Garmin GPS you will need to have a copy of Garmin's 'POI loader' installed on your computer. It is available as a free download from the Garmin site for Macs and for windows PCs from here.

  2. You will then need to download your POI file from one of the many POI sites. A good example that is useful for cycletouring is the POI files from archiescampings.eu which give all the locations of all the campsites in Europe. We will use this as an example. These files usually download as a compressed zip file, if your computer doesn't automatically unzip them on download you will need to use something like 'StuffIt Expander' on the Mac or 'winzip' on a PC to decompress the files first.

  3. When you have expanded the zip file you will find that you have a folder called 'Archies_europe' with several folders inside for various GPS formats. The two files that will work on Garmin GPS's are the files in both the 'GARMIN-csv_Archie_vs_01-11-09' and 'GPX eXchange format_Archie_vs_01-11-09' folders.

    Poi loader files image

  4. You can have quite a few custom POI files on your GPS, therefore I prefer to set up some folders on my Mac for each of my map micro SD cards. Within these folders I have sub folders for each category of custom POI. As you can see from the image below I have one for 'Campsites' in which I have copied the two files from the 'GPX eXchange format_Archie_vs_01-11-09' folder. As the POI files are stored on the GPS's micro SD card theoretically you can have as many custom POI files as you have room for on the card.

    custom folders image

  5. Once you have organised and copied your files you will need to connect your GPS to the computer using the USB cable and open up the 'POI' loader application.

    Pio loader image

  6. Click continue and the 'POI loader' should find your GPS. If it hasn't found your device you will have click 'Find Device". Once it has found it click 'continue'.

    POI loader image

  7. You will then be asked if you want to load or remove custom POI's on your device, select 'Load new custom POI's onto your device'.

    POI loader image

  8. You will next need to click the 'Browse' button and navigate to the folder with your custom POI's for the map you are using. You can leave the units for distance and speed as they are unless you are installing speed camera POi's and leave it on 'Express' mode.

    POI loader image

    Browse and select the folder that has all the custom POI's that you wish to install on your GPS, in this case selecting the 'POI Europe map' folder or what ever you have named it.

    POI loader image

  9. Once you have selected the folder click 'Continue'. If everything is OK you should get this successful dialogue.

    POI loader image


  10. The custom POI's should now be installed on your GPS. Click 'Done' and disconnect your GPS.

Setting the zoom level at which the Custom POI's will appear on the screen.

You can set the zoom level at which the custom icons will appear, this is useful to avoid too much clutter on the screen at higher zoom levels.

screen image1. To do this go to the 'Main menu' and use the joggle switch to select 'Setup'.

screen image2. Then in the 'Setup Menu' use the joggle switch to select 'Map'.

screen image3. Then use the joggle switch to move to 'Map points' and click 'Enter', then use the joggle switch to move up and down the scale to select the zoom level. Once you have set the zoom level click the 'Quit' button on the right hand side top several times to get back to the map.

Updating the POI files

Remember when you wish to update or add any additional custom POI files you will need to copy these to your generic folder that you created in step 4. If you in step 8 simply point to another folder it will only install the custom POI's in that folder and overwrite all the others previously installed.