Even with the multitude of handheld mapping products available, sometimes the best map for a specific area or event is in printed or electronic form. In an ideal situation, it would be great to meld the printed map with your GPS to get the best of both worlds.

To make this a reality, Garmin today announced the availability of Custom Maps, a free service that helps Garmin outdoor GPS owners to transform the maps they currently have – in paper or digital form – into downloadable maps for compatible Garmin GPS outdoor handhelds.

The company says creating a custom map is a relatively simple three-step process.

The first step is to save an existing map in JPG format, either by scanning a paper map or converting a digital file. Next user’s georeference their new map image by using Google Earth to line up key landmarks with those depicted on the map. The third and final step is to save the custom maps to a Garmin portable navigation device.

One interesting use of custom map is the ability to use an historic illustration of an area as it once stood while travelling. By downloading a map of an area as it once appeared, such as the St. Louis World's Fair map, you can go back in time and explore that area as it once was and as it appears today. Some of the buildings are still standing, so as you explore the fairgrounds, you can see the existing buildings and imagine those that are no longer there.

Learn more at www.garmin.com/CustomMaps or discuss in our GPS Device Forum .