Surface=fine_gravel - is it for loose gravel or duplicate of surface=compacted

I always seen and used surface=fine_gravel for loose small gravel such as for example

But Tag:surface=fine_gravel - OpenStreetMap Wiki claims that is should/is used for

Is OSM Wiki wrong since this ancient edit and should be edited?

Have I used surface=fine_gravel incorrectly?

How to tag surface of fine loose gravel?

Note that OSM Wiki summary descriptions are quite suspicious as for years they claimed that neither surface=gravel nor surface=fine_gravel is used for such surface which seems clearly mismatching actual tagging.

What should be listed at and Tag:surface=fine_gravel - OpenStreetMap Wiki as actual tag meaning?


i whould say that with surface=fine_gravel you cannnot point to induviual stones anymore. but with surface=graval you can.

There was a lengthy discussion about surface of unpaved roads in the German community some time ago, including the difference in betweeen “fine_gravel” and “compacted”: Verwendung von Surface. As you surely do not want to read the whole stuff, here is my comment to your topic based on my experience in a construction company:

The photo for “fine_gravel” shows a forest road with a well-compacted gravel surface, i.e. surface=compacted. Nearly all roads based on water-bound materials (forest roads, farm roads) belong to this category and normally consist of several layers of gravel in different mixing ratios so that they can be compacted well (common are 0-16mm, 0-32mm and 0-56mm).

The texts in the Wiki on “compacted” and “fine_gravel” both describe this type of surface, I cannot see any significant difference. It is possible that the difference is meant to be that the surface layer of fine_gravel consists of a finer mixture than that of compacted, but who wants to determine this difference precisely on site? In my opinion, it is all “compacted” and that applies to all unpaved roads regularly used by motor vehicles.

Of course, there are also paths that actually have a surface of fine gravel or chippings (without containing sand/dust from 0-2 mm), but these tend to be footpaths or cycle paths in parks, driveways on private property and the like. Pure gravel or grit surfaces without fines part are not well suitable for motor vehicles, as the loose material would be swept away by traffic in a very short time. In my opinion, “fine_gravel” would be applicable to these ways although they also do have well compacted base layers normally.


Some basic knowledge:

If you cannot point to individual stones anymore, you are looking at sand or dust of grit sizes in between 0 and 2mm. Fine gravel, also known as grit or chips usually are called the sizes from 3-8mm. If the grit or grain size is larger than 8mm the common description is just gravel or crushed stone.

The difference between those is the material source: broken material with sharp edges produced in a quarry is correctly named crushed stone whereas naturally rounded material sieved out of a gravel pit is named gravel. In common language it is usual to call all the stuff just gravel.


I agree, me too.

I agree. fine_gravel is just like gravel, but it is smaller / finer particles. It is equally loose as less specific surface=gravel.

If the fine gravel is compacted with even smaller particles (like sand) so it becomes firm and not loose, then it becomes much more solid surface=compacted, on which bicycle wheels do not fall into and is quite good for cycling.

this picture (from surface=gravel wiki page) shows to me what fine_gravel (e.g. uncompacted fine gravel) often looks like (although often it is even deeper / more loose, i.e. more than one layer of it, so bicycle easily falls into it as is hard to cycle over, like this):

It would make no sense to me if surface=fine_gravel was basically exact duplicate of surface=compacted, as that wiki change implies.


I made initial edits to the wiki page: Difference between revisions of "Tag:surface=fine gravel" - OpenStreetMap Wiki

I plan to be careful as apparently mismatching definition was up for over 10 years (and shows just how strongly wiki definition matters compared to the tag name…)


hard to say based on this photo, that could be well-compacted or loose pile of moving fine gravel (visible tracks hint that it is relatively loose, but even with good compacted surface passage of many vehicles or heavy machinery can result in this)


this picture from surface=gravel page shows to me what fine_gravel (e.g. uncompacted fine gravel) often looks like (although often it is even deeper / more loose, i.e. more than one layer of it, so bicycle easily falls into it as is hard to cycle over):

to me this looks like gravel, although many of it looks like fine gravel there are also many pieces that seem to be bigger (than 8mm), 8mm are already at the upper end of what can be called “fine”

1 Like

That is correct, but when this happens the surface is no longer compacted but loose gravel. The road may well have a compacted base layer which is essential for the sustainability, but this one definitely has a loose surface layer. At the front left side you can see some corrugations (washboarding) which is a clear indication for a loose surface (notwithstanding if it had been compacted earlier and just become loose due to heavy traffic).

:+1: I would also call this a gravel road - there will be some fine gravel and even sand for sure but the majority is gravel up to some 50mm estimated.

Edit: Sorry, got the wrong pic, my comments were referring to the picture of Tamsa Road (and I believe @Mateusz_Konieczny did as well). Nevertheless the other pic shows a regular gravel surface as well - most of the stones are too big for fine gravel.

1 Like

Yeah I was referring more to looseness part of it; if it is indeed bigger than 8mm (I can’t really tell) then it would no longer be fine_gravel but indeed “regular” gravel. The other picture File:Tamsa.JPG - Wikimedia Commons is probably better example of looseness that both gravel and fine_gravel share (as opposed to compacted which is firm, not loose)

I do not see gravel there. The bigger pieces are pebblestone (rounded). The rest is a thin layer of fine-gravel over a compacted base.

FYI: Gravel and pebbles describe the same type of stone, naturally rounded by erosive processes whereas the correct term for sharp edges (artificially broken) material is “crushed stone”. Nevertheless "gravel’ is the common term used for all kinds of small stones of a size roughly in between 2 - 80 mm and any road or track with a surface of such stone, may it be rounded or sharp edged, compacted or loose is called a “gravel road” in common english. For more details have a look here.

A sample pic for pebbles:

A sample pic for gravel:

Any difference?

And here is a pic of a nicely compacted road:

which is called “gravel road” nevertheless.

And another pic of a road with loose gravel surface (as seen above)

Note to all though that while we might agree on ideal definitions on what is compacted and what is fine_gravel ideally, in reality tagging will always deviate to a degree from that because

  • the difference is somewhat fluent. E.g. old well-travelled fine gravel tracks may eventually turn into tracks where the gravel is not that loose anymore
  • for a long time, a different definition has been mentioned in the wiki, maybe in contradiction to other pages on the wiki (in other languages)
  • in colloquial language, in some regions or some languages, “gravel road” may be understood to be synonymous to any non-paved road

But it is good anyway if the wiki is clear on the distinction.


Ok, to avoid any doubt, I’ve just went outside and taken pictures. This is what I consider surface=fine_gravel:

One can (hopefully) see:

  • how bicycle wheel “falls into” loose fine gravel (if there is even more layers of fine gravel / i.e. deeper layer, cycling over it would be even more uncomfortable/hard)
  • hand for size comparison (although I’ve seen fine gravel which is somewhat bigger then the one in the picture, this is typical example in Croatia).

Can you upload it to Wikimedia Commons? I was planning to take picture like this to illustrate OSM Wiki (and for now at least weather in my area is not making easy to take illustrative pictures)

1 Like

I am rather trying to document actual tagging than design a new one in this case.

Very fine picture! Illustrates perfectly why one would want to differentiate between compacted and fine_gravel.


I took reference of Tag:surface=gravel - OpenStreetMap Wiki - perhaps before @Mateusz_Konieczny worked to clear it up :slight_smile:

Curiously, what we here call “Kies” (fine-gravel in OSM speak), in construction means pebbles according to Kies – Wikipedia and what we here call “Schotter” (pebbles in OSM speak) in construction means crushed stone Schotter – Wikipedia

Curiously, what we here call “Kies” (fine-gravel in OSM speak), in construction means pebbles according to Kies – Wikipedia

have a look at this article again, the DIN 4022 distinguishes 3 size classes of gravel, fine medium and rough:

Kies (G/Gr) Korngröße
Grobkies (gG/CGr) 20,0–63,0 mm
Mittelkies (mG/MGr) 6,3–20,0 mm
Feinkies (fG/FGr) 2,0–6,3 mm

and what we here call “Schotter” (pebbles in OSM speak) in construction means crushed stone Schotter – Wikipedia

also called “Splitt” or “gebrochener Kies” (the latter closes the circle)

This is one that I personally get stumped on from time to time and I’m glad we’re discussing it! I also wanted to grab a photo of what I’d consider compacted, as opposed to fine gravel.

Here’s my local rail trail (and a snake crossing it for scale). You can see there is fine gravel and sand in aggregate, forming a sturdy but pliable surface.

Sometimes this surface becomes eroded to the point where it may resemble fine gravel, and I think that can be confusing. If the compacted smoothness goes to horrible, is that now fine gravel?