How to add a Leaflet map to a Gatsby site

2019-07-24 / mgrubinger / 0 reactions

👉 Heads-up: This post is probably outdated, but the main concept remains the same: don’t use window variables if you do server side rendering or static site generation.

I have been a long time user and fan of Leaflet, a popular mapping library by @mourner. Recently I needed to integrate a rather simple map (with about 20 markers) to a Gatsby site*.

As it turns out, there’s a wrapper for Leaflet in React out there: react-leaflet (Some crazy naming right there, I know!). So I installed react-leaflet as a dependency and imported it, created a <Map>, <TileLayer> as well as a few <Markers> in my page component. Et voilà, we have a leaflet map up and showing up in my gatsby site in no time (running in development mode)!

I simply commited and pushed my changes, as always expecting Netlify to do the rest (i.e. building the site and deploying it). Only later that day I realized the builds were throwing an error: window is not defined 😧

The problem

Leaflet uses the window object internally. When trying to do SSR (server side rendering) as Gatsby does, there is no window (because the app is not acually loading in a brower environment). As a newcomer to React and SSR, this was new to me (although it makes sense).

So wherever I need use window. in my code, I have to add checks if window actually exists. This can be done easily in my application code. But, we’re using an external library (Leaflet) here and the last thing I want to do is to mess with the library itself.

The solution

After trying a few different approaches without success, I came across this page in the Gatsby docs: Debugging HTML Builds

We can configure webpack to basically ignore certain modules for the build-stage. To do this, add this code to your gatsby-node.js file:

exports.onCreateWebpackConfig = ({ stage, loaders, actions }) => {
  if (stage === "build-html") {
      module: {
        rules: [
            test: /leaflet/,
            use: loaders.null(),

That’s it. Our Gatsby build works again! 🙃

* Right now I can’t share the site we are working on as it is not published yet. But here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot of a map showing several pins
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