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MapTech Terrain Navigator
By Jeff Porcaro

Terrain Navigator
With the advent of computers and CD technology comes digital topographical maps that will help make planning your backcountry experience more enjoyable. One of these programs is Maptech's Terrain Navigator, which offers digitized maps in the 1:100,000 and 1:24,000 7.5 minute (quad) USGS maps. We reviewed the Terrain Navigator with the Utah Series maps.

Installation of the product was very simple and we were quickly loading our first map CD. Terrain Navigator recognized that we had not used that map CD yet and prompted us to install it. Once this was finished the state map showed squares where the CD had maps. As you move your mouse across the quad squares, the name of that quad is displayed.

Because you view each map separately, it is difficult to go to an area that is between two maps or on a border of a map. Maptech is working to solve this problem in a future release of the product. Terrain Navigator does allow you to view two maps at once, and print two maps on the same page.

Terrain Navigator has a very extensive search engine that will find any place, body of water, trail, mountain, or other geographic feature. However, the search only works with maps you have installed. You are able to manually create your own place files with your own categories.

Terrain Navigator has GPS integration that allows you to transfer landmarks, routes, and tracks from your GPS to the computer. You can also make a route, track or landmark on the map and have it transferred to the GPS. The landmark transfer works only with Trimble, Magellan and Garmin GPS receivers. The landmark transfer feature is very useful to see where you have been after using your GPS on a trip. For real-time tracking Terrain Navigator will support the aforementioned receivers as well as Delorme and all other NMEA-compatible receivers. For real-time tracking on the map you may need a portable computer to get outside in order to have the GPS locate your position.

All of the maps are geo-referenced. This means there is a coordinate associated with the position of the cursor over the map. We really liked the ability to show the coordinates on the map in UTM. This has become a very popular format for land GPS use. You can also show your position in other position formats, such as Latitude/Longitude or MGRS, if you prefer. The display format is easily changed in the preferences.

Terrain Navigator
Another feature we really like is the marking and profiling of a trail. This is useful for ascertaining the length of a trail as well as any elevation gain or loss. Terrain Navigator allows you to annotate your maps with notes and whatever personally meaningful information you want. When you print the map you can include (or omit) the annotations from the printout by selecting "print layer information".

The maps can be printed at scale. When the print dialog comes up there is a square showing the boundaries of the area that will fit on a printed page. If you have a plotter the whole map can be printed. Most people will only travel across one or two printed 8.5x 11 sized pages, so this is not a big problem. After printing a few test maps I turned on the UTM grid and used my UTM floater grid on the map. I found it to be very accurate. This is great for plotting coordinates in the field for GPS use. One feature we wish that was available is a poster board printing option. This would align the printouts so they could easily be taped together to make a single large map for those who don't have a plotter.

The map data displayed on the monitor can be exported as a TIFF or MS Windows BMP file, for use in other applications. You can also copy the image onto the clipboard, then paste it into other Windows applications.

Maptech has good map coverage. Currently maps are available for CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, MA, MD/DC, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, and TX. The maps are pricey. Most CDs are $99 each, or there are different pricing structures for multiple CDs within a state. For instance to individually buy the 7 Utah CDs it would cost about $700, but you can buy the state in two groups. One group has 4 CDs and the other has 3 CDs. The 4 CD pack is $279 and the 3 CD set is $229 making it a total of $508 to have all of the Topo maps of Utah. This is still cheaper than purchasing the individual maps from USGS.

Summary
If you are into hiking and backcountry travel where you need reliable maps then Maptech's Terrain Navigator is the product for you. It has a powerful interface with all of the extras you want. Terrain Navigator is especially desirable when used in conjunction with a GPS. The maps print nicely and are accurate for field use. MapTech's prices are higher than other mapping software products, but others don't have all of the functionality MapTech offers. We rate this program as one of the best mapping software programs that you can buy. MapTech sets the bar for the competition to follow. To find out the latest on GPS receivers supported and product updates visit Maptech on the web at www.maptech.com/topo/toposcout.html.

System Requirements

  • MicrosoftĆ WindowsĆ 3.1, 95/98 or NT
  • 486 CPU or better
  • 16 MB RAM
  • 8 MB of available hard disk space
  • 2x CDROM
  • Mouse

Jeff Porcaro is a Contributing Editor at GearReview.com, and co-founder. He specializes in stoves, GPS navigation, mountaineering, and trips to Utah's remote backcountry.

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