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You can't get there from here...
Well, with these maps you might.

Mapping software review
By Jeff Porcaro

Many of us use our outdoor experiences to get away from all of the hi-tech stress filled gadgets. Now the same technology that brings stress into your life can help you escape. We recently put the following digital map software to the test. In this review we used Digital Maps on CDROM to plan a trip. We have also reviewed the National Park versions from Maptech and Wildflower on our website at gearreview.com/parktopo.asp.

All of the maps we reviewed are geo-referenced. This means there is a coordinate associated with the position of the cursor over the map. All of the maps support LAT/LON format when displaying coordinates.

We reviewed the following Software Products:
Wildflower Productions Topo!
Maptech Terrain Navigator.
DeLorme's Topo USA.
iGage All Topo Maps.
King's Outdoor World Map Academy Platinum.
Hanta Yo Topoguide GPS.


Wildflower Productions Topo!

Topo!The installation for this product is simple and straightforward. Just pop the CD into the computer, run the setup program, and you're off. We found the program to be very simple to use. Within minutes we were looking at the maps for our trip to the Lone Peak Wilderness Area. The menus and toolbar include all of the features we needed to plan the trip or to reflect on that last trip we took.

One feature that caught our attention, and was a favorite among all of the testers, is the seamless map feature. This means you can choose an area on the map that is on the border between two standard printed topographical maps and have it appear as if it is only on one map.

We liked the easy to use routing tool and profiling capability, which allowed us to trace our route of travel and determine distances and elevations. Topo! includes UTM and Latitude/Longitude coordinate display. We liked the ability to show the navigational grid ticks on the screen and printed maps for use with a GPS.

We found all of the places we planned to visit with the search feature. You can also go to an area using coordinates from your GPS. Topo! does not have built-in support for downloading and uploading your waypoints from a GPS, but you can add this capability with their Topo!GPS product at an additional cost. We used the Topo!GPS and found it easy to download waypoints from our GPS receiver (Lowrance GlobalMap 100). One of the best features that make Topo! a must-have is its annotation capabilities. Our testers loved the ability to change the font, font size, and font color when putting labels on the map. This is very useful to distinguish the information you add from that already on the map. A good use of this feature is to give instructions on how to get to a trailhead or camp.

Printing from Topo! is simple. When you select an area for printing it is outlined with a red border. You can easily move this area around before printing. By default the area reflects the size of a single printed page. One thing that confused us, at first, is Topo! prints at ç scale of the displayed view by default. For example if I wanted a map printed to 1:24,000 scale I would have the map displayed at 1:12,000 and use the suggested printing scale. We found when we tried to use a custom scale to print the map to 100% of the displayed scale, the map didn't print clearly. After overcoming this we were able to use our GPS floater to accurately obtain a position on the printed map.

Topo! has a suggested retail price of $49.00. For current coverage and product updates visit Wildflower on the web at www.topo.com.

Summary: Topo! is a great product. It scored high marks with our testers. The biggest drawback is the limited area covered. Topo! covers the more popular areas in the US and combine them into a regional CD set. We found the coverage of the populated Salt Lake City area to be very good, but coverage of the more remote, yet popular Southern Utah destinations is not yet available. If Topo! covers the area you plan to hike, and you need to have high quality printed maps with excellent map clarity, Topo! is the best choice. This is our testers favorite but when an area is not covered by Topo! Maptech is our choice.

System Requirements

  • MicrosoftĂ WindowsĂ 3.1, 95/98 or NT
  • 4 MB RAM
  • 2x CDROM
  • Mouse

Contact Wildflower at 415-558-8700 or www.topo.com.


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Maptech Terrain Navigator

Terrain NavigatorInstallation 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 a state map is displayed and it shows 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 provided us with a beta (will be shipping by press time) version of their new product that solves this problem. The seamless maps in the beta worked great and can be turned on or off. This allows you to see the map as you get them from the USGS.

We like the easy to use search engine and the ease of creating landmarks and routes. You can also upload/download from your GPS receiver. We also like the profiling tools for showing the elevation gain and distance of a marked trail. Terrain Navigator supports display formats of UTM, LAT/LON, and MGRS.

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. 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 in this and all of the other products, except Map Academy Platinum, 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.

Maptech has good map coverage. Currently maps are available for AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, MA, MD/DC, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, and WV. 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.

To find out the latest on GPS receivers supported and product updates visit Maptech on the web at www.maptech.com/topo/toposcout.html.

Summary: If you are into hiking and backcountry travel where you need reliable maps with coverage of 28 states then Maptech's Terrain Navigator is the product for you. It has a powerful interface with all of the extras you want. Maptech's prices are higher than other mapping software products, but others don't have all of the functionality and coverage Maptech offers. We rate this program as one of the best mapping software programs that you can buy. If coverage is what you need and Wildflower Topo! doesn't have your area Maptech is the our testers choice.

System Requirements

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

Contact Maptech at 800-627-7236 or www.maptech.com.


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DeLorme Topo USA 2.0

Topo USASince DeLorme's Topo USA covers the entire United States, it serves as your one stop answer to trip planning needs. Our testers found the software easy to install and use. The find feature gives you the ability to quickly find a location by name or by using latitude and longitude (LAT/LON) coordinates. Topo USA also shows you the current LAT/LON coordinate of any point on the map. We found this to be useful, but our testers were disappointed that the UTM format is not supported.

Topo USA includes a search feature and waypoint and route marking as well as the ability to profile a route to show the elevation gain and distance. Another feature we like is the "Along the Way" feature, which displays points of interest close to the legs of your marked route. The program also links to the extensive DeLorme Gazetteer web site (gazetteer.delorme.com/TopoUSA) to give additional information about the points of interest.

The software gives you great printed maps that can get you to your trailhead and even help you when traveling on marked, well-worn trails. Solus Pro software, included with Topo USA, enables you to download maps and route directions from Topo USA to a Palm Pilot or Windows CE handheld device. Although a handy feature, using a handheld computer to track your route requires the DeLorme GPS receiver and special cable (sold separately).

Summary: With full coverage of the United States, Topo USA is a "must have" for trip planning, and saves you the time, trouble, and money of having to get separate maps for highway and backcountry travel. The maps are easy to use and have incredible detail and great map clarity. Topo USA is a move in the right direction for computerized maps, however our testers recommend you get a standard-scale map, such as a USGS quad, for serious navigation where there are no designated trails. Topo USA is well worth its $99.00 price tag. We did find however it is a bit sluggish on a Pentium 133.

System Requirements

  • MicrosoftĂ WindowsĂ 95/98
  • Intel Pentium 120 or higher processor
  • 16 MB RAM
  • 30 MB of available hard disk space
  • CD-ROM drive
  • 16-bit color monitor with Super VGA graphics
  • Mouse

Contact DeLorme at (207) 846-7058 or delorme.com.


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iGage All Topo Maps.

All Topo MapsThe installation process is quite easy and quick. Once you're looking at the maps, you can zoom in and out to provide a better look at the detail. To find a specific location, use the search feature, which prompts you to insert the proper CD. You can search for a place or map name, and see the names of adjacent maps so you can select them when needed.

All Topo Maps support Latitude/Longitude, MGRS and UTM display formats. All Topo Maps can be printed for use in the outdoors. We found the printouts accurate enough to place our UTM grid on the map and match the grid lines to the printout. All Topo Maps support printing maps to scale or you can zoom them in or out. The print option prints only what fits on an 8 1/2 X 11 page. Entire maps or viewed portions of maps may be copied to the clipboard as bitmaps to paste into other programs or graphics.

All Topo Maps have a simple waypoint feature for marking places of interest on the map. This process is simple, and allows you to enter waypoint comments. Advanced users can use the Waypoint Editor, a text editor you use to change the font face, color, size and also include hyperlinks. There is documentation on the commands for changing font colors and sizes as well as some hyperlinks. Although the ability to create a hyperlink that can be clicked in the map is a great feature, the creation of the hyperlink is not simple enough for novice computer users. Perhaps adding a dialog box for adding annotations to the map with font properties and hyperlinks would simplify the entire process.

To use All Topo Maps with a GPS you can hand enter the coordinates from your GPS to the waypoint editor, or you can use the new GPS Tool. The tool allows you to download or upload the information with a GPS receiver and place it in the All Topo waypoint file.

The suggested retail price for All Topo Map is: $120

Summary: With disk sets only for Montana, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho, All Topo Maps limit the users of their product. We found the product to have a simple interface for viewing and printing maps, though the waypoint feature could be made simpler. If you live or hike in the states covered, need printed maps, don't need the easy annotation capabilities, and seamless maps, this is the product for you. This product is reasonably priced and is great for the more value-minded customer. To find out the latest on product updates visit iGage on the web at www.igage.com.

System Requirements

  • MicrosoftĂ WindowsĂ 95/98 or NT
  • 486 CPU or better
  • 16 MB RAM
  • 28 MB of available hard disk space
  • 2x CDROM
  • Mouse

Contact iGage at 888 450-4922 or www.igage.com.


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King's Outdoor World Map Academy Platinum

Map Academy PlatinumKings Outdoor World has made great improvements from their earlier versions of the Map Academy. We were surprised at the improvements to the Platinum version. This product installs easily and after the program starts up you are brought into a screen that displays the map of the state you are using. As you move your cursor you can see the names of the USGS quads that represent the area the cursor is over. When you double click the spot the map will load. The maps are clean but the lines are not as defined as some of the other maps.

One of our favorite features is the poster-board printing that allows you to print the map on 9 standard pages. You can then tape the pages together to form a full sized map. You can also print any area on the map with a red box that represents the printed page. We however felt the product should provide plotter printing support.

Map Academy Platinum provides simple annotation and marking capabilities that can be shown in UTM or LAT/LON coordinates. We found this product lacked GPS upload and download capabilities. You are however able to enter a waypoint manually with the LAT/LON coordinate. Another feature we like is the paper USGS map reference, which shows the quad names for a given area.

The suggested retail price for Map Academy: $89.95.

Summary: Kings Outdoor World has made great improvements for this version of their product. For those who need a great priced product and don't require GPS upload and download this is a simple product where you can mark locations, measure distances, and print maps.

System Requirements

  • Windows 95 or higher
  • Pentium CPU or better
  • 24 MB RAM
  • 25 MB of available hard disk space
  • 16 Bit high color resolution
  • 2x CDROM
  • Mouse

Contact King's Outdoor World at (801)-423-3172 or www.mapacademy.com.


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Hanta Yo Topoguide GPS

Product installation is not very simple. To use a map you must first load tables of information from the map CD to the computer. We feel this step should be automatic when you try to use a CD you have not installed before. To use the program you must open or create a workspace and load the maps into that workspace. TopoGuide restores the maps you had loaded in a previous session when you open the workspace. This feature gives you the ability to store information about points of interest for a particular outing or trip.

Our testers love the seamless maps. After selecting multiple maps in a region those maps show without seams allowing you to view an area on several maps as if they were one.

TopoGuide GPS has simple annotation features. You can mark waypoints on the map and show them with various symbols you select. We liked the ability not only to mark waypoints, but also to mark a region with a shaded box to specify an area. Our favorite feature of TopoGuide is the ability to add user-defined information to the waypoints and search for waypoints based on the content of that information.

TopoGuide GPS supports UTM and Latitude/Longitude coordinate display. You are also able to determine distances between points on the map. TopoGuide GPS uploads and downloads GPS waypoints with your Garmin and Magellan GPS receivers. Printing maps is possible, but difficult. It took a few tries until we were able to get the map to print to scale, which is 1" = 2000'.

TopoGuide GPS has a suggested retail price of $114.00, which includes five regional CDs. The state maps are $35.00, and county maps range from $25 to $39 depending on county size. All the continental US maps are available. For product update information and pricing for your area visit their website at www.hantayo.com.

Summary: TopoGuide GPS has complete coverage of the continental US. TopoGuide is perfect for users who want to track other information with their waypoints. Most people will find setting up the software to be confusing. The biggest problem with TopoGuide GPS is its price--we find it to be very pricey. For example, full map coverage of Utah in the 1:24,000 and 1:100,00 scale would cost about $1,250. If you need all of the 1:24,000 scale maps there are cheaper alternatives, such as Wildflowers Topo! or Maptech's Terrain Navigator. Also the map clarity is not as good as Topo! or Maptech.

System Requirements

  • MicrosoftĂ WindowsĂ 95/98 or NT
  • 486/33 CPU or better
  • 16 MB RAM 25 MB of available hard disk space
  • 2x CDROM
  • Mouse

Contact Hanta Yo Company, Inc. at 301-947-9319 or www.hantayo.com.


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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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