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Favorite Topo Map Software?

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Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby schmalz » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:13 pm

I apologize if this has already been covered, I was unable to find an old thread that talked about this.

What is everyone's favorite Topo Map software, and what about it do you like?

I'm interested in finally getting a good setup to view maps and create trip plans on my PC. I already have almost every tom harrison map of the Sierra, and I'd like to be able to easily view the whole area on my PC. I know there are some free options for that, such as the HST map on this site.

The reason why I'd be willing to pay is that I also would like the ability to mark trips on the map and be giving a mileage and elevation chart. It'd also be cool for me to create screenshots that showed my route through a specific area.



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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:12 pm

Well I have only tried one myself and that is Mapsource. I use the 24K West maps or sometimes the National Park 24K maps. I prefer the 24K West because it's easier to see.

It does more or less everything I want but my biggest complaint is that a great deal of map markers aren't in the right spot. Simple things like a marker for a creek's name will be a hundred yards or more from where it actually is.

I'm not sure what it costs because I got mine through ways that shall remain unspoken. [-X
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby balzaccom » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:39 pm

I like acmemapper. but have also used closed contour...
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby gary c. » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:42 pm

I'm not one of the tech guys by a long shot but my NG TOPO does everthing I need or want. Actually it is capable of much more than I will ever understand.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby freestone » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:03 pm

Same as Gary C for the home Mac. The big let down for me is the print job. I print onto a water resistant paper so the ink is fixed, but the resolution compared to an original topo is missing. I blame the cheap printer, but I guess it could be the software as well.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby schmalz » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:27 pm

Thanks for the replies so far everyone. I assumed NatGeo was the standard, but I was curious if anyone preferred their competitors for any specific reason.

A follow up question: It seems like there are a lot of trails missing on my Tom Harrison maps. These would often fall under the category of "use trails". I'd love to have a resource that allowed me more knowledge of where these trails were so that I could easily delineate which areas required true cross country travel. Does anyone have a recommended source for finding the less common trails, or is a specific topo map software better at including those on the map?

Thanks again!
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby Eiprahs » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:09 pm

I have NatGeo but use Acmemapper almost exclusively. Acmemapper allows you to toggle between different data sets--topo map or satellite for example. So you can spot what looks like a useable pass on the topo, then toggle to satellite and see whats on the ground. Resolution on the satellite imagery is good enough that use trails may be visible at highest zoom. Unfortunately, the current satellite data for the high Sierras is from 2011, so snow obscures the fine detail.

You can save the satellite or topo images as jpgs and draw your routes, add text, etc. in another program like photoshop.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby gary c. » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:25 pm

I think that the quality of printer and even more importantly the size of paper makes a big difference in quality of maps. It's pretty hard to get a quality map if you have to shrink it down to 8.5X11 (even smaller with a boarder). Sometimes I will print one at work on a better copier than I have at home and on 11X17 paper. The results are a much more useable map.

Another thing to consider is if you have or plan on getting a GPS unit. I use my NG TOPO to make maps but have another program (Garmin) to use with my GPS. My Garman program is capable of showing a Google Maps satelite picture of any map I have opened up. I've had my software for a few years and there has been a lot of progress made. If I were going to buy it all again now I would look closely at the Delorme GPS units and there software. They are SPOT and message campatable.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:32 pm

I doubt you will find any maps that have use trails on them since that's all they are. You can find old maps with trails that are no longer maintained and are mostly gone.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby Mike M. » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:55 pm

National Geographic's version of topo software is not very good, at least my version, which is less than two years old and compatible with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It does not compare in quality to the Wildflower Productions version which preceded it. In particular, it seems to lack the 15 minute view and the print quality is very poor compared to the Wildflower Productions version. When I want to print a detailed 7.5 minute map, I use an old Windows XP PC, which is compatible with the TOPO! product from Wildflower Productions. These maps are essentially scans of old U.S. Geological Survey Maps; any errors on those maps are reproduced here, not (generally) corrected.

For me, the easiest software to use in terms of scouting out routes is the web-based Acme Mapper -- it is superb and offers topographic, satellite, terrain, and general map views of places throughout the globe. Want to take a trip to Paris from your desktop -- just go to Acme Mapper!

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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby vhsvhs » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:22 pm

I use Google Earth plus the (free) National Geographic topo map overlay: http://www.gelib.com/ng-topo.htm

For costing zero dollars, this setup is pretty good. G.Earth will draw elevation profiles (trace a path over your route, then right-click that route), and G.Earth will import most GPS data formats. Obviously, you can drop pins to mark campsites, passes, hidden treasure, and etc. I've used this setup to plan off-trail treks -- mostly along Roper's HST -- and I was satisfied with the results.

One drawback is that G.Earth lacks facilities for printing nice maps. Use the money you saved on software to buy more Harrison maps.
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Re: Favorite Topo Map Software?

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:24 pm

I use the National Geographic maps for planning trips, but for printing maps I use the Cal Atlas maps here:

http://www.atlas.ca.gov/download.html#/ ... _untrimmed

I stitch and edit maps together in Photoshop that correspond to my route. My memory is that Fishmonger posted doing this and gave me the idea.
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