I recently had the opportunity to check out a new software mapping package from National Geographic’s TOPO! line of software. which is touted for giving us the ability to create and print our own custom trail maps. The software is a powerful tool that offers a ton of options and details, and should prove very helpful for hikers and backpackers who are planning outdoor adventures in the areas covered by the various packages.
The version of the software that I was sent covers the Moab area of Utah. The region is one of the best in the country for hiking and mountain biking, and the maps included on the CD cover such national parks as Arches and Canyonlands, two popular, but lesser known destinations. The area covered also stretches into the Grand Junction region of Colorado as well, offering amazingly detailed topographic maps that include roads, trails, and points of interest such as campsites, paddling launch sites, scenic overlooks, and much more.
The software allows for multiple levels of zooming, so you can set the level of detail on your custom maps, while also easily adding 3D and topographic profiles to the mix as well. Additionally, you can add your own custom notes or pre-created ones, draw your own routes, and a lot more. And when you’ve constructed your perfect map, it can be saved to a simple file format and shared with others or printed out to accompany you on your next hike. If you have a handheld GPS, routes and way points can be uploaded to it as well, making it even easier to take your map with you.
While the software is indeed powerful, it comes with a bit of a learning curve, and it takes a bit of practice to put it all together. The interface on the software takes a bit of getting use to, but the manuals, found on the CD in .pdf format, and the online help system help ease the process some. And once you do have a grasp of the system, you’ll be building well designed and informative maps in no time.
One of my favorite tools included with the Topo! Maps package is the Trail Chart. Selecting this option, gives you a new window that has a list of all the trails found on the map. The Trail Chart also indicates the type of trail (hiking, jeep, etc.), as well its name, location, and length, along with a brief description. Clicking on any one of the trails takes you directly to it on the map, making it simple to find a hike or ride very quickly. It’s a great resource, even if you aren’t going to print any of the maps.
The TOPO! software is available for both Mac and PC, and the are both found on the same disc. I used the Mac version, and while it was easy to run the program directly from the disk without installing, I found that performance improved dramatically when I ran from the hard drive instead. I’m also running the latest version of Snow Leopard (10.6.2) and that was causing issues with some of the icons and graphics displaying properly, but a recent update has cleared up this issue, so I recommend you use the “Check For Software Updates” option from the “Help” menu on which ever version of the software you’re running.
The MSRP on the TOPO! software is $24.95, with a number of different options available in the National Geographic Store. With the holidays quickly approaching, this is a great stocking stuffer for the backpacker on your list.
In compliance with the new rules governing reviews by bloggers, I am letting everyone know that this software was provided to me by National Geographic for review. As always with Nat. Geo. however, they allow me to write my thoughts without conditions. They continue to provide great products, and I simply write my thoughts. 🙂
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