Maps go high-tech

I’m in love. Absolutely smitten. I’m so taken in, I can barely think about anything else. Er, well, I’m almost as in love as I am with my wife and kids.

Just when I thought the folks at MyTopo couldn’t do any more to win me over, they did just that. These are the people who won my heart years ago when they took all the USGS topographical maps and put them into a single, seamless database. But they didn’t stop there. They gave everybody with a computer and an internet connection the ability to order custom-made maps, and they put ‘em on waterproof, tear-proof paper.

Over the next several years, they added more features. You can get maps that have hunt area boundaries. You can overlay topo data on aerial photos. You can get a single map that has all the data that would normally be on eight or ten USGS maps. And it’s all affordable, too. Even more so now. Those USGS quads used to be four bucks, but now they’re eight. MyTopo maps, customized to your specifications and printed on that durable paper, start at ten bucks.

But they didn’t stop there. MyTopo recently bought Terrain Navigator, a computer mapping program. And they made it better. I’ve been fiddling with the copy I bought a week ago, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the features it’ll do. The program links to Google Earth, and I’ve been spending all my time checking that out.

The new Terrain Navigator comes in two versions for each state in the U.S. There’s the basic version, which is plenty for just about anyone. It does all the mapping, printing up to 11 by 17 inches, and data transfer to and from GPS units, and it’s ninety-nine dollars for each state. The pro version adds the Google Earth interface, large-format map printing, and GIS and CAD export features that search and rescue groups would use. That version’s three hundred dollars per state.

Terrain Navigator is great for any avid outdoor explorer. A warning, though: you won’t want to turn it off, unless it’s to go collect more tracks and waypoints to download back into the program.