Why would you want
to spend a fair amount of money for a topo map? For that matter,
just what is a topo map anyhow?
Second question first, if you donít mind. A topo map (topological)
shows contour lines which show changes in elevation and that means that
you can plot a way to walk through hilly country the easiest possible way.
It allows you to see where the high points are and to have a pretty fair
idea of which way water will flow if and when it rains. Contour lines indicate
the same elevation at all points on the line and lines that are spaced
far apart indicate a slope. Lines close together indicate hilly terrain
and the closer the lines are, the steeper the terrain.
We are volunteers with the American Red Cross for helping in disasters.
The topo lets us have a fairly good idea about the lay of the land and
where to anticipate damage to property even before we arrive on scene.
A topo map sure does give us some pretty good guides as to where we need
to go in order to get into a disaster scene. A good example of that
is shown as an illustration of a topo of Hondo, TX which has suffered a
series of weather related disasters recently.
If you hike, camp, hunt or just wander around the hills near San Antonio
without a pretty good idea of the layout of the land then you are certainly
taking a chance with danger and that, my friend, ainít too smart.
Maptech has a superb product available and it would take a sizable book
to go into detail on all the capability built into this system. They have
taken the topo maps carefully prepared by the USGS and placed them on CD.
Each CD has about 3,500 maps and seamlessly stitches them together as you
scroll from one to another. Texas is well covered and the CD provided
for review contained information for Austin, San Antonio and the Hill Country.
Installation instructions are on the registration card which also contains
the code needed to complete the setup. The three CDís include the
installation disk, the terrain navigator program and the map disk. Installation
was no problem.
The first thing you should do is take the electronic tour found under
the HELP section. This will introduce you to the various ways to
manipulate the map and the tools that are available. The exercises will
help you learn just what can be done and how easy it is to make the system
work with and for you.
One of the nice features is the ability to look at terrain in a 3-D
view which really drives home the elevations and the problems you might
encounter as you hike through the area. You can use the included glasses
a la the old movie system or by use of the built-in system that uses shadings
and curves to show the elevations.
You have the capability to look at a site (I chose Garner State Park)
many ways. I am including the ďflatĒ standard topo view as well as one
that shows the elevations in a 3-D view. You can see that there are some
easy hikes available through the valleys and some substantial uphill ones
that will wear out the most experienced hiker.
The ability to select and mark a route means you can study the map,
pick a hike and make maps for others to use. Games such as Capture the
Flag can be set up fairly accurately and the kids would have a ball and
you can make sure the proper area is selected based on their age and physical
abilities. Paint-ball wars can also be laid out and if the other
team doesnít have access to a topo map, an ambush could be set up rather
If you are lucky enough to have a GPS the Terrain Navigator gives you
latitude/longitude readings to the second so navigation is not too difficult.
The interface is compatible with many different models of GPS and the systems
can be setup using TNís menu.
If you like camping and visiting National Parks (or are interested in
hiking the Appalachian Trail) individual CDís for these areas contain virtual
guidebooks that are complete with text and photos that would normally be
in a guidebook plus electronic links that will take you right to these
attractions that are clearly marked on the topo map.
The information contained on this program is immense and the ways to
manipulate the maps shows a complexity that is most impressive. Maptech
has a winner in this system and I strongly urge you to seriously consider
spending the money if you are a serious camper/hiker/outdoors person.
Maptech sells the
various CD sets for about $150 and the entire US is a staggering $3,499.95.
That would be about 175,000 map, give or take a few.
I donít recommend expensive programs very often but this is one that
should be seriously considered if a topo map can add to your safety or
enjoyment of the outdoors.