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Joe and Marion Barth are both retired and spend their time volunteering with APCO and with the American Red Cross. Their stated goal in life is to spoil the grandchildren and they are doing quite well at achieving that goal.

From the June, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

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 easily.

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.

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