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Mapsource Topo. Is It Good For Hiking?


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Your 60CS is capable of autorouting using the City Select map software, and autorouting is one of the best features of that unit. It will NOT autoroute using Topo maps.


If you're not interested in street mapping and autorouting, then Topo maps are good for caching and hiking. It will show small streams and trails that City Select doesn't show. The points of interest are more geared toward outoor activities as well. The drawback to the Topo maps is that they're VERY outdated. Terrain features don't change that much from year-to-year. As a result, many roads built in the last 10 to 20 years may not show up on the maps.


You can check out the MapSource map viewer ON THIS PAGE. The link is in the upper right corner of the page under where it says "MapSource Map Viewer". Select the appropriate region. You get all four regions listed there on three CDs in the Topo package.

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You might consider Delorme Topo USA. It has topo maps that are overlaid with up-to-date road and trail info, it allows you to view the terrain in 3D, allows displaying/printing maps with UTM grids (useful for plotting your position on the map if your GPS is set to UTM/NAD27), has an excellent search function, etc.


The maps themselves are not uploadable to the GPS, but you can upload/download points & routes between the gps and the map program, and print a paper map to take into the field. Worth checking out.

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I use Mapsource Topo in my 60cs. Be aware that the contour lines are spaced every 160ft. This is not high detail. The map scale is 1:100,000. The higher detail maps are the 1:24,000 series but they only cover the National Parks. The contour lines here are at 40ft intervals and the detail is excellent but the coverage is limited. They are certainly not without significant errors. On a recent boat trip on Lake Powell using the 1:24000 maps they showed islands in the lake where none exist or have ever existed. The map is drawn with a water level of 3700ft. When we were there the water level was 3600ft. I can assure you that these islands were in error. These were not small blips but land masses 1 mile long. For those with this map series check out the main channel between Halls Creek Bay and the Rincon.

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The maps in Mapsource Topo (the 3 disc, full USA version) have the contour lines drawn as vectorized from USGS DEM files. These are interpolated from the grid, not vectorized from the usual quads. They are very poor representations of the terrain in regions of high relief (that is, lots of steep slopes such as hills and canyons). Extreme examples can be seen in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, and similar places. Also, some peculiarities show up where the DEM grid changes spacing (100m in much of the US, but 1 km in some areas). It can be quite disconcerting to try to follow a ridge line, for example, when the real ridge turns one direction but the MapSource ridge turns the opposite way.


By the way, the elevations in MapSource are metric, since the USGS DEM grids are metric. The spacing can be 50 m in hilly terrain or 10 m in flatter terrain. You can display them as feet, but it is a direct translation, not a redrawing of the lines, so 50m is 164 ft and 10 m is 33 ft (the displayed numbers get rounded).


Another problem is that the trails and roads (and streams and lakeshores) are also vectorized. That is, they are made up of a series of points connected by lines (not curves). This mostly shows up at large magnifications, but you can be significantly off a trail or road with the screen showing you on it (as much as a mile in some parts of Alaska, but several hundred yards in the Rockies or Sierra), or conversely.


Yesterday, I was walking the boundaries of one of our Boy Scout camps to check on the survey monuments. The camp is in steep terrain in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The deviations from reality were quite significant. An example was a "found corner" on top of a sharp ridge, which MapSource was showing as non-existent, with a broad slope instead. The USGS and county survey maps showed the ridge, although somewhat broader than in reality (60CS showed the lat/lon accurately, just the map was misleading).


The 24k MapSource maps are better, but are limited to National Parks.


Bottom line is you need to take a USGS map with you if you are going crosscountry, or at least an accurate trail map (USFS, for example) if you are sticking on trails. You can load USGS 7.5 min maps into your PDA with NatGeo's Topo! or Delorme's TopoUSA (state series, not the single disc version). You may have to get the PDA extension for each of these, depending on which version of the software you have. But you still have the battery life problem. At least paper maps don't run out of battery, and you can print them yourself to match your desired area onto waterproof paper (several sources, including Cabela's catalog and NatGeo's version of waterproof paper at REI, EMS, and other outdoor stores).

Edited by OGBO
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Why not just get Memory-Map Navigator? You can download your USGS maps right off the internet. You can load maps from the USGS seamless site and even aerial photos from USAPhotoMaps. They load into your PC and then you can send them to a Pocket PC. You can send routes / tracks / waypoints to your GPS. Or, you can print the maps (with your routes / tracks / waypoints / notes) and take them along.

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I used to hike with a 60cs and topo, but switching to a pocket pc with a bluetooth GPS made a world of a difference. With the PPC solution I can scan detailed, up-to-date hiking maps with all the trails and good (24k) surface detail. In addition I can keep the GPS in my backpack and the PPC on my belt and get good reception AND conveniently access the map at the same time.


My PPC is also much smaller than the 60cs was...

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The maps in Mapsource Topo (the 3 disc, full USA version) have the contour lines drawn as vectorized from USGS DEM files. These are interpolated from the grid, not vectorized from the usual quads.

I pretty much agree with the rest of your description, but Garmin's MapSource Topo uses USGS DRG files, not DEM (Magellan's MapSend uses DEM). So the contour lines are taken directly from the USGS maps rather than being based on points in a grid structure. But they still miss much of the detail that's on the 1:24000 quads since the original maps used are the 1:100,000 scale.


Note that when using contour lines interpolated from the DEM grid the spacing can be easily changed between metric and english units. That's why Magellan's MapSend shows logical contour spacing in either meters or feet. Since Garmin uses the DRG digitization they have to keep exactly the same contour lines that are on the original maps. The 1:100,000 series is metric so the spacing is always a nice even number of meters but looks odd when displayed in feet (33', 66', 164', etc.).

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Another option...

You can fairly easily create custom topo maps of your favorite areas and upload them to your GPSr. 10-foot contour intervals with streams and lakes is no problem. USGS Seamless has .3 arc-second DEM data (better than 24K topo maps) and NHD has good water feature data. Not to much non-Forest Service trail data is available though.


You can view your topos together (at the same time) with City Select, which I don't think Garmin TOPO will let you do.

Tutorial is at: http://home.cinci.rr.com/creek/garmin.htm



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Since the 60cs came out, I've used City Select to route me to the caches and then switched the GPSr to Topo to begin the trek. For most uses the Topo is plenty good for what you need to accomplish. Detail is only slightly lacking, but I've never needed more than it shows, yet.

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MapSource Topo isnt all its cracked up to be. It was the first one I purchased and soon found that it doesnt give you enough detail. I do use it though for logging my k9tracks, but never without using my other program too. The other program is MapTech Terrain Navigator Pro. This is an awesome program.......I dont leave home without a map from this program. It gives you great detail of the ground you will be covering. It also has several mapping techniques...NAD 27, NAD 83, Lat/Long, etc. There are alot more features which I wont go into here but it wouldnt hurt to go to the website and check it out.




I highly recommend this program. I am not sure wether you can use it with your GPS though, you will have to check that out for yourself. I use it with a Garmin Rhino 130 and have had no problems. I recommend you purchase a program that gives you topographical maps. Good Luck! :)

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I wondered if anyone had an opinion on Mapsource Topo. Looking to used a Garmin 60CS for Geocaching in Arizona.



Garmin has tolld me that Topo is ONLY for off-road use - in otherwords out in the bush.

The street data is woefully out of date. At least for my Columbia, MD area. It does show more streams, gorges, and the usual topo trerrain features. I use it on my iQUE m5 and it is on a 128 MEG SDcard all by itself. The 128MEG card will handle about four eastern states - more than I'd ever need.


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