App Review: Topo Maps App
Everyone that ventures into the backcountry needs a map. Bikers, hikers, backpackers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts rely on maps to help them navigate through the backcountry. They are an essential ingredient to any successful backcountry mission. Now every USGS and Canadian topo map are downloadable for free and ready to use in one handy app – Topo Maps.
The Topo Maps app is an essential app for every outdoor enthusiast. No matter where you go in North America you can now download every topo map for free. Picking up every quad map you need can be a hassle. Plus it’s expensive. Now, highly detailed, quads are easy to download at the touch of a button.
The app’s creator, Phil Endecott, only charges $7.99 for this app. It’s worth every penny. He has scanned in over 70,000 USGS and Canadian topo maps. The USGS maps are standard 1:24,000 scale maps, the Canadian maps are 1:50,000, Alaska is 1:24,000 and 1:63,360. Plus the app contains maps for Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
The best part of the app is that you are able to “stitch” two (or more) maps together to form one flawless single, zoomable map. Let’s take a closer look at how this app works.
Using the app is simple. Download the maps you need from via Wi-Fi or cell signal. Each map is about 8mb in size. It is stored on your phone for use after you lose cell signal.
When you open the map, you get a two part overview of North America. Zoom in where you want to go. Any green rectangles are downloaded maps.
Continue to zoom until you see a grid system appear. Each grid quadrant is a separate named map.
Tap and hold the quadrangle you want to download. You can do a quick install or a full install. I always opt for full install to ensure I have adequate detail.
Once the single map is downloaded, you can zoom and scroll to highlight the area you want to see. Contour lines, mountain peaks, trails, lakes, rivers, and other map features are highly visible.
If you scroll toward an adjoining map (that you’ve already downloaded), you can tap the arrow to stitch the maps together into one flawless map. This is ideal as almost every fun place requires multiple maps to get the full route or the lay of the land. In the picture below, 18 maps are stitched together to show the Madison Range of SW Montana. You can stitch together as many maps as you want, as long as they are all downloaded.
On the screen there are several arrows that allow you to pull up additional features including the ability to display latitude or longitude, choose NAD27 or WGS84, measure distance, add waypoints, adjust shading, see maps on Apple Maps, Satellite, Hybrid, or Open Street Map, add or export Waypoints, pinpoint your location, search maps, orient yourself with compass, or access the help menu and more.
One great feature of the Topo Maps app is that it functions on the smartphone’s GPS capability. This means that besides downloading new maps, the app still works without a phone signal.
Topo Maps is a great addition to a standard “battery-free” paper map and a dedicated GPS unit. I wouldn’t rely on it too much because smartphones are notorious for losing battery quickly. Topo Maps app is ideal for pre trip planning, quick orientation, or as a mapping/GPS backup. If you do use your smartphone for your primary mapping tool, be sure to bring a Goal Zero charger to keep your cell phone protected. And don’t let it get wet!
The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod. It requires iOS 5.0 or later. I use it on my iPhone because it’s handy to carry in my backpack, but using it on an iPad is ideal for a larger viewing screen during pre-trip planning.
If you’re looking for searchable, stitchable, orientable, zoomable, free access to all North American quads, then Topo Maps is the answer for you.