Topo Map Software

Posted by: AyersTG

Topo Map Software - 03/22/06 10:22 PM

Before I splurge on Topo map software I want to see if anyone at ETS has hands-on experience and opinions on topo map software for the USA. I intend to purchase Delorme Topo USA v 6.0 when it comes out in a few weeks. AFAIK, one of the minor flaws up through v 5 is that elevations may not be as precise as some would like – that’s not a concern for me.

I intend to use the software to do map recon for potential trips, route planning, custom maps for personal backpacking trips and for scout backpacking trips, etc.

At the consumer end of things, this seems to be the most suitable software available and the cost is quite reasonable. Suggestions and feedback appreciated.


Posted by: tfisher

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 12:48 AM

I use this for both personal and on my Search Team's mapping needs.
Posted by: AyersTG

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 01:50 AM

Dang, Ted, that critter is EXPENSIVE! No doubt you like it! <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> I'm sure I would, too! Really impressive feature set.

Maptech, IIRC, is the one that has about the best elevation data. And getting the photos via subscription keeps them more current on that stuff. Maptech claims down to 1m / pixel resolution... we flew the county at that res in color last year and our city at approx 6" / pixel resolution - I'm mildly curious to see if our investment turns up in someone else's data set.

Closer comparison to Topo USA wouldn't be the Pro version; it would be the standard version: - have you used that version? If so, how do you like it?

Back to cost - that's kind of a big deal to me. Pro is $299/state and regular is $99/state. Topo USA is $99 for all states. National Geographic's topo software is superficially similar to MapTech's and both used scanned maps. I prefer vector-based digital images if I can get them - that's a plus in my mind with the Topo USA. <shrug> I like some of the features in MapTech, so.. that's why I'm looking for info.

So... let me guess - you have Illinois dataset for sure... <trying to figure out what he can trade Ted for a couple of custom map files> <img src="/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

Thanks for the info!

Posted by: billvann

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 02:14 PM

Our trrop Scoutmaster purchased Topo USA to tie into his GPS (I'm not sure what model). I don't have any details but he said he was a bit dissapointed. I can forward your personal email to him for further info if you's like. (then you could summerize for the forum).
Posted by: AyersTG

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 02:56 PM

Willie, please do so. thanks!

Posted by: Nomad

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 03:44 PM

I use the Delorme topo series. As with most of my stuff, it is the older series. In total, I regard it as worth the $$. Again, be careful about uploading maps to a GPS, check that before you buy as I mentioned in the other thread. It does not accept the entire GPS waypoint data from the garmin units. Not sure about other brands. Just lat/lon. identifier. Track and routes are transferable both ways.

That said, I use the maps almost daily. Usually I print out the area and do preliminary GPS/Map coordination. Two copies of the maps (one for me one for Gloria). I keep track of our movements on the paper map (with data from the GPS etc) as we go. Then when I get back, I load the track from the GPS into the program and see how well I was doing with my field work.

I find the detail OK, but no map has everything. I would buy another set, and probably will.

Posted by: KenK

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 03:58 PM

I have Delorme's Topo USA, National Geographic's Topo! (Illinois and Wisconsin only), and ExpertGPS, and they each have their advantages and disadvantages.

The best topo map software I've seen is NG's Topo! State Series, but that comes on a state-by-state basis, and each state costs about $100, so I'd suspect it is too expensive for your needs. That said, it does provide the best map quality that I've seen, so that is why I have it for local use.

ExpertGPS is software ( that is designed to work with your GPS. It provides a place to store waypoints and routes, upload/download them from/to a GPS, and it also provides on-line USGS topo maps and aerial photos (from Terraserver I think - at no extra cost) on which you can mark the waypoints and routes. The newest version can supposedly also used scanned in maps, though I haven't played with that yet. It is really nice software for only $60. If nothing else, it is a fantastic tool for storing GPS waypoints for later use and for easy generation of routes using topo maps. I heartily recommend it. Keep in mind that the topo maps are ONLY available when connected on-line.

I'm not sure what to say about Delorme's Topo USA. I use Delormes Street Atlas USA ALL THE TIME, but I found the accuracy of Topo USA to be poor enought that I use ExpertGPS instead. As a matter of fact I don't even have Topo USA loaded on my PC anymore. It isn't a bad product, it is just that the scanned USGS topo maps available on ExpertGPS are so much more accurate and detailed.

Now if Delorme would merge Street Atlas USA and Topo USA, that would be very cool and I'd use that for sure. One of the things about Street Atlas USA that drives me nuts is that it won't provide UTM coordinates. Dumb!

If you do NOT have to run the software off-line (not on the internet), then I'd go with ExpertGPS. If you DO need to run the software off-line, then I'd go with Topo USA.

Get both if you can ... use Topo USA for visualizing the routes & running off-line, but then use ExpertGPS for managing waypoints and routes.

If you do get Topo USA, strongly consider getting the DVD version if possible. Swapping out CD's is a pain.
Posted by: AyersTG

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 04:39 PM


Between your comments, KenK's, and everyone else's so far, I have decided to wait a few weeks and order Topo USA version 6

(The current version blurb is here:

And I note enhanced GPS capability, specifically with Garmin units...

Speaking of which, I decided to save up for a new Garmin 76Cx or 76CxS. For the small difference in cost between it and the 60CxS... they're both a little spendy. Well, if I find a killer deal on a 60Cx or CxS, that would be fine, but I'm aiming for the 76.

KenK, Thanks for the tips! I think the new version of TopoUSA is supposed to address some of your concerns. After I get it and use it for a while, I may follow your advice about the other software - I saved the link. BTW, I am certain that I read a review in which the author stated that she finally figured out how to put the whole Topo USA on her hard drive and not have to swap CDs in and out, so maybe there is a way for you to do that. I will buy the DVD version when it comes out, regardless.

Thanks to everyone for the advice, experiences, and tips!

Posted by: AyersTG

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 06:16 PM

Ken, Maybe this would be helpful:
Posted by: cedfire

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/23/06 11:14 PM

I have an older version of the DeLorme Topo USA program and it was $100 with about 7 or 8 CDs. I think they now put it all on one DVD.

After looking at the maps, it sure looks like DeLorme just took 1:100K series maps to suit their purposes (similar to what Garmin did with their MapSource Topo program). The other scales 1:24K, etc., don't appear the same as USGS topos. Contour intervals appear to be guesstimated when less than 1:100K. The one thing DeLorme has going for it is the draw tools and routing tools have plenty of features and are easy to use. The 3D model option in is also pretty slick.

I also have the state version of National Geographic's Topo program. The maps are detailed and are scanned USGS topos. The draw tools and routing tools on the NG software leave a bit to be desired. Kinda clunky.

It would be great if they would combine the software of DeLorme Topo USA with the maps of NG Topo.
Posted by: tfisher

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/24/06 01:15 AM

Very true it is expensive, sometimes they run a $99.00 perstate sale. I have Illinois and Indiana.

There are some quirks in Terrain Navigator Pro that I Don't like. the file system is strange some drawing features are a pain. But for the most part It works well in a SAR environment.

I have used Delorme and Street Atlas and National Geographic, I guess NG was the best of the three for me. But the user interfaces and no UTM, limited printing was a dissappointment.

Even our $30,000 GIS system at work is not perfect. All I can suggest is try before you buy if you can.
Posted by: AyersTG

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/24/06 03:38 AM

Looks like Delorme version 6 will not ship until May, so I'm personally cooling my jets for a while. I asked them about upgrade and the reply, while prompt, was less than I expected: If you purchase a Delorme product that is updated within 30 days of your purchase, they will offer you a discounted purchase offer on the new version. Nothing specific.

ESRI product at work - like ARC View, maybe? I use that at work, but am waiting for IS to install the latest version. I don't enter data or maintain data, though - just an executive user. Database design and maintenance is the real work behind the scenes... and the real expense. I probably give our IS staff nightmares... nah, not really.

Posted by: Nomad

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/24/06 01:11 PM

I have loaded both DeLorme Street Atlas and Topo to my HD. Have the entire US for both map sets. I don't remember the steps, but it was very simple. Seems like I ran another program called the extractor which asked me which maps I wanted. I clicked US and it put it all on the HD. Works great.

Posted by: KenK

Re: Topo Map Software - 03/24/06 02:56 PM

While you're waiting, check this out. I've never used it, but it says it is free and looks kind of cool.