Hike New Hampshire
Trips in NH
The New Hampshire Region
Review by: ROB

If you hike anywhere you are familiar with topographic maps published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). These maps are the best available for land navigation within the United States, and no one should ever enter unfamiliar terrain without one (and a compass), no matter how charged the battery is in your cell phone (kidding!).

If you have worked with these maps in the past you know all of the hassles associated with them:

  • They are can be a pain to get -- unless a local outfitter carries them you have to mail order them from the USGS in either Virginia or Colorado.
  • They are large and unwieldy when hiking -- you usually have to fold them into ridiculous shapes to conveniently carry them.
  • Each quad normally covers far more area than you need.
  • If your hike takes you over the border between two maps, alignment and route plotting can be a nightmare.

Now imagine that you could easily obtain all (that's every single one) the maps for a given area, say as large as a state. And, not only that, but you could get all of the different scale maps in the same package, including the 1:12,000, 1:24,000, 1:63,360, and 1:250,000 series. And what if that package fit on 2 CD ROMs? Would you work yourself into a lather?

TOPO! Gives you all of this and more. In addition to providing complete coverage of several regions of the country, each region contains all of the available maps in the scales listed as well as a 1:633,600 scale road map. The program gives you complete flexibility to edit, link, mark, and plot all sorts of courses on these maps. It has tools to calculate compass directions and distances, as well as a feature that allows elevation profiling.

It would be way too difficult to give a complete description of all of the features here -- go to their web site and see for yourself. I will simply list some of the things I like about using this program:

  1. TOPO! seamlessly merges two or more maps when the desired viewing area extends over a map border. Many packages that I looked at do not do this, and working with a large area on multiple maps can be more complicated than working with the paper counterparts.
  2. TOPO! offers elevation profiling. This way you can get a look at what you are in store for before you hit the trail.
  3. TOPO! offers a multitude of output options. This is important if you intend to use the maps like I do and display them in both printed and on-screen formats. For example, I can create a map prior to a hike and print it with outstanding resolution on an HP DeskJet 722C printer at 300 X 300 dpi, and then save the same file as a .jpg image @ 72 X 72 dpi resolution. This saves valuable file space on this web server.

In short, I feel that TOPO! is a great package and recommend it highly if you use topo maps a lot. It cost me around $40.00, but the things I have been able to do with it make that a very worthwile investment. It is a flexible package that is powerful enough to allow me to plan a multi-day hike and gather plenty of data before I leave, and then print or display that data in a variety of formats.

I recommend it highly if you are in the market for relatively inexpensive mapping software. And keep your eyes peeled as you float around this site. All of the maps, routes, and elevation profiles displayed on Hike-NH.com were created with TOPO!

Finally, I feel like I have to throw in a good word for the company that makes TOPO!. If you have used a computer for any length of time, you know how frustrating it can be to get help from a manufacturer when something goes wrong with a piece of hardware or software. A while back, I had a problem with my computer, and decided (don't ask why) to reformat the hard drive, and reinstall Win95. While I was at it, I decided to upgrade to Win98. So, after an hour or so, I got Win98 installed and was in the process of reinstalling my applications when I tried to install the copy of TOPO that I had. The install program locked up every time. Great, I thought. This was late on a Saturday night. So I decided to go to TOPO's website -- maybe, just maybe, they would have a FAQ addressing this or at least a customer support number. At this point, I'm sure you're all thinking what I was thinking -- yeah, right, sure they'll have a fix. When I got to the website, it was well laid out. To make a long story short, they not only had a FAQ, but a new version of the program available for FREE download. I was running again within 30 minutes. Since then they have continued to post updates to the site whenever new functionality becomes available. That's the kind of service I like. Since then, TOPO! has my loyalty. I suggest you try it, too.

Please note that anything I say here is simply my opinion. I am an expert (and a legend) only in my own mind. For the official corporate scoop, check out this product at TOPO!'s Website. You can click here or on the banner below.

Copyright © 1999-2008
Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy