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Detailed Topographic/Backpacking Maps

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 10:58 am
by janky
I've seen from a few blog posts that folks have a way of generating just the portion of a map they need to bring w/ them for a backpacking trip. Can someone tell me how to do this? Last summer we went to Chain Lakes and it would've been really helpful to have a more detailed map of just the section we were hiking from Quartz Mountain Trailhead to Chain Lakes. Distances, passes, etc are very useful to see. I saw on one blog that the section of map they had was from National Geographic. Is there a way to produce these sections of the maps electronically?

Re: Detailed Topographic/Backpacking Maps

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:51 pm
by AlmostThere
You can order them from some companies like MyTopo.

I've used Map GPS Pro to print them. The USGS quads can be downloaded some places and then printed on many smaller pieces of paper -- but if you want to actually use them with a compass, you will want things printed around the edges, like the lat/long or UTM notations, and you'll want perhaps some of the legend, for example what the current declination is for the region you are in (magnetic currents change slightly from year to year). So using software to create your own maps is best, for folks who know how to navigate with them.

If all you want is a good topo map with the trails printed on, the most up to date are Tom Harrison's -- the ancient USGS quads are updated on a glacial scale, and trails get rerouted or decommissioned over time. ALL the maps around are based on USGS quads. National Geographic's maps have some really idiotic mileage mistakes and tend to be printed at ridiculous scales that make it impossible to use them for actual navigation purposes, but make good route planning tools. Harrison and his crew actually walk the trails with a wheel and then annotate the map -- theirs are the only retail maps that have all the trails in Dinkey Wilderness, for example, because they were the only ones who put boots on the ground to see them.

Harrison also makes apps of his maps, but you SHOULD NEVER EVER rely on electronics for something so essential as navigation, because THEY ALL FAIL. Batteries die, things break, cold zaps battery life and connectivity is dicey. I speak on behalf of all SAR teams everywhere - do not replace paper maps with electronics!!!!!

Re: Detailed Topographic/Backpacking Maps

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 4:18 pm
by janky
This is great information, thank you. I'm taking a look at MyTopo right now.

Re: Detailed Topographic/Backpacking Maps

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 5:21 pm
by Phil
You can always do the Yosemite High Country 1:63,360 Tom Harrison for primary navigation, and then if you want to "see" specific details of a particular area, download and print a sat image off MyTopo. You can zoom those images in to where you can find things like fire rings and the nature of terrain features with amazing resolution.

Re: Detailed Topographic/Backpacking Maps

PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:00 pm
by MadDiver
Hey All,

Rather late reply but I figure I'd throw in my 2cents... I really like CalTopo as an online map for planning and it's great for printing out those detailed areas that might be "a little tricky". In addition to the normal USGS quads you can also switch to US Forsest Service maps which can have different details (mines, claims, etc..) as well as 2 different historic maps (pull up the older one for Yosemite, it's pretty cool). The slope shading feature is very nice when deciding which off trail route to take to a summit or over a pass. I also like being able to highlight a trail (or your own drawn line) and see it's distance and elevation profile. And it's FREE :)

Re: Detailed Topographic/Backpacking Maps

PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:44 am
by OMark
You can also find free downloadable maps at