Topo Maps and Where to Find Them

topo maps

After the blogs we recently posted on bug out routes, I decided to take a look at my maps and maybe upgrade a few.  After deciding what I needed, I went down to a local mining store that always carried them in the past.  No luck, so I checked the website for REI and they no longer carry the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) topo maps.

Then I went to the internet and found that you can download the topo maps for free from the USGS website http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2013/3093/.  The only problem with this is, I need paper copies and the maps are larger than you can print on the average printer.  One of my sons has a plotter that will print them, but you need something that will print 24 inches wide if you want them full size.  You can buy paper copies but they run from 8-15 dollars each.  In my case, this would be about 10 maps in the $15 range.

The following is what the USGS has to say about the new topo maps

“US Topo is the next generation of topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Arranged in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format, digital US Topo maps are designed to look and feel (and perform) like the traditional paper topographic maps for which the USGS is so well known. In contrast to paper-based maps, US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support faster, wider public distribution and enable basic, on-screen geographic analysis for all users.

The US Topo quadrangle map has been redesigned so that map elements are visually distinguishable with the imagery turned on and off, while keeping the file size as small as possible. The US Topo map redesign includes improvements to various display factors, including symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbology, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts. New features for 2013 include the following: a raster shaded relief layer, military boundaries, cemeteries and post offices, and a US Topo cartographic symbols legend as an attachment.

US Topo quadrangle maps are available free on the Web. Each map quadrangle is constructed in GeoPDF® format using key layers of geographic data (orthoimagery, roads, geographic names, topographic contours, and hydrographic features) from The National Map databases.

US Topo quadrangle maps can be printed from personal computers or plotters as complete, full-sized, maps or in customized sections, in a user-desired specific format. Paper copies of the maps can also be purchased from the USGS Store. Download links and a users guide are featured on the US Topo Web site.

US Topo users can turn geographic data layers on and off as needed; they can zoom in and out to highlight specific features or see a broader area. File size for each digital 7.5-minute quadrangle, about 30 megabytes. Associated electronic tools for geographic analysis are available free for download. The US Topo provides the Nation with a topographic product that users can quickly incorporate into decision making, operational or recreational activities.”

As you can see from the above, they are designed for use on a computer.  I found other sites on the internet that will sell you maps, but they are all in the same price range and the free ones you can download all have the same problems as the USGS maps.  If you decide to download or buy any maps off the internet, check what year they were made and find the newest you can get.  Check with the local office of the US Forest Service, they sometimes stock maps for sale.

The USGS has a wide variety of topo maps, check this post, I wrote a while back for more information Get Good Maps.  However, it seems like it is getting harder to find paper copies.  In an emergency they will be nonexistent, get yours now while they are still available.

Howard

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