My number one most favorite app is Topo Maps by Phil Endecott. Topo Maps doesn’t have a lot of bloat and useless features. The best part is that Topo Maps does not rely on cached imagery or cellphone towers. It will let you pinpoint your location even when your iPhone can’t talk to a cellular service tower using your phone’s built in GPS.
Topo Maps utilizes USGS 1:24,000 scale topological maps which are downloaded in to the app. To use the app, you first zoom into your area of the U.S. or Canada, which will show you a grid. Each grid has a name based on the corresponding USGS map title. If you tap and hold the square (the map) of the area you want, you’ll download the map to your phone. In total, more than 70,000 individual maps are available. You can download as many of these as you like, limited only by the storage capacity of your device. You’ll want to do this in advance, at home, while you’re on a WiFi connection.
Endecott’s Topo Maps app will provide you with a little blue dot that shows your current location on the map, via a GPS coordinate. The app contains a database of more than a million placenames, which you can search to find the map that you need and to find individual features on those maps. You can add your own waypoints to the maps, and download waypoint files from the internet.
As well as the maps themselves, Topo Maps also downloads terrain data. This is used to apply a 3D shading effect over the map to make the shape of the land clearer. You can even adjust the direction of the simulated sunlight that this effect uses. The terrain data is also put to other purposes, including a visibility mode which calculates what should be visible from any viewpoint. You can also mosaic maps together flawlessly.
On the new US Topo maps:
- Very few hiking trails are shown.
- Few railroads, buildings, campsites and other important features are shown.
- Contour lines have been smoothed out, showing less detail on steep ground.
Here is a comparison of the Traditional Topo (used in this app) maps versus the new US Topo maps.
This app is deigned for backcountry, so the use of Traditional Topo rather than the new US Topo format is highly preferred. The detailed renderings are second to none for 1:24,000 scale topological maps. Furthermore, unlike many apps out there, Topo Maps does not use the server resources provided by MyTopo or Trimble, so the recent acquisition has no affect.
Below are some screen shots I took on my phone highlighting the different features.
In all, I would highly recommend this app for backcountry use. It is highly responsive and does everything a person would need for a back up map or route planning. The app contains powerful navigation features without the useless gizmos.
More information can be found on the publisher’s website: topomapsapp.com
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