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Brewer

Mountaineering maps: USGS Quadrangles?

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Are USGS Quads appropriate/useful for mountaineering? Are there many people who use them, or are there more useful map systems out there...?

 

 

(I realize, of course, that guide maps, photos, etc are also important)

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Some may disagree, but many feel that USGS maps are the bench mark which all cartographers in the world strive. Some smaller countries have very excellent maps, and some private endevors make good maps of special areas, but no one else has done as great a job of high quality mapping of a large country as the USGS.

 

Most privately produced topographic maps in the US (Green Trails as an example) use the topographic mapping of the USGS.

 

 

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I'd agree the USGS maps are the best thing for this country, I much prefer them to Green Trails and the like.

 

The official Canadian topo maps I've used in the Rockies were pretty damn fine too.

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Yes, they are most useful.

 

No trails on most of the quads tho, best used in combination with Green Trails or Topo!.

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Yes, the USGS maps are the benchmark, but these days I use Natnl Geographic TOPO! to produce "customized" 24K topo maps for each climb.

1. You can print the UTM grid on the map to enable use of GPS in whiteout, etc. No need to hand draw the grid.

2. Map can be printed on one sheet of waterproof paper.

3. You can print waypoints or routes on the map.

4. Map can be custom sized, so that you can enlarge the area you want to fill a page, and not print areas which are not near your route.

USGS maps are very "basic".

 

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That sounds like a good tool, too. I currently have an older version of DeLorme's Topo USA (3.0) which does pretty well for backcountry topo stuff. Fairly customizable, and gives good elevation profiles for routes and such. Also interfaces with GPS units, but I've just started exploring that feature. At some point I may upgrade to a newer version.

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I guess the basic thing works for us old salts who've never used a GPS and don't mind taping things together if need be.

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Yes, the USGS maps are the benchmark, but these days I use Natnl Geographic TOPO! to produce "customized" 24K topo maps for each climb.

1. You can print the UTM grid on the map to enable use of GPS in whiteout, etc. No need to hand draw the grid.

2. Map can be printed on one sheet of waterproof paper.

3. You can print waypoints or routes on the map.

4. Map can be custom sized, so that you can enlarge the area you want to fill a page, and not print areas which are not near your route.

USGS maps are very "basic".

 

National Geographis TOPO! maps are re-packaged and re-manipulated USGS maps.

 

My point is, except in very few cases, when you buy a topographic map in the USA, you are in the final analysis, buying a USGS map.

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Is the Delorme software as detailed as a 7.5' map? I know most Greentrails maps are based on 15' maps and just aren't detailed enough for accurate off-trail navigation. I usually print out a 7.5' map of my destination with waypoints and routes from Topo and carry a 7.5' quad to be able to see the bigger picture. Have to admit though that those quads usually stay folded in the pack, while the printouts get looked at over and over.

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I tried out the Delorme software a couple of years ago, and at that time, found that they had deleted far too much of the original data for the maps to be all that useful. For computer maps, Topo! is the best out there unless you want to step waaay up and get MapTech.

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National Geographis TOPO! maps are re-packaged and re-manipulated USGS maps.

 

My point is, except in very few cases, when you buy a topographic map in the USA, you are in the final analysis, buying a USGS map.

 

USGS maps are the standard that all these other companies use and manipulate to their liking. To the best of my knoledge you can go straight to the source and get a cd of USGS maps then if you like combine a couple grids to get your perfect map.

 

In the past I've used a lot of Canadian topos. Most of my trips have been during cold and wet conditions. To deal with this I stick the section I want in a ziplock bag or coat the maps with goo to help prevent moisture damage.

 

The bottom Line is I'm using a USGS map (or Canadian equivalent) and the other companies are just trying to sell you on their manipulation of a USGS map. Why pay them when you can coat the map yourself or get a ziplock.

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A tip on protecting your map from the elements:

 

Buy a pack of sheet protectors from any office supply store or well equipped supermarket. Y'know, the kind you can put into a 3 ring binder and then slip 8.5 x 11' paper into.

 

They are: dirt cheap, reuseable, weight nothing, almost tear proof, and, unless water get in the seam at the top, totally waterproof. Put scotch tape all across the top for a waterproof seam.) You can write on / draw on your map, and then reinsert it into the sleeve. All the other solutions out there (ziplock bag, clear shelving paper, map protect goop) do not have these beautific qualities . . . (OK, the humble ziplock comes close).

 

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WARNING: Major map nerdery follows....

 

Buy USGS 7.5 quads.

 

Draw UTM grids using the blue ticks.

 

Trim the margins, tape legend on the back of the map.

 

Laminate with the thinnest vistafoil from brodart.

 

Use a sharpie all you want, write plans, ransom demands on the back, etc...

 

You'll get years of durable, waterproof service and a handy patch for those pesky sucking chest wounds (tape three sides).

 

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head_logo.jpg

 

are more a world standard than the Swiss.... because they have maps covering many of the major ranges (Alps, Himalaya, Andes, etc.)

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Some may disagree, but many feel that USGS maps are the bench mark which all cartographers in the world strive. Some smaller countries have very excellent maps, and some private endevors make good maps of special areas, but no one else has done as great a job of high quality mapping of a large country as the USGS.

 

While the usgs quads are very nice, I would say the swiss map sets are the world benchmark standard for quality.

 

those Swiss are fuckers.

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Those schweiz topos really are beautiful. But they lack ominously verdant valleys - nothing but glaciers and peaks. What fun is that? :crosseye:

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You can order the Austrian ones direct from the club at

http://www.alpenverein.at/shop/

and the swiss ones from:

http://www.sac-cas.ch/Verlag-und-Clubshop.296.0.html

It pays to be a member.

 

If you are in Europe the large bookstore in the Zurich train station stocks most of the swiss maps, in Austria try the map shop in Innsbruck next to the OeAV headquarters, or go to the headquarters themselves for OeAV maps. Careful in the mapshop - it's easy to drop $$$ in a shop that has an entire floor devoted entirely to climbing, skiing and hiking guidebooks and maps.

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