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Topo's for Mac/60Csx

Started by hikermark, January 21, 2010, 03:20:43 PM

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Ok. As a newbie, I'm learning fast. Thanks to everyone who has sent me emails to prod me along.
Here's where I'm at: I'm a hiker, caver, etc - and like to Orienteer as well. I also have a MacBook Pro. I just got a 60Csx and became a little disappointed to learn that I needed to really educate myself on Maps - because the base-map just isn't adequate.

Today I ordered the Garmin 24K Topo's for Michigan/Indiana/Ohio. I'm told they will work flawlessly with the Garmin and the Mac - so at least I feel ok about that.

Yesterday, I ordered MacGPS Pro because I didn't know the difference between raster/vector and I just knew I wanted some detailed topo's to play with. They claim that they use both USGS and USFS Topo's, which I'm expecting are more thorough and will have better trail detail.

Since I haven't recevied the MacGPS Pro software yet, I'm curious - will I really have a need for it if I'm using the Garmin Topo's (do they have trail data) - and then 2ndly, do I even need the Garmin Topo's if I'm using the free maps on this site?

I suppose I'm still a little confused.


Different people have different needs/abilities - could be yes for all to no for all.

GPSrs will not work underground nor underwater.  Cave locations will be rarer than trail info - the antiquities act prevents their disclosure by Federal (and probably non-Federal) agencies; FOIA does not override this.  They were originally in the GNIS, but all were removed as USGS did not want to take the time to determine which were commercial.

The rules of orienteering must have changed; such types of aids were not allowed in DC area competition 20 years ago.  

We have not found a free source of huge amounts of trail data.  There are a number of sites offering trail data submitted by hikers for local to multi-Stare areas.  These mapsets are usually in overlay/transparent format so they can be used with any other mapset on your GPSr.

Garmin says their 24K topos are comparable to USGS maps, however commercial companies rarely are specific about their source data, nor how they might have processed/modified it.
How comparable is defined depends on who is defining it and for what purpose(s).  
Most of the maps on this site are considered 24K quality; althouth none are made from USGS digital line graph files (of which only 4% of the 7-1/2' quads covering the 48 States had all layers completed and USGS stopped releasing new one a decade ago).  You likely would not want to use them anyway as the average age of the data was about 25 years, only highways were labeled (not streets), and the contour line files were huge compared to what we make from NED/DEM gridded elevation data.  

Those who used the initial 24K maps in the western states were saying they had less trails (or none at all) than were on Garmin's 100K product.  People using the more recent ones (central and east) have said they are very happy with all the trails on them.  Perhaps Garmin found a source of trail data and purchased the info to include on their more recent releases.

Garmin's website allows you to view an area(s) of your choice for some of the map products.

You can always try the free maps for free and if they do not meet your needs then purchase something.

I can not comment on MAC as I have never used one.


Funny that you mention the DLG files since I was just playing with them. I found that they had water detail in my area for just about every quad, and when I overlaid it on the NHD data, it matched perfectly. I compared a couple quads with which I'm familiar pretty carefully and even the little streams matched. So I got all excited because they are really quick and easy to download. Then, after collecting a bunch, I looked more carefully and leaned that none of the little streams or lakes were labeled, they just had some kind of ID number. Too much trouble...

I have used Macs since the very beginning and bought MacGPS Pro a a number of years ago. I stopped using it quite awhile ago and never upgraded so I don't know what's new. But realize, they cannot send MAPS to your GPS (unless it's a very new feature!). The raster imagery is only for viewing on your computer. Newer Garmin models (Dakota/Oregon/Colorado) can use raster imagery that you make yourself, but not the 60csx. Personally, I don't find MacGPS Pro useful anymore. Mapping is one of those fields where the Mac is WAY behind - and I do mean WAY behind - the PC. For a variety of reasons, I don't think that will change anytime soon, and that's a shame.

But the good news is, you can install Windows and run the powerful PC applications right on your Mac. Now for ordinary stuff, like loading map files on your GPS and using Garmin's own products, the Mac versions of Basecamp, Roadtrip and Mapinstall will work fine on your Mac. But if you want to MAKE your own maps, then that's a problem with the Mac.


    I would expect that USGS did use the DLG/SDTS data for the NHD where it existed.  A lot of quads had the hydro digitized; its when you count the quads which have all 9 themes (11 files) that barely over 2,000 quads are complete.
   Is what you found the 24k scale data in SDTS format?  Last January, USGS said they had removed them from their website and listed 3 commerical websites they were available from for free.
   Look again.  1.  Not to hard to find a location along the edge of two quads where features do not meet at a common coordinate (both on paper quads and digital files).  Since NHD was intended to model stream flow, etc. the coordinates were adjusted, probably by splitting the difference and proportionately backing it off for some distance to an anchored location on the feature.
2.  DLG contained no names (some feature types had codes for 'names', i.e. highways).  Enhanced DLG format had provision for names but I never saw a file from USGS using that format.  I thought SDTS also could contain names in one of the 25+- files which make up the SDTS package.  Those ID numbers many be refering to that file(s) and the software is not relating to it.
It is a difficult format to work with and a few years later USGS (its originator) 'dropped' it as 'everyone' prefered and considered shape files a standard; however, it did make a lot of data available that USGS would have otherwise charged for.


Cool stuff - thanks for the info. Honestly, I'm not sure of the file format. They were tar gz files, and Globalmapper opened them with one click so that was good enough for me.  :)

Out of more than 100 quads that I looked at, only a few were close to being complete looking maps. I don't think any had 11 themes. Looked like there were some interesting details in a few however, like buildings and man made features. But I was only looking for water data.

The NHD servers seemed to be down for a few days and I was looking for alternatives. In the meantime, all my queued requests can through from NHD so I got what I needed. :)


What an incredible site - you guys are awesome!
I appreciate all of the feedback - even though I'm only understanding every other word.

I should have been more precise in my use for the GPS.
I will not be using the GPS for caving - just locating sink holes.
I will not use the GPS for Orienteering - it isn't allowed. But I am going to use it to practice my Orienteering. I will pick a series of locations off-trail using a Topo - then orient myself to what I think is the point - then confirm with the GPS (this way I don't have to lay out the actual course and set the markers).

I did install the MacGPS Pro tonight. I'm sure its' incredibly powerful, but I didn't find it very intuitive for a newbie. I should have the Garmin maps pretty soon, then I'll be able to compare them to what's available on this site. The good news is if Its' all Garmin - I only have one throat to choke :)


Update: 02/02/10

I received the Garmin Topo (NE 24K) and the City Navigator 2010.

For fun, I compared the 24K Garmin Map to a USGS 24K Map for a Quad that I do a lot of hiking in. I have to admit, the Garmin Map had an incredible amount of detail. Much more than the USGS Quad. Last month I was in an Orienteering Race (no GPS!) and I looked up the UTM coordinates on both maps. As it turns out, the Garmin clearly identified a number of trail systems that were no on any other maps.

As a side note: I learned (painfully) about the USB Card Reader download vs. plugging your unit in via the USB cable. Wow, what a difference.


Haha - it took Garmin a little longer than most companies to realize that USB 2 was invented.  ;D


 >:( They are less behind than the telescope manufactures who still use an RS232 interface.  >:(