We've all heard the hiking disaster stories by now. The guy in the northeast who lost his way and called a rescue helicopter via his cell phone. The two buddies who wandered Death Valley, lost for days, one eventually forced to put the other out of his severe dehydration-induced misery. So that you don't end up on the menu of the next Donner party, here are some cool high-tech mapping and navigation tools that'll help you find your way through the Rockies or to the local Starbucks.
First, be prepared — always plan your itinerary and study your routes prior to heading out. Before you load up the SUV, take a virtual trek of your destination with MapTech’s impressive range of topographical software on CD-ROM. Not only do you get USGS topographical maps in 1:24,000 and 1:100,000 scales, you can view them in four zoom levels with path elevations and lines-of-site. Marking and measuring distances, and adding your own notes and waypoints takes a simple click of the mouse. Edit an itinerary and print it out, in gorgeous color, for pocket use, or transfer it to your PDA or GPS unit.
Now, you can take it with you. For a seamless adventure, you can send your itinerary and topo maps to your Palm or WinCE PDA along with those favorite campfire recipes. All of the software above is compatible with map transfer applications, such as Solus, a free application from DeLorme that transfers maps (created with DeLorme’s mapping software) from your PC to your PDA. If you want to use your maps on a handheld computer of GPS unit, check to find out what software (and possible hardware) is needed before you buy the mapping software you’re interested in.