National Geographic's National Park Maps
Back in October I gave you a run down on Maptech's Complete National Park Collection, a CD-ROM-driven software package that lets you plan your backcountry adventure in 54 of the country's national parks and sync your trek with your GPS unit.
Well, I finally got around to comparing it to National Geographic's National Park Maps software, and discovered there are some significant differences.
To be straightforward, I found Maptech's product to be superior. While the National Geographic product ($49.95, available at www.ngmapstore.com) gives you six more park maps, for a total of 60, and integrates the company's Trails Illustrated maps, which I consider to be the best on the market for navigating your way around the backcountry, overall the software package fell short of Maptech's.
While it's nice to have the Trails Illustrated maps come up on your computer, once you drill down beneath them you arrive at a USGS map that, because of its coloration, is harder to read than the USGS maps used by Maptech, which appear sharper and carry a tad bit more detail. And while I do think National Geographic does a slightly better job of displaying GPS coordinates as you tool around the maps, Maptech simply offers more features.
With Maptech you can call up a box of park activities that, when you click on one, gives you a short rundown of the activity, contact information, and the GPS coordinates of where in the park that activity is conducted. You can find specific locations in the park in a similar fashion. National Geographic's product also lets you find GPS coordinates of various locations in, and out, of the park, but without the additional information.
Maptech also has a neat feature called "seamless view" in which the software turns two adjoining maps into one. That comes in handy when you're following a trail, such as the hike to the top of Halfdome in Yosemite, that moves from one topographic map to another. Click seamless view and all of a sudden the two maps become one.
Both products provide 3D views of your hike, although I could never figure out exactly how National Geographic's software accomplishes that, while with Maptech you simply, and easily, select 3D view and there it is. Pretty straightforward.
I also like the way Maptech lets you "slide" the map across your monitor screen, similar to the way you might pull a map across a tabletop to get a better view of a location.
Both products let you plot your own waystations across the maps, and both let you download, and upload, GPS coordinates. One thing I don't like about either product is that the instruction manuals are kept under the "Help" section. There are no hard copies, unless you print one out at home.