December 9, 2008


At National Geographic we've always prided ourselves on the quality of our cartography. But there's another factor that plays into the quality of our maps, and that is manufacturing.

National Geographic Maps production manager Dutch Holland accepts a "Benny" -- one of the printing industry's highest honors -- for the six-by-four-foot United States Executive map. The presentation was made by Janet Green, head of the board of Printing Industries of America and Graphic Arts Technical Foundation at a recent Premier Print Awards gala in Chicago. Dutch supervised the printing of the map done by National Print Group in Chattanooga, Tenn. The 70 "Benny" winners were chosen from a field of 5,200 entrants. NatGeo's Production Services VP Hans Wegner said maps are among "the most difficult thing to print well, and the primary reason our maps always look good is that we have Dutch at press side." 

November 29, 2008

Experience National Geographic in London

National Geographic has opened a Flagship Store on London's Regent Street. Of course, there are lots of maps, globes and atlases for sale along with apparel, African crafts, optics and much more. There's a cafe, event space, and the store is flush with video and more to make your visit an immersive experience. A second store will open next month in Singapore.

Retail Week: National Geographic opens on Regent Street, London from Retail Week on Vimeo.

November 20, 2008

National Geographic Maps Baja California

Santa Catalina Island, Baja California.
Snow is starting to fall throughout the U.S. and Canada and with it interest quickly peaks in warmer climates. While the economy has made it less attractive to board a flight to the Mediterranean or other far-flung exotic destinations, Mexico remains tangible for even the most frugal and depending on your location could be just minutes away.

Located on the Northwest corner of Mexico is the Baja Peninsula, over 700 miles in length from the U.S. border to its southern terminus in Cabo San Lucas. Highly diverse, the peninsula contains forests, deserts, agricultural valleys, and a vast coastline with rugged cliffs, protected coves, and hundreds of miles of unmolested sand beaches.

Baja offers a variey of experiences for travelers. Those seeking luxury resorts will find the Los Cabos resort corridor with its Nicklaus designed golf courses and lavish resorts an ideal destination. The Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) at San Jose del Cabo is located just a few miles north of Cabo san Lucas and is serviced with direct flights from Frontier, Alaska Airlines, America West, Continental, Delta, and Mexicana Airlines.

Those seeking a more adventurous, off-the-beaten path experience need only hit the road on MX-1 the main highway which runs the length of the peninsula. This is a drive of a lifetime and is not the typical American road trip. You can easily bridge hours and hundreds of miles in the central portions of the peninsula without seeing a convenience store, let alone a place to stop for gas. With it though comes incredible beauty and the rare opportunity to explore a region of the Earth that is still virgin to over commercialization.

Surfers consider Baja one of the premier destinations in the Western Hemisphere. The Seven Sisters a stretch of seven right point breaks from Punta Cono to Punta Rosarito just north of the Baja California / Baja California Sur state line offer incredible surfing in the winter months with strong west or northwest swells. One of the best things about surfing in Baja is the quantity of great locations and the ability to break free of the crowds with just a little exploration.

Baja is of worldwide importance to marine wildlife as well. Surrounding the peninsula on both the Pacific Ocean side as well as the Gulf of California are a series of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and protected areas. Most notably the El Vizcaino Gray Whale Sanctuary on the western coast of Baja California Sur (mid-peninsula) contains two lagoons, Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio, which serve as key wintering and reproduction areas for Gray Whales, Harbour Seals, Elephant Seals, Blue Whales, and four species of endangered sea turtles.

Baja California North MapFor the past several months National Geographic cartographers in cooperation with local government, the Nature Conservancy of Mexico, UNESCO, and local experts have been carefully researching and developing a series of two new Adventure Maps for Baja California, which are now available. The two maps, Baja California and Baja California Sur, combine highly detailed topography with up-to-date roads and the locations of key points of interest. Unlike other maps of the peninsula, each of our new Baja maps contain extensive place and feature names, backroads, historical places , and important service features (such as gas and diesel stations). Mexicali, Tijuana, Ensenada, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose' Del Cabo, and the Los Cabos Resort Corridor are detailed in inset maps that pinpoint post offices, churches, government facilities, and popular tourist destinations.

Baja California South MapHaving traveled to Baja on several occasions via car, cruise ship, and plane I recall using a variety of guide books and the now out-of-print AAA map. Obviously I'm a bit biased, but these maps are amazing and are perfect examples of National Geographic quality. Should you be one of the 200,ooo expected in Baja next week for the Baja 1000, be sure to look for our friends at Too Much Fun Promotions (Armando Carrasco) in Ensenada or in the pits at race mile 108.

Our new Baja maps are available at the National Geographic Online store and at retailers in Mexico and of course closer to home.

:: Learn More About Baja ::

Looking for a bit more on Baja? Check out these articles from our Adventure and Traveler magazines:

Preserving Baja's Coastal Treasures from National Geographic Traveler's award-winning Intelligent Travel Blog. "Is Baja on the Block?" looks at how the spread of tourism and development is threatening the integrity of Baja California in Mexico. Here, he introduces some of the people trying to help sustain the marine heritage of the region. See the original article in this month's issue of National Geographic Traveler.

The Baja Blueprint from National Geographic Adventure

November 15, 2008

It's Geography Awareness Week!

National Geographic invites budding explorers on a seven-day "tour" of the marvelous cultures and natural wonders of the Americas during Geography Awareness Week 2008, Nov. 16-22. Geography Awareness Week is part of Geography Action!, an annual conservation and awareness program for schools and students in grades K through 12, designed to educate and excite youngsters about the world's natural, cultural and historic treasures.

Visit our Geography Action! and My Wonderful World web sites for more information, activities and teacher resources.
Coincident with Geography Awareness Week is GIS Day on November 19th. GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.

November 6, 2008

National Geographic Teams with EPA to Map Ecosystems

National Geographic Maps is collaborating with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create maps and web resources focused on "ecosystem services," a concept that has emerged in recent years reflecting the societal benefits obtained from ecosystems like forests and wetlands, including food production, flood control, water for manufacturing and energy, and open space for recreation and spiritual renewal. NG Maps will employ its cartographic talent and tradition to communicate these concepts and their importance to non-technical audiences including policy makers, planners and the public.

Read the Full EPA Press release:

October 28, 2008

Giant Traveling Maps, Oh My!

A giant National Geographic map of North America, measuring 26 feet by 35 feet, is traveling to schools, museums and festivals across the country this year, giving student explorers a geographic experience like no other. The National Geographic Giant Traveling Map brings with it rich content and exciting activities to enliven the study of geography, making it a fun, interactive experience.

The North American map is the third in National Geographic's Giant Traveling Map series. Africa began touring in 2006, followed by Asia in 2007. In the 2008-09 school year, more than 90,000 U.S. students will have the unique experience of walking on a National Geographic Giant Traveling Map.

The new giant map, designed for grades K-8, tours with a trunk full of accessories, including interactive games, geography adventures, atlases and books that teach students about the physical characteristics of North America as well as its rich history and varied cultures. 

Some of the activities included are "A Tale of Twenty Cities," in which students explore the physical and economic reasons behind the locations of North American cities, and "Grocery Store Geography," in which bean-bag-tossing skills are called upon to test students' knowledge of where foods are produced in the continent.

To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project, for borrowing information, or to download map activities, visit

October 26, 2008

NatGeoMaps Goes North to Alaska

Outdoor enthusiasts in the Anchorage area can learn how to use a GPS with map software to plan hikes, hunts and other activities in a free clinic at REI this Thursday at 7 p.m.

Our Jeff Caulfield will take you through a simple trip planning exercise, discuss "on the trail" applications of GPS and give you tips on how to use GPS in the navigation process.

Jeff will have some freebies for attendees -- disks with a guide to Map & GPS use, trails, and GMU boundaries to add to yout TOPO! maps.

September 10, 2008

An Interesting Mural Map Project

Our mural world and U.S. maps are quite popular.  We thought this was a great example of creative solutions for a challenging installation. 

Thanks to Matthew Sheppard for sharing his experience.

September 5, 2008

Navigating with National Geographic: Seattle Region

Outdoor enthusiasts in the Seattle area can learn how to use a GPS with map software to plan hikes and other activities in a series of free evening clinics at REI next week.

Our Jeff Caulfield will take you through a simple trip planning exercise, discuss "on the trail" applications of GPS and give you tips on how to use GPS in the navigation process.

Clinics begin at 7 p.m. Click on links for maps and directions to each store:

9.8.08 :: REI Tacoma, WA
9.9.08 :: REI Redmond, WA
9.10.08 :: REI Seattle, WA
9.11.08 :: REI Issaquah, WA

August 22, 2008

Two Green Girls on the Road

The Colorado NatGeoMaps office was recently visited by Mary Logan Barmeyer of The Green Guide and her cousin Trish in the midst of a cross-country trip exploring low-consumption, low-budget travel.

Their trip was chronicled on a blog and our map-based GeoStoryteller. Follow it to Colorado and you'll find a picture of a Trails Illustrated map in production.

August 19, 2008

TOPO! Maps for ArcGIS Users

Over the years we've found many GIS users like having topographic maps as a base layer for their projects. We created a product based on our TOPO! software that lets ArcGIS users easily add our high-resolution, color-corrected scans of USGS topographic maps, along with hillshade and DEMs.

TOPO! Pro for ArcGIS is available along with an individual state's data, or you can buy a dataset for the entire US on a USB drive.

It supports KML export for ArcGIS Explorer or Google Earth.

Please ask about our ESRI Conference special, good through August.

We also introduced TOPO! USA Cache for ArcGIS Server for those needing an enterprise solution.

For more information, please call David Wright at 800-962-1643 x 108

August 15, 2008

Navigating with National Geographic: DC Area

Outdoor enthusiasts in the DC area can learn how to use a GPS with map software to plan hikes and other activities in a series of free evening clinics at REI next week.

Our Jeff Caulfield will take you through a simple trip planning exercise, discuss "on the trail" applications of GPS and give you tips on how to use GPS in the navigation process.

Clinics begin at 7 p.m. Click on links for maps and directions to each store:

8.18.08 :: REI Timonium, MD
8.19.08 :: REI Fairfax, VA
8.20.08 :: REI Bailey's Crossroads, VA
8.21.08 :: REI College Park, MD

August 5, 2008

Maps: Tools For Adventure

Maps are a part of every great adventure. They help you find your way, share information, look at patterns, and solve problems.
Visit the exhibit Maps: Tools for Adventure, created by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with National Geographic.

The exhibit is at the Mayborn Museum Complex in Waco, Texas through September 7th, and at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia beginning in October.

It's supported by a great web site with activities and games for young people and lesson plans for educators.

August 2, 2008

Bob Leonard, Navigation Professional

Our new NavPro program recognizes individuals who have demonstrated proficiency in navigation skills and concepts. National Geographic NavPros are certified experts.

We're pleased to announce the first person to achieve a perfect score on the NavPro qualifying exam, Bob Leonard, Special Events Coordinator at REI in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Bob is a retired Police Officer from Beaverton, Oregon. He also consults throughout the U.S. in Community Policing and Problem Solving, and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

He's been a Special Events Coordinator for REI for the last four years and instructs in a wide variety of outdoor recreation topics for REI, including: GPS Navigation, Map & Compass, Geocaching, and Backpacking.

Bob is an avid backpacker, hiker, outdoor photographer, kayaker, and as many other outdoor activities as he can cram into a day. He's also actively involved in Scouting with his Eagle Scout son. He instructs regionally and nationally for BSA, and is a Master Educator for Leave No Trace. Bob and his wife spend their spare time (?) traveling in a motorhome with their two dogs, while the kids are away at college.

Congratulations, Bob!

Think you're up the challenge? Join the ranks by taking the NavPro exam today.

July 30, 2008

Iran Insights

The August issue of National Geographic Magazine features an article on ancient Persia (Iran), supported by a supplement map of the Persian Empire. The reverse side is a current physical map of Iran. Coming to a mailbox or newsstand near you!

July 24, 2008

Finalists for The Outdoor Geographic Awareness Awards

National Geographic Maps and National Geographic Adventure Magazine are pleased to announce the finalists for the first annual The Outdoor Geographic Awareness (TOGA) Awards.

The awards seek to identify and showcase outdoor retailers, manufacturers, nonprofit and government organizations and individuals who are finding new and creative ways to promote geographic awareness and build outdoor participation.
The awards will be presented on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, at 4 p.m. at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, in the National Geographic Maps booth #30039.

Here are the finalists:

Outdoor Retailer Category:
- Great Outdoor Provision Co.
- Midwest Mountaineering

Outdoor Manufacturer Category:
- Bells from Everest
- The North Face
- Patagonia

Nonprofit Category:
- American Hiking Society
- The Conservation Alliance
- Leave No Trace

Individuals Category:
- Sam Drevo (eNRG Kayaking)
- Eric Laren (Save the Poles)
- Sarah Wilson (Adventure Heroes)

TOGA Awards reflect National Geographic’s mission to inspire people to care about the planet and to encourage people of all ages to explore their world.

July 17, 2008

Map Projection

This corny school film from the 40s does a pretty good job of introducing the concept of map projection - the art of translating the round Earth to a flat piece of paper.

Ironically, at the time of this film most schools displayed maps using the Mercator projection. This projection was created for maps that would show shipping channels and was never suited for use as a general use political or physical world map.

All projections involve some distortion, whether of shape, land mass, or distance; generally all three. Thus choice of projection is based on the area depicted, the purpose and desired aesthetics of the map.

National Geographic currently employs the Winkel Tripel projection for all our world maps.

For teachers, a lesson plan on projections is here.

July 14, 2008

Video: Nat Geo's Outdoor Recreation Mapping Program

Here's an overview of our outdoor rec. map program including interviews with VP/Products Dan Ortiz and Trails Illustrated Product Manager Shane Matthews:

July 13, 2008

NatGeoMaps Coming To Trail Festivals Saturday

Two of America's great local trail events happen Saturday, July 19th in Washington and Colorado, and NatGeo Maps will be at both:

The great outdoors of Washington is calling! Come to TrailsFest at Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend. This outdoor extravaganza features clinics on everything from wilderness first aid to hiking with kids to backcountry cooking. Take a guided hike, tie a fly on, or climb a rock wall. Try out a new s’mores recipe, or hang out with packgoats. Visit dozens of exhibitors, including gear companies and outdoor groups.

Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Continental Divide Trail — the highest and wildest national scenic trail — at TrailFest at McPhelemy Park in Buena Vista, Colorado. There will be free guided treks – everything from family-friendly hikes to mountain biking to a 14er summit, plus outdoor booths, free gear demos, clinics and activities for kids.

June 19, 2008

We Like Dirty Avocados

National Geographic Maps is proud to sponsor the Dirty Avocados adventure racing team as they embark on the grueling ten-day Primal Quest race.

Learn more about Primal Quest Montana

Learn more about Dirty Avocados

Learn more about the Sponsored Athlete program

June 13, 2008

1,033,801 miles of trails!

Now you'll find more than a million miles of trails, along with detailed USGS topographic maps and 4-meter resolution aerial imagery, at

Sign up for a free account and join our community!

June 8, 2008

Here's Mud in Your....All Over

We joined sponsor Adventure Magazine today at Muddy Buddy in San Jose, California.

Muddy Buddy is a series of adventure races that, after 7 miles of running and biking, end in a mud pit. Two thousand particpants were muddied but not bloodied. And many visited our tent and learned about new and forthcoming Trails Illustrated maps of the Sierras, such as Mammoth Lakes, as well as TOPO! Explorer.

sponsored by

May 31, 2008

Scientists Continue Research Through Night

Sunset came to BioBlitz at around 8:00pm last night and as some of the last groups headed out for field collection an intrepid group continued to record, identify, georeference, and blog straight on through dawn.

Even between 1:00 and 2:00am there was still an eager, but somewhat bleary eyed crew of NG Staffers and volunteers at the scientific tent at Paramount Ranch. Just up the road a few hundred yards several entomologists using sodium lights and a white parachute like backdrop, attracted a diverse set of moths for collection.

Temperatures quickly cooled off and the NG Maps team of Jess Elder, David Wright, and myself made frequent rounds to the food tent for coffee to keep warm. "We've georeferenced and uploaded hundreds of photos taken by teams throughout the day." remarked Elder, "By the time the sun comes up will be ready for the next influx of research."

Now at 6:00am ... a heavy dew is covering most of the surfaces. The bustle of activity is beginning to heat up again. And soon, the sun will peak out from behind the foothills and warm the few of us here up!

Looking at the current species tally board which ran all night, the count is approaching 700 with plants accounting for nearly 65% of the reported finds from the first 18 hours.

More to follow as we march towards the close of BioBlitz Santa Monica!

May 30, 2008

Song Bird Recordings

Earlier this morning William Hoese, a professor from Cal State Fullerton, walked by the maps booth with a microphone and digital recorder. Prof. Hoese had just captured songs from a male sparrow.

David Wright and Jess Elder of NG Maps, toured him through Metalens, which is being used to map the BioBlitz scientific findings. A few minutes later Hoese returned with a group of Hale Elementary Students, who posted comments about their collection efforts.

At 2:48 the first species counts came in from the morning collections... 105 distinct so far!

BioBlitz is Underway :: Opening Ceremony

BioBlitz is underway! Just a few minutes prior to noon a variety of speakers ranging from John Francis (vice president of National Geographic's Committee for Research and Exploration) to US Congressmen Brad Sherman. Over 1300 school children hit the field at precisely noon, spreading out to cover all the corners of the park.

For those interested here's some geographic detail on our location:

UTM: 11S 0338015 - 3776217 Elevation: 722'

Welcome to BioBlitz!

Greetings from BioBlitz! Throughout the day (and night) we will be posting photos, videos, and updates from BioBlitz in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. If you're in the area - come on down to Paramount Ranch - our command HQ.

What is BioBlitz?

BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of scientists, volunteers, and community members join forces to find, identify, and learn about as many local plant and animal species as possible. is helping conduct a BioBlitz in a different park each year during the decade leading up to the U.S. National Park Service centennial in 2016.

Besides live blogging here on Contours - be sure to visit our other BioBlitz Blog, with near real-time geostories, plus map-referenced photos, videos, and more!

May 26, 2008

GPS Navigation Day - Sandy, Utah

REI in Sandy, Utah is holding a GPS Navigation Day this Saturday, May 31st.

Spend a day outdoors and a few hours indoors with REI GPS experts and National Geographic Map Expert, Jeff Caulfield, learning how to use your GPS unit in conjunction with TOPO! digital maps.

Registration is required. Details here.

May 22, 2008

GeoWoodstock - the Ultimate Event for Geocachers

Geocache games, presentations by the REI Outdoor School staff, and much more await you at GeoWoodstock VI in Wheatland, California this Saturday.

Jeff Caulfield, our GPS and navigation expert, will be manning the NatGeo Maps booth, so please stop by!

More info here.

May 20, 2008

Go On Assignment with National Geographic at BioBlitz

Ever dreamed of going On Assignment with National Geographic? If you live in Southern California, now is your chance! Starting Friday May 30th at noon and running for 24 straight hours, National Geographic and National Park Service scientists and naturalists along with thousands of volunteers will comb the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area and conduct a thorough inventory of plants and animals.

Volunteers can choose from a variety of 4 hour shifts that will team up with an expert and track down specific species. If you love bugs, or prefer hunting for allusive night time creatures - now is your chance! Space is limited so register now.

Visit the National Geographic Maps Team at BioBlitz

If you make it out to BioBlitz, be sure to track down Fran Marshall, Dave Wright, Jess Elder, and myself! We'll be using NG Map's MetaLens multimedia mapping system to capture, record, and map species observations found by the scientists and naturalists. Throughout the event Dave and Jess will be crafting an ongoing “greatest hits” GeoStory (a map-based multimedia slideshow) for the NGS BioBlitz blog that will highlight the diverse species found throughout the event.

Stopping by the Maps tent will give you the chance to try your hand with GPS receivers, digital cameras, and the latest in map technology - plus it might even land you an appearance on the BioBlitz Blog or the TOPO! Explorer Community page for the event.

In addition, the Maps division recently completed a major revision to our Trails Illustrated map of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA. This update was timed specifically for BioBlitz and done in collaboration with local agencies. For those that frequent this amazing park, or those just getting introduced to it, this map is a must have. We will have sample copies on display and the Santa Monica Mountains Nature Association will have copies available for sale.

See you in Santa Monica!

May 11, 2008

Navigating the Colorado Front Range

Jeff Caulfield of NatGeoMaps brings his renowned Navigating with Maps & GPS clinics to Colorado's Front Range this week. Clinics are at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Attendees will receive a disk with Map & GPS Skills and other useful information.

REI Lakewood, Tuesday, May 13th

REI Fort Collins, Wednesday, May 14th

REI Boulder, Thursday, May 15th

Jeff will show you, step-by-step, how to use a GPS with a map to plan your next day hike or backcountry adventure. He'll discuss the features of different GPS models, and give you tips on how to use these features in the navigation process.

May 10, 2008

Puzzling Maps

Looking for a way to pass the time this weekend? Click on the image.

May 3, 2008

Been thinking about buying TOPO! state series?

Now's a good time thanks to the REI Anniversary sale thru May 11.

I was doing demos at a local REI store today, and realized some folks under 30 aren't as familiar with USGS topographic maps as are most of us older types. Simply put, they are the most detailed map set for the United States. We scanned all 55,000 sheets, seamed them together, and sell them in state sets to load on your PC or Mac. You can customize the maps by adding your own trails, text and symbols and importing tracks and waypoints from your GPS.

There is so much information on USGS topos that will never appear on computer-generated maps. That's why we went to the trouble to make the best scans of those maps, so when you print them out at home they look as good as the originals. Perhaps even better with our added shaded relief. Even if you use a GPS in the field, the experts tell you to take a printed map. It won't break or run out of power, and it gives you a better perspective on where you're going than a 4 inch screen.

We're about to make those maps even better, with our National Recreation Database at You can preview it in beta today, and it launches in less than a month. There will be many thousands of miles of trails to download and add to your maps (170,000+ miles as of today), along with Forest Service roads, public land boundaries, recreational points of interest and much more. All free additions to your TOPO! maps.

April 28, 2008

Walking on Africa

The Sheboygan Press reports on a geography teacher traveling Wisconsin with National Geographic's giant map of Africa, sponsored by the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance.

Learn more about National Geographic's Geography Alliance network here.

April 25, 2008

TOPO! Explorer Public Beta is Live :: What to Expect and What's Next

Last night at midnight - the switch was thrown and National Geographic's national recreation database was born. As of 10:00am this morning we've loaded over 37,000 miles of trail and witnessed dozens sign up for their free accounts. To get everyone up-to-speed on what you can do today and what to expect over the next month we've created this brief article.

Welcome to TOPO! Explorer :: What to Expect

Until May 30th, we are in beta. Which means that not all planned functionality is live, yet.. However, by logging in today you can:

* Register for your free user account, and create your member profile.
* Explore our nationwide map images including our new Hybrid layer.
* Browse Trip Files, plus post reviews, comments, and trip reports.
* Visit the forums and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts.
* Apply to become a beta tester and help us refine future features

What's Next?

Over the next month we will be releasing new features almost daily, posting tons of content, building out how-tos, and come May 30th providing you an entirely new way to get maps.

Our goal is to build ::the:: portal for outdoor enthusiasts to find, share, and discuss where to go. We hope that by making it easy find recreation opportunities that it encourages more people to get outdoors.

We're doing things a bit different with TOPO! Explorer. First of all, we're making it free. You don't need a subscription to browse the maps or find recreational information nor do you need to buy a software application to later post your own files, connect to a GPS, or create mashups. Instead we've enabled all functions to take place either freely on the website itself, or through the forthcoming TOPO! Explorer application which will be available for free download on June 2nd.

So how does National Geographic generate revenue? ... We sell maps and by the end of May, users will have several options to purchase maps based upon their needs:

1. Purchase TOPO! State Series Products. If you are an avid outdoor enthusiast that recreates throughout your State, there is no better value than picking up a complete State of detailed topographic maps. In most cases you will get 1000's of real USGS quads for approximately $100. Used in conjunction with the new free TOPO! Explorer website and application you have access to updated trails, roads, recreational points of interest - plus you can print, export to GPS, and share your own creations.

2. Purchase Weekend Explorer Products. If you mainly recreate around your local metro area, Weekend Explorer is the right package for you. It contains hundreds of USGS quads for approximately $30. Just like State Series, when used in conjunction with the TOPO! Explorer application you get access to the detailed topos, plus all the rich recreation content from the web community.

3. Purchase TOPO! Explorer or Explorer Deluxe Retail Packs. Coming May 30th to retail stores, is TOPO! Explorer and Explorer Deluxe. Unlike any other map product - these two boxes give you the flexibility to pick-and-choose the exact maps ala cart. Both kits contain (25) map download credits, which can be used on the TOPO! Explorer website to get the specific topographic maps and aerial imagery you need. This is ideal for someone who recreates occasionally, or recreates throughout the country and needs flexibility. It's also appealing to existing TOPO! State Series and Weekend Explorer users that want to add a few maps outside of their current map sets. TOPO! Explorer sells for $24.95 and the Deluxe Edition (which contains intermediate detail USGS 1:100,000 scale maps for entire United States + 25 map credits) sells for $49.95.

For those that feel lucky, be sure to purchase TOPO! Explorer or Explorer Deluxe from your favorite retailer during the month of June, as one out of ten retail kits sold will activate double the map credits!

So don't hesitate - visit today and sign up for your free account. Roll up those sleeves and help make this outdoor community great. Check back to Contours next Wednesday for an update on new TOPO! Explorer features and useful tips!

April 23, 2008

TOPO Explorer Goes Live Friday :: Part One

In just a few short hours National Geographic's new TOPO! Explorer website will go live for public beta.

Over a year in the making, TOPO! Explorer is the platform for NatGeo's national recreation database - a first of its kind portal that provides outdoor enthusiasts with detailed maps, satellite imagery, up-to-date trails, and recreation information - plus it enables users to post reviews, trip reports, and their own custom maps.

"There's nothing on the web like TOPO! Explorer," stated Paul Glauthier, CTO for National Geographic Maps. "There are sites that provide maps, those that have trail descriptions, and a few that enable community interaction but TOPO! Explorer is the first site designed for and by outdoor enthusiasts that offers all of the above, and better yet freely browsable."

Between Friday and May 30th National Geographic will be adding more features and content to the site, plus getting ready for the launch of the new companion desktop application that will enable users to share their own photos, videos, and trips. At launch users can create their free accounts, build out their profiles, browse maps, post to the forums, and begin providing trip reports to fellow explorers.

Check Back Tomorrow Morning for Part Two: TOPO! Explorer FAQs and Tips and Tricks to Getting Started.

April 18, 2008

Trails Illustrated Adds Coverage in California | Interview with Shane Matthews, TI Product Manager

Just over a week ago National Geographic Maps began shipping Trails Illustrated map #809, Mammoth Lakes/ Mono Divide. This exciting new map is the first of 5 new titles for California's Sierra Nevada. To learn more about the series Contours sat down with Shane Matthews, Product Manager for Trails Illustrated & Adventure Maps.

Contours:: TI 809, is the first of five new TI maps for California. Can you tell us a bit more about this project?

Shane Matthews:: The newly published Mammoth Lakes / Mono Divide (TI809) title turned out beautifully! This was an interesting project in that it encompassed a wide range of public lands for recreation, to include National Park and Forest Lands, Wilderness Areas and a highly used Sierra Ski Area. This map includes popular areas of the Sierra and Inyo National Forest.

Contours:: Besides 809, what other new titles or revisions are in the works for California?

Shane Matthews:: Mammoth Lakes / Mono Divide (TI809) is just part of a much bigger picture. Two years ago we published three Tahoe National Forest maps to include the Lake Tahoe Basin Unit. So, the newly published TI809 and the upcoming Sierra map titles are added components of our extensive Sierra Nevada map coverage and there is going to be more!

Currently we are working on four new titles that will add to this map coverage. Crystal Basin (TI806) will highlight Eldorado National Forest and will include the Rubicon Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and other Scenic Trails, and loads of camping areas. Carson-Iceberg / Emigrant and Mokelumne Wilderness Areas (TI807) will take in portions of Stanislaus National Forest including generous overlap with TI806. This map will feature some of the best High Sierra back-country there is to offer, true wilderness! Merced and Tuolumne Rivers (TI808) will take in remaining portions of the Stanislaus National Forest and will feature two of most Wild and Scenic Rivers in the country. This map will also include a variety of recreational amenities that surround these rivers. Shaver Lake (TI810) will feature remaining portions of the Sierra National Forest. It will include recreational areas such Bass and Shaver Lakes. The Dinkey Lakes and Kaiser Wilderness areas will also be featured with a variety of trail systems for the back-country hiker. Another important note would be that some of these titles will share overlap with our Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Park maps, lending seamless coverage of adjacent lands for the map user.

Other interesting California projects would include some revisions and significant updates of existing Trails Illustrated maps. We have just recently finished an update to our Mojave National Park and Preserve map. We are doing a major overhaul of our Santa Monica National Recreation Area map and will be published very soon! This map will update should serve the recreationalists in the Los Angeles, Malibu and Santa Monica region extremely well.

In the next few months the Trails Illustrated California map titles will be in their best shape ever with all coverage either brand new or newly revised and updated! There may be even more next year.

Contours:: TI maps are completed in cooperation with local land managers – who did you work with on 809?

Shane Matthews:: Establishing a cooperative relationship with public land agencies is essential to a successful TI map. TI809 was no exception to this rule. We worked with The Sierra and Inyo National Forests and their knowledgeable staff. Everyone from Public Affairs, Land Ownership, GIS Mapping, Trails and Recreation Specialists, Interpretation and Wilderness Rangers were included and this is typical for any map we publish. In addition, we always work with regional Managing Associations to these forests and other public lands. In this case we worked with the Eastern Sierra and the Three Forests Interpretive Associations.

Contours:: Creating a new map from scratch must be a pretty extensive project. Can you describe what went into the creation of 809?

Shane Matthews:: Our production team treated this new map like any other, really. It starts with establishing that relationship with the key people as I just mentioned. Securing the most updated information these land agencies can provide is the next big step. Having these two things in place we are off and running. Typically, the map base is generated using USGS information then we add a variety of information obtained from land agencies and other trusted sources in the region.

Editorial and other essential information is also collected and included in all of our maps. We put TI809 through several in-house edits before it went to the land agencies for an on-site review before publishing. We found that working the district-level forest staff, the people who “walk the ground” was key with TI809, which can be said for any project.

Contours:: What do you think users of 809 will most appreciate about the map?

Shane Matthews:: The map user will appreciate a variety of things about TI809, but quite simply they will appreciate this map because it can be trusted. It is published at a very usable scale with extreme detail to landscapes. TI809 offers practical information that the user will need for trip planning and for use while exploring and recreating in the region.

Contours:: What popular places are contained on 809?

Shane Matthews:: TI809 contains portions of Sierra and Inyo National Forests, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas, Devils Post Pile National Monument, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, The Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway, The Pacific Crest Trail just to name a few.

Contours:: Finally, besides California what other projects is your team working on right now?

Shane Matthews:: We are busy with many Trails Illustrated revisions around the country. Mammoth Cave National Park, Pisgah Ranger District , Fontana and Hiwassee Lakes, Nantahala & Cullasaja Gorges, and many Colorado and Utah region maps are among the revisions on the exhaustive docket for the year. New titles will include two maps under the Adventure Map Series covering the California Baja of Mexico. These Baja maps will be the latest in the quickly expanding Adventure Map Series and will include the comprehensive travel information these maps are known for. Look for them this Fall!

Contours:: Thanks for your time Shane and keep up the great work!

April 13, 2008

Navigating in New England

Jeff Caulfield of NatGeoMaps brings his Navigating with Maps & GPS clinics to outdoor stores in New England. Clinics are at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Attendees will receive a disk with Map & GPS Skills and other useful information.

Monday, April 14 - REI West Hartford, CT
Tuesday, April 15 - REI Cranston, RI
Wednesday, April 16 - REI Boston, MA
Thursday, April 17 - REI Framingham, MA
Friday, April 18 - EMS Nashua, NH (club card day)

Jeff will show you, step-by-step, how to use a GPS with a map to plan your next day hike or backcountry adventure. He'll discuss the features of different GPS models, and give you tips on how to use these features in the navigation process.

April 8, 2008

April 3, 2008

Why buy street and road maps?

Sales of road and street maps and atlases have been shrinking for some years, at least in the U.S. Most in the industry attribute this first to MapQuest and other free online map sites, and more recently to the growth of in-car GPS systems (also called SatNav).

It occurs to me that in the outdoor recreation world, we always tell people to bring a map with them on the trail, even if they use a handheld GPS receiver, so why wouldn't the same logic apply to road navigation?

For GPS users: Printed maps provide an overview not possible on a small screen. And electronic devices can fail or lose reception.

For online users: What happens if your plans change or there's a detour? The map you printed online may not serve you well.

March 18, 2008

Map Exhibits in Baltimore

Map enthusiasts in the Baltimore area may be interested in four exhibits at the Walters Art Museum.

Nav Clinics Continue in California

NatGeo's Jeff Caulfield will present free Map & GPS navigation clinics again this week. Details on store links below.

Tuesday, March 18, 7 p.m. at REI Roseville

Wednesday, March 19, 7 p.m. at REI Fresno

Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m. at REI Folsom

March 10, 2008

Navigation Clinics in Northern California this week

Outdoor enthusiasts in northern California can learn how to use GPS with map software to plan hikes and other activities at free evening clinics this week in Concord and Mountain View.

Jeff Caulfield will take you through a simple trip planning exercise, discuss "on the trail" applications of GPS and give you tips on how to use GPS in the navigation process.

Everyone who attends will receive a free CD with Basic Map and GPS Skills, other helpful info, and trail overlays to use with TOPO! digital maps.

Clinics begin at 7 p.m. Click on links for maps and directions to each store:

Tuesday, March 11:
REI Concord

Wednesday, March 12:
REI Mountain View

March 8, 2008

Nat Geo Maps at the Ace Hardware Show

Maps are sold in a lot of interesting places. Some of them are Ace Hardware stores. Of course, most of those stores carry a lot more than hardware. Many have sporting goods, home d├ęcor and school supply products. Our maps fit these categories, so we're at the Ace Hardware trade show this weekend in Dallas.

We've met hundreds of friendly Ace managers and owners and are glad to be welcoming a bunch of them on board as dealers.

NGMaps Sales Manager Christy Schoonover (above with a customer) had the idea to invite attendees to put a pin in a map indicating their store location. Nearly 300 did, and it was fun to see the geographic spread from northwestern Alaska to the Florida Keys.

March 3, 2008

Navigate with NatGeo @ REI

Outdoor enthusiasts in northern California can learn how to use GPS with map software to plan hikes and other activities in a series of free evening clinics at REI.

Our Jeff Caulfield will take you through a simple trip planning exercise, discuss "on the trail" applications of GPS and give you tips on how to use GPS in the navigation process.

Everyone who attends will receive a free CD with Basic Map and GPS Skills, other helpful info, and trail overlays to use with TOPO! digital maps.

Clinics begin at 7 p.m. Click on links for maps and directions to each store:

Tuesday, March 4:
REI Fremont
Wednesday, March 5:
REI Berkeley
Thursday, March 6:
REI San Carlos
Tuesday, March 11:
REI Concord
Wednesday, March 12:
REI Mountain View