I am a bonafide map nerd. Contour lines, UTM coordinates and the 1:24,000 scale excite me on a genuinely visceral level.
MyTopo.com is Web site made for people like me. Run by Montana-based AOHunt LLC, MyTopo.com offers an immense, searchable online database of United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps and satellite photos.
The Web site is easy to use and after a few minutes playing around, you’ll be able to search, scroll, zoom in and create a custom map of a favorite mountain ridge, river valley or fishing lake. The company then prints it on glossy or waterproof paper and ships it to your house rolled in a cardboard tube ready to be unfurled on the table and drooled over.
Map sizes range from 18 × 24 to 36 × 44 inches, and you pick the map scale (1:5,000 to 1:35,000). UTM grids, latitude and longitude ticks, paper type and map orientation are customizable facets. You can name the map and designate other text to be printed on its boarder.
The map-making process begins with you typing in the name of a city, major geographical feature or USGS quadrangle title. An instant preview of the map comes up on the screen. You can scroll in any direction and re-set the map center until its position is right.
There are no USGS boarders, so portions of several quadrangles can be selected and turned in to one seamless map. This is a real advantage, especially if the land of interest falls near a quadrangle edge.
After the map is ready to go, you can save it on MyTopo.com in a personal library accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. Prices range from $10 to $30 for maps, depending on size and paper type.
Another service the company offers is found at www.mapcard.com. This is a similar USGS database of maps, but users can add symbols, graphics and GPS waypoints to customize the map further. Pricing starts at $15 for a year-long subscription, and for those 12 months you can create, save and print as many maps as your heart desires.