Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Interest: Canoeing, Hiking, Fishing and Bear kissing.
There are some advantages to having SoftMap over the now freely available Gov topos. For instance, when I do long ocean trips by canoe I can cover allot of KM in three weeks time, SoftMap allows me to select any sized area of terrain I want and then print that area to any scale I want. For those with access to a plotter you can also use SoftMap to print to any size page you want, and often what I want are a couple of 46 inch wide by 40 inch long maps I can fold up nicely. I only use these large plotted prints for when I'm in camp and for use on the go, I would also print letter size pages that I laminate (two sided) which cover simply a page sized region of my large plots but in the same scale or even smaller scale and, which also include my UTM grid. Lastly, and not so important to many but, I can include my own information with each Softmap print such as tidal info or moons, as well as the map datum and grids of my choice.
The now free Gov topos are great as well but do have their limitations such as only being available in their fixed regions, meaning that quite often one of your trips may require just the very corner of three or four different maps. You can always get around this by downloading all of the maps to cover the area you'll be in and then cropping just those corners you need for printing but this is a work around. Lastly, the Gov topos are only available in two scales (as far as I know) 1:50,000 and 1:250,000. This means that hikers and paddlers are essentially left with just one scale, 1:50,000. This is possibly the best scale for hiking short distances but it is not the ideal scale for being on the water or some of the longer hikes because it is just a little too big. Perhaps others haven't found this to be an issue but to the eye, and when looking at a large section of shore line, 1:50,000 tends to make everything look unrealistically large. Again this isn't a big problem for most and especially when on foot and doing trails in the forest but if you like to match what you see of the landscape visually to the shapes and contours you see on your topo, then I have found the 1:75,000 scale to be far more visually correct.
Just some thoughts to say, there are some reasons why SoftMap can be more effective than the freely available Gov topos, which I love having access to as well.