Loading Topographic Maps and Aerial Photography

BackCountry Navigator can also load topo maps and aerial photos by a choosing a center point and size. Here we see an example of acquiring maps for a flatwater kayak trip.

Recreation Maps and your Pocket PC

A Pocket PC is a convenient portable device for carrying maps. In conjunction with a GPS, it can also be a good device for mapping your location. BackCountry Navigator takes advantage of these capabilities and allows you to create maps useful for outdoor recreation.  

BackCountry Navigator has a simple and painless process for creating maps on your Pocket PC. It was designed to work autonomously from the Pocket PC whenever you are connected to the internet, whether by WIFI, through modem, or via ActiveSync.  

From the Data screen, you tap the button to download Terraserver data. TerraServer USA is a public compilation of USGS topographic maps and Aerial Photography from the United States. If you are not familiar with them, you can visit them at terraserver-usa.com. However, you will not ever have to visit the website to find the data that BackCountry Navigator will load and use.


Here are you are asked to pick a center point and size of region. Note you do not have to pick a particular quarangle, county, and state.  You can pick a rectangle of arbitrary size.

Since you don’t have the longitude and latitude of a favorite place memorized, you use the PlaceFinder dialog to look up a place by name. The PlaceFinder will search a database of USGS place names over the internet for a place named ‘Lewis River’ in the state of Washington.  

As usual, there is more than one possible entry returned, but there is information to narrow down the search. In this case, I know that I am looking for a stream, not an airport, and I wish to have the adventure in Clark County, not Skamania County. As I select the first row in the grid, the corresponding coordinates are filled in above.

After defining the size of the region, you request topographic data, aerial photography, or both. Each of the map layers are downloaded from the TerraServer web service.

Once the process is complete, you will have created a very useful map for this area. To see examples of what it will look like on your screen, go to the next section.

Features of BackCountry Navigator Maps:

  • Topography: In contrast to the street maps you’d find in most Pocket PC Mapping software, BackCountry Navigator uses the USGS topographical maps that you’ve used as paper maps in camping and hiking. You can use resolutions of up to 1:4 pixels per meter, equivalent to the most detailed 1:24K paper maps.  
  • Aerial Photography: Also available from USGS data are grayscale aerial photographs of much of the United States. Where available, these maps show detail up to 1:1 pixels per meter, allowing you to see the area and nearby buildings as if from the air.   
  • Free Internet download: You won’t need to buy a subscription service nor buy CD Roms for every state and region you plan to visit. The program uses data that is publicly available. No need to pay any more once you’ve purchased the software.  
  • No need to calculate your own: Coming up with your own maps based on images from scanned paper maps elsewhere requires a tedious editing and calibration process. There is no need for that in BackCountry Navigator.  
  • No Desktop Software Needed: Most software programs require interaction with the desktop in order to prepare maps for the Pocket PC. Maps are downloaded and edited on the desktop and then copied. In BackCountry Navigator, the maps are downloaded to your Pocket PC.