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Map Comparisons #4345
Back To Discussion List Written: 2015.03.31 by: Robin Tivy

A designer of one of the cell phone GPS map packages asked me which map packages we prefer in Canada. Off the top of my head, I preferred the CanMatrix format rather than the newer Toporama format. As you may know, the "CanMatrix" are scans of the old 1:50K paper maps.

To answer that question with an objective answer, we'd have to compare the maps at several different locations.

In general here are some points:

  1. Contour Interval:
     In most locations, the CanMatrix maps still have the more precise 100 foot contours. Whereas Toporama has the interpolated 40m contours. 40m is 131 feet and a lot of detail was lost. Everybody I know agrees that the 100' contour interval was better for mountaineering. They are more precise, and easier to read. With 100 foot contours, every 5th one is darker and is an even 500 feet. With the 40 foot contours, every 5th one is 200m, but the arithmetic in between is harder. For example, in the area around Three Brothers Mountain (Manning Park), the CanMatrix is still the familiar 100'.

  2. Scale/Dataset change
     On the GMap display, the scale changes in a different place. You have 40m contours at zoom level 14, but it changes to 100m contours at zoom level 13. Furthermore, the 100m contours have proven to be very inaccurate in many areas. On the CanMatrix, GMap shifts to the 1:250K dataset between zoom 12 and zoom 11. This means you can really zoom out further.

    On the Backcountry Navigator, they unfortunately don't seem to have the 1:250K dataset. As you zoom out on the 1:50k, it just keeps getting smaller and smaller, even at zoom level 10. (But it is unreadable).

  3. Rivers
     The Toporama display shows many more rivers than were on the old CanMatrix. Sometimes they show too many.


  1. Three Brothers


  2. Dreadnought
     In this area, the Caltopo treeline information