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Reviews > Software > Topographic Mapping > NG Single Parks Explorer 3D > Test Report by Mike Wilkie

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TI SOFTWARE
ADIRONDACK PARK EXPLORER 3D - TEST SERIES BY MIKE WILKIE
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 17, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 27, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 30, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Wilkie
EMAIL: foreverwild76 at yahoo dot com
AGE: 33
LOCATION: Davenport, New York (USA)
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

Hiking for me started at an early age, as I was always an avid camper and as a Scout my backpacking obsession began. Now living in the Catskill Region backpacking has become serious for me over the years. I hike, snowshoe, canoe, snowboard or multi-day backpack through the Catskills or Adirondacks almost every weekend. I use and practice safe lightweight techniques and have greatly reduced my pack weight, adding both comfort and miles to my adventures. As an aspirant of the Catskill-3500 Club and Adirondack-46ers, peak-bagging is my main outdoor activity. My long-term goals are to complete long distance thru-hikes.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: National Geographic
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.natgeomaps.com
MSRP: US$20.95

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System Requirements:
Windows 95, 98, NT, ME, 2000, XP, or Vista
486 DX/66 MHz PC or higher
64 MB RAM + 8 MB video memory

Macintosh OS 10.2 or higher
350 MHz G3 or better
128 MB RAM + 16 MB video memory

Compatible with most handheld receivers from Garmin, Magellan, Eagle and Lowrance plus Suunto X9, X9i, and X9Mi units.


Tester System Details (System Used for Testing)

Microsoft Windows XP
Home Edition
Version 2002
Service Pack 3

Intel (R) Pentium (R) Dual CPU
E2160 @ 1.80 GHz
1.79 GHZ, 0.99 GB of RAM

ABOUT THE PRODUCT

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The National Geographic Adirondack Park (Trails Illustrated) Explorer is a program designed to help plan and create trips within the state park. The Trails Illustrated Adirondack trail five-piece map set is imbedded into this program to run as one large area map. These five incorporated maps provide seamless coverage for the entire six million acre park.

This Topo software is designed to navigate, explore and print custom maps of the area the user selects. The user can highlight trails on the maps to create routes, calculate distance or do a 3D flyby. Trail profiles can be created and saved to specific folders. National Parks Explorer 3D makes it easy to measure distance and direction, build elevation profiles, determine coordinates and customize maps.

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INSTALL AND SETUP

Installation of the Adirondack Park Explorer program is optional, as it will run from the compact disc. This can be valuable to those who like to limit space usage on their pc. However, I opted to install the software since the manual stated the program will perform better; besides, space is not an issue for me and I do not want to keep loading the disc every time I need to use the system.

The install was a cinch, even though there is no install wizard. I created a folder where I want to store the program, right clicked on the TI icon found in "My Computer" under "Devices with Removable Storage" and pasted in the folder I created. That is it.

To open the program I need to navigate within that folder and double-click on the green TI program executable. I took it upon myself to create a shortcut of the executable to have easy access to the software on my Desktop and in my Quick Launch folder.

As far as setup, there two areas that need to be personalized, preferences and GPS settings. Under preferences the user has four settings to personalize; display coordinates, display distance, datum and display elevation. The default settings are perfect for me, but maybe international users will want to change setting to represent metric.

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For the GPS settings, all I needed to do was select the brand, plug in my GPS unit, power on and the rest was automatically configured.

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TRYING IT OUT

Thus far, I have found the Adirondack Park Explorer program to be user friendly with an easy to follow PDF manual and hints and instructions when in use. In the manual is a section titled, "For People Who Don't Read Manuals", which is a brief but thorough explanation of how to use the software and what can be done with it.

After playing with the program over this past week, I have created routes, marked waypoints, edited profiles and printed maps. I imported and exported info to and from my GPS unit and emailed myself plans as a test scenario.

All were easily accomplished and I have yet to read the full manual, only the "For People Who Don't Read Manuals" section. I do have a couple of issues with the program, one with the printed maps and another with stability.

For the printed maps, I have learned they are of poor quality. This could be due to the print image created being of low resolution. They are still legible but are not a clear and sharp as a purchased in-print topographical map.

As for the stability, I had an issue with the program running an error code in the middle of creating routes or scrolling around the maps. I have received this code twice thus far during both of these scenarios and immediately after the code appeared, the program shut down. I think this error is due to me working and moving faster than what the program can handle. I know for sure this has nothing to do with my pc or pc compatibility.

Some of my favorite features so far are the "view trails, notes and routes" option. In addition found the distance measuring and elevation profiling very useful.

With the "view trails, notes and routes" option, I can view all while navigating in a select area. The system will populate nearby trails, notes and routes and they can easily be pin pointed on the map by selecting one of the many options. See snapshot below for a visual explanation.

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SUMMARY

Aside from the complaints about the printed maps and the issue with stability, I think the Adirondack Park Explorer will be a worthy resource for future trip planning. The import/export GPS feature will be of great use to me and creating routes with distance measuring is much needed.

Future trip planning will be mostly for peak bagging the Adirondack High Peaks. Therefore, the elevation profiling will be an invaluable feature with planning and route creation. During this next testing period I plan to use weather and tear resistant map paper for printing off more maps of the regions I plan to visit. The program will be used quite often over the next several months, so I plan to learn more of what features are offered and what else can be accomplished. If the error code mentioned earlier continues to be an issue, I will contact customer service or tech support for assistance.



Pros

View of all trails, notes and routes while navigating over select areas
Creating routes with distance measuring
Elevation profiles

Cons

Low resolution printed maps
Program stability issue


This concludes my Initial Report for the National Geographic Adirondack Park Explorer. The Field Report will be completed and appended here in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information.






FIELD REPORT

Field and Testing Locations

The Adirondack Park Explorer software was used to plan various backcountry trips for the Central, West-Central and High Peak Regions of the Adirondacks. Below is a list of my planned trips that have been taken during the field-testing period of this test series. I also have several trips that are still in planning, but still have yet to be completed. These trips will be taken during the Long-Term Report period so they will be posted for that review.

Cascade Lake - West-Central Region
This was a 6-mile (9.7 km) snowshoe loop with and an average elevation of 1950 ft (594 m). The trail was easy with a wide double track trail for most of the trek. The terrain was mostly level for the entire hike. Snowshoes were worn for the whole length of the trip as the trail offered a solid 2 ft (61 cm) snow base. Trail breaking was need for about half of the trail. The weather was cold with temperatures around 14 F (-10 C) with light snow at times.

Bald Mountain (Rondax) - West-Central Region
This mountain climbed to an elevation of 2350 ft (716 m) on a maintained trail of 2 miles (3.2 km) out and back. Snowshoes were worn for the entire hike. The conditions were cold with temperatures in the negatives at the summit. Wind gusts were strong and even prevented a climb up the fire tower.

Snowy Mountain - Central Region
This was another mountain climb, but to an elevation of 3899 ft (1188 m). The conditions were cold at 15 F (-9 C) and light snow for most of the day. Roundtrip the trail was 7.8 miles (12.6 km) out and back. The terrain was about moderate in difficulty, but snowshoes were worn for the entire trip.

West-Central Region
The Explorer program was also used to plan my Christmas vacation. This was a weeklong trip where the software was used for travel information within the park. The program offered great highway and back roads directions for my travels. For this trip, the Adirondack Park Explorer was used for both front and backcountry planning.

Field Evaluations and Assessments

During this leg of the test series for the Adirondack Parks Explorer software, I have planned for many completed and soon to be completed backcountry adventures. The software has provided a great resource for route planning, distance measuring, highlighting trails and printing maps.

Thus far, I have really enjoyed exploring the Adirondacks via the Explorer program. It has offered features that have made trip planning easy. I found different features to be of good use for a variety of adventures. Some features proved valuable for day hiking and backpacking, others for peak bagging and canoeing.

For mountain climbing trips, I found the fly-by and elevation profiling to be important features. The maps show open waters and various tributaries with camping areas as well as lean-tos along water routes that will be useful for canoe trip planning. For hiking and backpacking, many of the program's features are of great use. To name a few; view and save trail profiles, route and trail highlighting, imbedding personal notes along routes and at various locations and the ability to save any work to reopen later for additional planning. For all activities, I found the place finder/search to be of great use and the ability to transfer trip info to my GPS as well as printing maps.

As for as the printed maps, I still have concerns with the resolution in which they are printed. In order to print a map with decent detail and a good reading of contour lines, the area printed is of only a small area. Therefore, many maps must be printed to gain a good visual of the surrounding area of a particular location. When I try to print the map at a zoom level to see more of the surrounding area or at a higher resolution, the map printed is only a 2x2 in (5x5 cm) square. This is obviously too small to be reading when in the backcountry.

I am still having some issues with the programs stability. As explained in the Initial Review, if I travel around the map too quickly, not allowing the map to load for every few inches moved I receive a popup error. This error then forces the program to shut down and any work that is not saved is lost. Therefore, I must be careful when moving through the maps and be sure to save as often as possible. This does not happen often, but when it does, it is frustrating. To be honest, software today should not be this fragile or touchy.

Another issue I have is with trail measurements. I sometimes do not get an accurate measurement when at zoom levels less than the max of four. Therefore, if zoomed at levels one through three, route or trails measurements will not be accurate. In order to get an accurate measurement, I must make sure I am at the highest zoom level. In addition, loop measurements are not accurate as well. I feel that the program gets confused when trying to measure trail loops or sometimes at trail junctions or road crossings.

The last issue I have is with local details that are not included on the maps. I feel many details such as local businesses would be of great value for the backcountry planner, especially long distance hikers. Such businesses that would be of importance would be grocery or convenience stores, banks, visitor centers and accommodations.

Some of my favorite features include the "view trails, notes and routes" of a specific area and the corresponding number of the trail that matches trails in the ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) trail guidebooks. When exploring a particular area I can ask the program to show all of the trails in that surrounding area. This list gives some brief details of the trails and their trail number.

These features are useful when planning routes that consist of multiple trails or trail junctions. For a complete description of the trails, I can use the trail numbers found on the Explorer maps to locate the trail within the ADK trail guidebooks.

SUMMARY

In spite all of the negatives I found with the Adirondack Park Explorer Software, it still has proven to be an excellent resource and trip or route planning tool. Even though the low cost is well worth what I get out of the program, I do feel a redesign is in order to be comparable to other programs. With a more sophisticated approach, I feel the Parks Explorer software would be of more value to the end user. With that said, even with the old-school feel of the program it still performed well enough to make trip planning much more easier than using an in-print map. However, I will be sure to keep that in-print map for field use as I find it easier to read than printing multiple pages for an area.

Many other features still make this program a valuable resource for field use and trip planning. The GPS transfer is one of the better features, as well as the various route planning and designing features such as the routing tool, view route profiles, 3D map viewing and adding notes/waypoints. Although the printed maps can be improved, I think they are also a good feature to have.

Pros

GPS transfer
Corresponding trail numbers to the ADK trail guide books
View trails, notes and route features
Route highlighting, distance measuring and elevation profiles

Cons

Low resolution for printed maps
Local details not included
Stability issues with the program freezing and shutting down



LONG-TERM REPORT

Final Field and Testing Locations

For this final testing leg, the Adirondack Park Explorer software was used to plan two backcountry trips in the Adirondacks. One was for the High Peak Region and another for the West-Central Region. Since this is the final entry for this test series, I have included one trip that is still in planning, but still has to be completed. This trip will be taken during the summer of 2010.

Mount Colden - High Peaks Region
This mountain trek was a 12.3 mile (19.80 km) out and back and to a summit elevation of 4714 ft (1437 m). The weather was with light snow, zero visibility and strong winds at the summit. The temperature was about 15 F (-9 C) to Start and 20 F (-7 C) for most of the day. Snowshoes were worn for the entire trek.

Fulton Chain of Lakes - West-Central Region (To be taken in summer 2010)
This canoe route is a 16 mile (25.76 km) paddle through the Fulton Chain. This route connects First Lake through to Eighth Lake and there will be .7 mile (1.13 km) carry from Fifth Lake to Seventh Lake and another .5 mile (0.81 km) carry from Seventh Lake to Eighth Lake. To make this trip a long weekend a 1 mile (1.61 km) portage to Raquette Lake and the northern routes will be added. My overnights on this canoe camping trip will be spent in lean-tos, but in case of no-vacancy a tent will be carried.

The software offered great highway and back road directions for my travels. For this entire test series, the Adirondack Park Explorer was used for both front and backcountry planning. In addition to trip planning, I have also used the mapping software to study various areas and the geography of the Adirondack Park.

Final Field Evaluations and Assessments

During this final testing leg, I again had the opportunity to plan for a few more backcountry trips to the Adirondack State Park. This time around, I traveled to the High Peaks Region to climb one of the tallest mountains in New York State. The other trip, which is currently still in planning, is for a canoe camping trip that routes through the Fulton Chain Lakes. In addition, for further evaluation I used the software for road and driving directions to and from various stopping locations.

When routing my canoe trip through the Fulton Chain, I was pleasantly surprised to find the digital maps highlighted lean-tos, camping areas, and campgrounds along the lakes and rivers. The program also maps out boat launches, canoe accesses and the main portages from Seventh Lake to Eighth Lake and Eighth Lake to Raquette Lake.

As for my previous observations from my earlier reports, those all still stand and all issues are still in occurrence. The printed maps are low resolution and I am still having the same instability issue with the program running an error code and then shutting down. Other than that, the program is still capable of route or trip planning and transferring planned routes to a GPS unit. Completed tracks can also be imported from a GPS unit and saved for future use or re-evaluating those trips like reading elevation profiles of mountain climbs.

SUMMARY

I found the Adirondack Park Explorer Software to be an excellent resource as a trip or route planning tool. However, I still feel a redesign of the software is in order to be comparable to other programs on the market. With a more sophisticated approach, I feel the Parks Explorer software would be of more value to the end user. Although, I do feel the program still performs well enough to make trip planning easier than using an in-print map, but that in-print map will still be used for field use as I find it easier to read than the program's printed maps.

Pros

Ability to plan water routes and canoe camping trips
GPS transfer
Corresponding trail numbers to the ADK trail guidebooks
View trails, notes and route features
Route highlighting, distance measuring and elevation profile

Cons

Low resolution for printed maps
Local details not included
Stability issues with the program freezing and shutting down



This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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