Nation Geographics Back Roads Explorer Long Term Report - Kelli Wise
- My bad. I had the due date as mid March in my calendar. I thought I
was going to be a bit early, but noooooooo. anyway, sorry for being
National Geographic Back Roads Explorer Long Term Report March 1,
Personal biographical information:
Name: Kelli Wise
Computer used: genuine Intel processors - Pentium 4
Operating systems: Windows XP Home Edition
GPS used: Garmin Geko 301
Printer used: HP Deskject 950C (color inkjet)
Location: Western Washington, USA
Date: March 1, 2005
I've been car camping and hiking for 20 years and sport climbing for
10 years, but am new to backpacking. My backpacking style is
lightweight but not ultralight. I am striving for a suitable
compromise between safety and comfort. The majority of my hiking
experience is in Western Washington.
Field information: Washington state.
Manufacturer: National Geographic
Model: Back Roads Explorer
Year of Manufacture: 2004
17 CD set of maps covering the entire United States of America.
System Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, NT 4.0 and higher.
Works with all color and black & white printers supported by these
operating systems. 486 DX/66 MHz PC or higher 16 MB RAM 2X CD-ROM
drive 256-color monitor
Seamlessly scroll across the entire US with four levels of map
detail, including 1:100,000 scale topographic maps.
Customize and print photo-quality maps.
Add current road and street information and 3D shaded relief.
Draw your own routes and create elevation profiles.
Export maps to Palm or Pocket PC.
Load your GPS with routes & waypoints.
The maps are scanned USGS photo quality maps. Levels 1 & 2 are USA
maps from National Geographic World Atlas. Level 3 are 1:500,000 USGS
national map series. Level 4 are USGS 1:100,000 maps with up-to-date
roads and streets. The National Geographic web site also has a page
called mapXchange where users download maps and routes. There are
currently no files for Back Roads Explorer on the site.
Long Term Report:
In the last few months, I have the opprotunity to continue to use the
software and evaluate it's stability, accuracy and useability.
The stability of the program has continued to impress me. I have
never had the software crash, lock-up, or act oddly. I truly
appreciate this since I've had software that was so buggy, it forced
me to pull out my recovery disks and re-load operating systems and
applications. Not this program. I described it as "rock solid" in
my field report and it still applies.
The program also interfaces seamlessly with my GPS unit. It knows
the maximum length of the waypoint names that my Geko 301 will take
even if I don't. The waypoints upload quickly and easily and I can
name them in the program rather than scrolling through the alphabet
on my GPS unit. I checked the accuracy by taking a reading of my
home, my mother's home and plotting them out on the Backroads
Explorer. The software located the GPS coordinates on the correct
street and in the approximate location on the block where the
residences are located.
I've gotten used to the drawing tool and the eraser function and
found that they both work quite well. Reading the help file has come
in handy and the information has always been accurate and helpful. I
would like a little more flexibility in colors because I've found
that some of the colors blend too readily into the background making
the drawn items, such as routes and markers, hard to distinguish.
The program does let me change line width and gives me a choice of
solid or dashed lines.
I still find the Back Roads Explorer to have limited use in a city.
The colors are dark, one way streets are not marked and the street
names are not visible in the printouts. Reading the maps in the car
after the sun has set is nearly impossible because of the topographic
shading there just isn't enough contrast to be readable in limited
Using the Back Roads Explorer for planning out trips on the highway
is a different matter. For long distance trips, I can break the
route up into sections and measure the distance between those
sections. The internet mapping tools will simply give you the trip
in one big bite. Driving Interstate 80 across the US? The internet
tools will give you the entire distance of over 3000 miles. That's
going to leave you a little tired of sitting. But, with Back Roads
Explorer, I can determine how may hours I want to drive every day
and, based on the average miles per hour I get with stops for fuel
and meals, I can select where I want to stop for the night.
I've also used the Back Roads Explorer for finding alternate routes
in my small city and for exploring parts of the city I've never
seen. I've found the detailed route of my favorite rails-to-trails
path, the streets it intersects, and the neighborhood at its
terminus. I've discovered a couple county parks within a short drive
of my house that I never knew existed. I've discovered a few
alternate, and scenic, routes to some of my favorite local
destinations. I can do this with the Back Roads Explorer software
more quickly than I can over the internet because the viewing area is
larger and I don't have to wait for a web page to be refreshed.
I like the Back Roads Explorer software. Sure, there are things that
could be improved, but the program provides accurate maps, drawing
tools, GPS interface, and hasn't crashed my computer. The help files
are helpful but the the user interface is so intuitive that you won't
need to reference them until you get into some of the deeper
features. As an added bonus, if I spill coffee on my maps, I can
always print out another one instead of having to go out and buy
another road atlas.
I would recommend this program to someone looking for comprehensive
road data for the United States.
I would like to thank Back Pack Gear Test and National Geographic for
the opportunity to test the Back Roads Explorer software.