I have found an invaluable free tool for your pre- and post-SHTF operations that allows you detailed and accurate mapping for your location(s) within the U.S. Here is a link to the U.S. Geological Survey Map Store where you can download at, no cost, detailed topographic, contour, road maps, etc. even including satellite images. These newer maps usually are around 20 megabytes, so if you have a slow Internet connection, be aware of that.
First navigate to the USGS Map Locator and Downloader Web Page
Now Double-Click to Zoom-In and Click-and Drag to Re-center the interactive map until you get to the area you want.
Next Select “O MARK POINTS: “ instead of “O NAVIGATE: “ on the right side of the window. If you are not zoomed in too tight this will cause grid lines to appear. These indicate the approximate borders of the most recent maps available.
There is a Pull-Down window near the middle of the right side of the window indicating either “30 Minute and larger” or “7.5 to 15 Minute”. The “30 Minute and Larger” refers to maps covering about 30 miles by 30 miles or larger. Always use the “7.5 to 15 Minute” selection. I will explain why in a minute.
Click on the map in the center of an area you want to map out. The map will then refresh with a marker pointing to your spot.
Move your mouse pointer to this marker and left click on the target dot. This will create a popup window showing all maps available which include the spot you selected.
The left column shows the location name for each map listed. Do not use this hyperlink unless you wand to purchase a hard copy of the map. The maps with a place name followed by “US Topo” have the best details.
The second column indicates the geographic size of the map in minutes of longitude and latitude (roughly one mile per “Minute”).
The third column indicates the date the map was made (Very Important).
The fourth column is a link to show you a compressed preview of the map.
The fifth column shows the size of the PDF file of the map. It is also a link to allow you a free download of a zipped PDF version of the map.!
The icon in the last column of the map list is a link allowing you to add multiple maps to a download cart. I recommend against using it.
Find the most recent map for the area you need and click on the file size for that map.
This action will generate a “Save As” window with a generated .zip file name which you can download to a folder on your PC.
Once Saved, go to the folder where you saved it.
Right click on the name of the .zip file, and select “Extract all…”.
Be sure to use the browse function to place the final map in the folder where you want the actual Map stored on your PC.
The unzipped file will be in a PDF format (readable with Adobe Reader).
The newest maps (2010 and later with the “US Topo” following the location name) actually contain multiple map information layers including satellite images, roads, hydrographic features, contours, etc. If you download and install the TerraGo software (available free at the lower left corner of the interactive google map window) you can select and manage which layers to include or exclude when you’re viewing the map with Adobe Reader.
I recommend against using the download bundle icons for obtaining a collection of maps. The process for using it successfully is not user friendly, and can cause a lot of confusion. If you want multiple maps, simply repeat the process that is described above.
Whether you are looking for a suitable or alternate routes when traveling from one location to another, scouting your own area, or looking for a suitable location, these maps are great and free.
God Bless You and Yours, - Scott S.