Alberta Canada: Reviews of Travel Books and Maps
The purpose of this page is to reveal to you the resources that we have used both prior to and during our trip to Alberta, Canada. We have reviewed such resources so we can convey to you which ones we thought were most useful as well as those we didn't find useful. Hopefully, this may better direct your information gathering efforts for your own trip...
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REVIEWS OF TRAVEL RESOURCES (BOOKS, MAPS, WEBSITES)
Lonely Planet: Banff, Jasper & Glacier [Overall Rating: 3.5/5]
When Julie and I decided on doing a pretty spontaneous early Autumn trip to the Canadian Rockies in 2010, we decided on consulting this guidebook instead of the typical country guide from LP. So this was pretty much the primary pre-trip resource for that particular trip. As usual, it was loaded with blurbs with some decent maps all keyed to both the text as well as to larger contextual maps. However, it was light on the photos so we really had to imagine what it was like as we read through it, and it pretty much acted like seeds for our eventual keyword searches for further research.
We extensively bookmarked the book so it definitely got heavy use from us. The bookmarks primarily focused on the waterfalls identified and so for that reason alone, it was fairly useful. We also looked into some of the restaurant recommendations when we were done with the day's touring. But unlike the typical country guides, this book was actually more of a hiking guide as they provided a series of suggested hikes in the Canadian Rockies regions of Banff, Jasper, and even Glacier National Park in northern Montana.
So we got what we needed to further our research, and I'd say that this book was fairly decent though it wasn't great. Hence the slightly above average rating that we gave it.
Lonely Planet: Canada [Overall Rating: 3.5/5]
LP guides are almost our default choice of guidebooks whenever we initiate pre-trip research on where we were planning to go. In the case of Canada, we actually only consulted this guide when we headed to the provinces out east in Quebec and Ontario. We used the more specific Canadian Rockies version for Banff, Jasper, and even Glacier (in the USA) National Parks when we were in the Canadian Rockies.
In any case, the extensive coverage of a country as large as Canada was pretty impressive as it was almost on par with how extensive their coverage of Australia was. And as usual, we pretty much relegated LP's pre-trip research as seeds for keyword searches for supplemental research since they're very light on the photos and heavy on the descriptions, which are hard to follow on just the verbage alone.
Still, we liked their maps and how they're keyed to the text and to other maps for context. We also used the guide in the field primarily for restaurant recommendations or other incidental sights that we might have overlooked in our waterfalls research but just so happened to realized that they were within reach. So that helped us keep our trip well-rounded and not too waterfall-saturated.
Other than that, the LP guides are only useful to that extent though their extensive coverage means that we can go back to this guide as an initial trip resource for pre-trip research the next time we go to Canada; especially to some of the other areas we haven't explored yet.
Garmin MapSource Topo! Canada [Overall Rating: 5/5]
I was pretty happy when I saw that this MapSource product was available at a time we were ready to prepare for and during a trip to the Canadian Rockies back in 2010. Of course, we also gave it good use in preparation for and during a trip to both Quebec and Ontario back in 2013.
The reason why I like the MapSource product is largely because of its functionality. Even though we had a Garmin Nuvi for in-the-field navigation of North America (that also included Canada as well as all of the continental USA), this MapSource product helped us with the trip logging and waypointing both when I had to download stuff from the Nuvi as well as prior to the trip when I had to mark where we were planning on going.
In addition to the functionality, I also liked the level of detail that included default waypoints for some places we were targeting (especially the waterfalls as well as the famous lakes). While the trails weren't necessarily as detailed as say if there was a Trails Illustrated version of regions of Canada or the NatGeo Topo! products of particular states in the USA, it was good enough for our trip planning. Perhaps my only gripe besides perhaps some missing detail would also be the flip side where the software was prone to long pauses when I was zooming in simply due to the quantity of waypoints and marks that were in the software. And I'm willing to bet that quite a few of these default waypoints haven't even made an appearance on GoogleMaps yet.
So even in an age of GoogleMaps where there might be plenty of disjointed waypoints and tracks from random bloggers, hiking clubs, business, and general info providers, this map is still necessary to get the rest of the info that otherwise wouldn't find its way onto Google. And for that reason alone, that makes this product very valuable. I know that little by little, these map products are being phased out, but at least as far as Canada is concerned, I have what I need.
I know from seeing Amazon reviews that quite a few people have trouble with getting the product installed or used, but I can't say I've had terrible difficulty in getting up and running with each MapSource product I have. Perhaps what's more annoying is having to enter serial numbers or license info and connecting with their server (or hooking up a Garmin GPS product as part of the install process), where I fear one day I might get stuck having to re-install it only to find out that I can't communicate with their server anymore (thereby rendering the product useless even though I bought it).
So until the product is rendered useless, I still contend this is the most useful map product out there and only lags behind GoogleMaps in that the place name search capability may not be as extensive, flexible, nor up-to-date since GoogleMaps is constantly being added to as time goes on...
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