Jeff's Map (Maps by Jeff) Version 6 Released!

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OMG! They're heeeere.
That's right. After almost 10 years a newer and even better version of Jeff's Algonquin Map is now available. Now entitled "
Maps by Jeff", Jeff has released a set of 5 maps encompassing the entire Algonquin Provincial Park area, plus a few areas immediately outside The Park boundary that co-inside to canoe routes that enter/exit The Park accordingly.

I've ordered all five maps to add to my collection and I am anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail. Until they arrive I am reviewing the digital edition of the map(s). There is so much to cover in this review. Firstly, I will start with the online experience.

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The website is clean, concise and fast. Clicking on any of the 5 map icons gives you an online zoomable/scrollable map to examine. As Jeff states, "Just tap on any of the 5 purple map covers above and you'll see the whole map, in detail, before you buy." You can even do this in fullscreen mode. Looks amazing on both my 27" computer monitor and my 70" TV and it's free to try!

The ordering process was just as easy and fun. If you order two or more maps in the series you get a progressive discount as shown on the website, "Order More? Save More! 2 Maps: -5% • 3 Maps: -10% • 4 Maps: -15% • 5+ Maps: -20%".

There have been changes to the way Jeff has presented his map. Namely, the free digital downloadable map is gone. You will have to purchase at least one of the paper maps to be able to receive a downloadable map. Actually, you'll receive 5 digital maps! - Various formats for varying devices and applications. Yay Jeff!

The aforementioned online map on Jeff's website is a great alternative till one is able and willing to purchase a copy of Jeff's Algonquin Map. In fullscreen mode, the map is pleasing to the eye and quite useful.

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Jeff has done a very careful and professional job with respects to his website in whole. Everything from the presentation of products, the online previews, the ordering process. A real joy to surf!

Ok, now on to the 'good stuff'. The actual map (Digital Edition). Where to start? Well I'll go with the Avenza Map application first. Avenza is a popular map viewing application both for iOS and Android devices. If you're like me, I take my iPhone into the backcountry both for map use as well as GPS and photo opportunities. If I ever need to see where I am in The Park, Jeffs Map in the Avenza app will pinpoint my location with GPS accuracy. Jeff states that his maps are very accurate too.

Below is an image of the map in the Avenza app on my 10" iPad. Notice the watermark in the image of the map? That's a new feature that Jeff has included in the Digital editions of the maps. Now all his maps come watermarked with your name. I think this is a great idea - Both for Jeff's protection as a brand and for the individual - it provides proof (And pride) of ownership. What do you think?

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The real plus is the watermark though visible through-out the map is not invasive. Obviously, Jeff had to strike a balance between ownership and usability without distraction. I think this has been achieved very well. I don't even notice it much. Bravo Jeff! Close-ups below..

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The map and its features - The overall design of the map is very similar to version 5. I personally always used to say that, "Version 5 was the golden era of Jeffs maps". I will definitely have to update that phrase! A comparison between version 5 & 6 below..

Version 5
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Version 6
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Right off the bat you can see that the entire map is jam packed with elevation lines, more than ever before and yet they are not intrusive. This is really ideal for those that need or want to go bushwhacking, exploring the backcountry like never before. Gone are the beaver dam markings. I think this is smart. It added unnecessary clutter to an already informative map. Besides, beaver dams come and go and with them no longer marked it adds to the exploration factor.

Marshy areas are still well defined but muted, they no longer seem to provide extended areas of water travel. Mind you, during spring flood these areas maybe more accessible, however I feel that the de-emphasis of the marshy areas with muted colours keeps one focused on the actual canoe routes. It just looks cleaner.

Waterbody elevations are smaller but better defined and all have a 'm' mark next to them. Although I always knew what the number '405' on a waterbody on the map meant, some people might not catch on right away. This takes all the guess work out of it and again, it looks cleaner. Also, notice the updated elevation (Above sea level) of Big Thunder Lake? It's 406m, not 405m! All over the map there are changes like this. I wonder why? Climate change? Sea level changes or better GPS data? Who knows? Jeff certainly does, I'll have to ask him one day. The attention to detail and the changes that have taken place is astounding.

The portage windows as I like to call them are brilliant!! I love this idea and is a revolution in Jeff's map design. Each portage window at a glance gives a huge amount of useful information to the canoeist who must prepare themselves for the task of travelling overland in Algonquin Park. Distance in meters, an elevation profile, colour coding to provide overall difficulty to a portage - Yellow, orange and red. Chevrons indicate hill direction of climb and steepness. There is also a degree marking for steep climbs that can give one an indication of the insanity of some portages. Which is what Algonquin Park is famous for. Gone are the height of the portage marking in meters. I actually liked these and am kinda sad to see them go. Was nice to know that I had not only conquered a particular hill but I climbed 60 meters to it with a canoe and a pack on my back. At the time it was satisfying to learn this data. There is even more to explore in the updated legend of the map, that I will not go into here. I'll leave that up to You - The reader to discover on your own!

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The QR code additions to access points is very handy for newbies to Algonquin Park. No more stopping on the side of the highway (Which seems to be a thing nowadays.. I wish it wasn't). Now, just scan with your phone and boom! Your favourite maps app can direct you with the help of google maps to the access point of your choice. What neat idea!

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What else? Oh yeah, "Jeff's notes". Scattered through-out the map are some of Jeff's notes about certain observations and experiences though-out The Park. These are meant to give you a 'heads-up' on what can be deemed as difficult ventures into less travelled areas of The Park. The usual time/distance markers are still there. Giving one a ball-park figure on travel times and distances covered. Believe it or not, those data sets have been updated as well! Looking at one example from North Branch Lake to Barron Lake, the length has been shortened by 200m! I'm guessing this has to do with more accurate GPS data. As well the travel times have been updated to reflect the change in GPS data. These 'under the hood' changes just keep coming and coming!



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There is also Garmin, Google Earth and GeoTIFF versions of the map included with purchase of any Algonquin Map by Jeff. The latter is to be used with GIS software for those hardcore mapping folks out there. The google kmz file is a bit of a disappointment, both slow-ish (Compared to Avenza) and the resolution (I'm on a retina screen) isn't crisp on multiple zoom levels. However, I blame Google for this. Its Google Earth application is a very out-dated animal. Using the map on Avenza is much cleaner and extremely fast. As for the Garmin version. I use the mini In-Reach and is not compatible with it. However, I suspect you can load it into the basecamp software application on your favourite OS. The desktop JPEG file is excellent as well. If you have a fast viewer in your favourite OS, it is comparable to the Avenza version. There are so many different formats in which to explore the digital edition that I don't think anyone has been left out!

Conclusion:
I gotta hand it to Jeff, he has done a fabulous job on the digital editions of his latest Algonquin Map. The accuracy as well looks to be improved. From what I understand Jeff has spent years parsing his data. Then of course there is all the visual elements that make a map,
The map. Jeff didn't just spit out a version 6 map - He re-invented it. You can tell by the design and the attention to detail that Jeff loves his work. The portage windows I'm totally 'ga-ga' over, a really brilliant feature of the map. I think it will go a long way to helping me decide on trying out that next insane ascent I've been mulling over forever. There's so much more to talk about in the digital editions but I prefer to spend my time exploring the map myself. So that's it for now.. Till I get my physical copies of Jeff's latest and greatest creation! The web site URL is www.mapsbyjeff.com. Check it out now. Christmas mail rush starts this week!

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