Topographic Maps Canada – an app that puts all Canada’s topos on your iPhone or iPad

I’m someone who likes to hang out in bars and talk about where to paddle a canoe. It doesn’t happen that often but I’m forever bringing maps along which is fine – because Tyvek is also beer resistant – but inevitably the question is ‘how far is that’ or ‘do you have the map for X’?

And that’s where paper lets you down. But there’s this app that solves that. Topographic Maps Canada is free from the iTunes App store and allows you to get 1:50,000 Topo maps onto your iPhone or iPad in seconds. If you push to the edge of your map it asks you if you want to download the neighbouring one. You can search for topos by map name (always a bit challenging), download the topo for where you are, and see the Google Sat view.

But for me the nifty thing is being able to measure the distance between one or several points just by swiping and tapping a button. So I can plot the distance between Brent and Kiosk. And because I can download any map I want, I can pull up the Chiniguchi River system if the question comes up.

Now it is an iPhone app that ‘blows up’ to fit the iPad so it’s a bit pixelated in places. And you can’t save your routes (though you can save waypoints), so it’s not a total replacement for more hardcore mapping applications, most of which are to be found on the desktop.

The author David Crawshay deserves some kind of medal.

Now there is also Topo Maps for the iPad, which costs $8.00. I’m just downloading it now and I’ll have word on it shortly. It purports to do somethings that Crawshay’s free app will not. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. I recently downloaded this app from the istore to my Ipod Touch 4. all the maps Ive downloaded are blank. the map that appears is the lake louise. am i missing somthing?

    • Having the same problem as Drew.
      Searching for sme cities gives me blank answer.
      Acquiring my location gives me a non existing map…
      Little bit annoying…

    • iPod’s location services are Wifi only. They don’t have a GPS receiver. And I hate to ask the obvious, but… uh… do you have location services turned on?

  2. Hey CMKL,
    I spent the whole summer looking for an app that is like a GPS. I need to be able to download the map and then use it when I am in the deepest, darkest depths of no where. Ideally it would include Ontario Lakes so I could find my way around the water too. Any ideas?

    • Well in theory, if you have an iPhone 3G or anything more recent, you should be able to use one of these mapping applications I mention in this post provided you download the maps in advance. Most iPhones in service now (the original did not) have an assisted GPS which, when it has no 3G reception or Wifi, can still use satellite GPS connections to locate you.

      But they can’t use that to download a map. So your boy scout training – that whole ‘Be Prepared’ business is still your best advice. Handheld GPS units are still better than your average smart phone GPS because (a) most of them also use the Russian satellites and (b) devote more energy and engineering to location services.

      Much as I love my iPhone, when I go camping anywhere more than a few hours away from my egress (aka the car) I take my handheld GPS unit.

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