**Author’s Note: This article was originally written in April of 2018. Some technical issues lead me to believe that it had been lost but I stumbled across it just the other day. Given the subject matter I thought I would share this ironic twist with everyone**
Unlostify Maps - A Review
In November of 2016 many people, including myself, were surprised and saddened to hear that Jeff McMurtrie of famous Jeff's Maps (www.jeffsmap.com) was stepping away from his company after 10 years. The good news was that Jeff's Maps was going to continue to operate, helmed by co-founding partner Eric. In early March of 2018 Jeff once again popped back on the scene with his surprising announcement that he had a new partner and had formed a new company dedicated to providing the highest quality tripping maps.
Being a lover of maps I quickly pre-ordered Unlostify's first run of maps (Killarney, West French River, Massasauga and The Kawartha Highlands). This bulk purchase reduced the cost of each map to down from $20 to $12.50 and included free shipping.
Jeff and his new partner Deki will be the first to admit that their launch did not go as planned. They ran into delays with the shipment of their raw materials and then ran into issues with their printing company. I tip my hat to them though because throughout all of these delays they regularly communicated openly and honestly with their customers and they set realistic timeframes for delivery.
My maps arrived April 10th and now that I've had some time to look them over I thought I would share my thoughts. Will Jeff catch lightening in a bottle for a second time? Can he improve on his already impressive Jeff’s Maps? Let’s see!
Much of the same thought and care that went into Jeff's original maps can be seen here along with a few great improvements.
The print quality is very similar to Jeff’s Maps. All maps are light weight (coming in at approximately 46g each), tear resistant, waterproof and buoyant.
Each map comes 2 sided with 1 side specifically geared towards planning your adventure and the other side to be used in the field. Let’s break these 2 sides down with a little more detail
- The entire map is coated so that you can use and reuse dry erase markers for planning.
- Introduces Hooty The Owl; a cartoon owl, as your guide through the planning process.
- Step by step support for planning your trip based on what you are looking to do and your skill level/condition as a tripper (there are 4 skill level colour schemes for first timers to extreme trippers). These are colour coded and make for very easy planning.
- Route Comparison charts allow you to plug in the details for 2 different routes and compare them. Details like campsites, travel time and number/length of portages broken down day by day will help you pick the best possible route for your skill and fitness levels.
- Lists detailed and specific Points of Interest including activities, natural attractions, historical POIs, free camp sites, extreme adventures and secluded campsites. Each POI also has an ‘awesomeness’ star rating.
- This side is treated with a glare reducing coating for better visibility in the field.
- Included are also proper Cartesian Grid Reference for easy compass use.
- Routes follow the same skill level colour schemes as the planning map and are marked with “Glow in the Dusk” inks for greater visibility in low light conditions.
- All Points of Interest are marked with custom symbols and ‘awesomeness’ star rating.
- “Owl Vision” offers a magnified, detailed zoom on certain areas of interest.
What I liked:
Unlostify maps maintain the clean and easy to use formatting that Jeff’s Map users have become accustomed to. The maps are made for use in the field and unlike cheaper products, they will last over time.
While some of the features of these maps may seem a little gimmicky and I doubt that I will use all of the features, I do feel that these Unlostify maps have a certain charm.
It is clear that Unlostify is gearing themselves to new trippers. People who may have a rudimentary background in backcountry travel, but perhaps aren’t the most experienced. This is a great direction with the (supposed) goal of trying to introduce new (or newish) people to the backcountry. I can get behind anything that introduces more people to tripping.
The introduction of Hooty The Owl makes Unlostify maps very appealing to younger campers. I can see this attracting younger children to the planning experience and holding their attention throughout this process more than a regular topo map.
Unlostify is also offering the Trip Map for download off of their site. I don’t think that much is lost by just having this version of the map and they promise to be bringing us electronic versions (iOS, Android and GPS) of the map in the very near future.
Areas For Improvement:
It’s clear that Unlostify is going after the paddling market. As a paddler I respect this decision but I’m also a hiker. When comparing the Unlostify details of the La Cloche Silhouette trail with Jeff’s Maps you can tell they scaled back the detail for the hiking section; likely to clean up the maps or to include more paddle route details. This may mean that multisport users will need 2 separate sets of maps.
I found the contrast between waterways and everything else dark and difficult to pick up on the Planning Map. The lakes get lost amongst the bright, vibrant colours of the routes. I’m sure it just takes some time to adjust but I think the lakes could have been more distinct.
The new system of time travel that they have laid out (I’m not talking about Marty McFly style time travelling). I find it a little contrived. Although they do offer a concept of relaxed travel vs. typical vs. speedy, the use of blue (paddling) and black (portaging) boxes is tedious to count. I much prefer being given a simple time for the route that can be converted to my speed of travel.
Unlostify maps have expanded on the great work already laid out in the earlier Jeff’s Maps products. These maps are well thought out and professional crafted with the highest quality materials. The maps are fun and they have an appealing charm and character. The introduction of Hooty is a great hook to get kids involved with trip planning and map reading. People who are brand new to trip planning are walked through all of the essential steps and in a way Unlostify maps is like having your very own outfitter to seek advice from. Based on the above, I think that Unlostify Maps are well worth the investment. I look forward to exploring their expanding line of maps in the future. It looks like Jeff can catch lightening in a bottle twice!
My only questions is how long do we need to wait for Algonquin?
Buy your Unlostify Maps at www.unlostify.com
All images are used in accordance with the creators wishes and as outlined in their licensing agreement: http://maps.unlostify.com/LicenseAgreement.pdf
**Authors Note About Images: Not all of the images above properly represent the quality of images found on Unlostify Maps. The scanning process was unable to capture the quality; likely because of the waterproof coating on the maps**