Canada Maps for the backroads to never get lost in the backcountry
The Backcountry Canada maps I recommend on this page are either maps or map series that I’m actually using and trust.
Despite the map apps on my phone, I love sitting on the floor planning my travel route on an actual paper map. I can sit there for hours and dream and imagine my upcoming journey. I use a marker to highlight the route and I dream. After I’m back from my travels the maps act like souvenirs and help me remember places and people I met on the way.
Part of trip planning for me is to see what maps are available for the areas I want to go to. In most cases, this means checking online and also drop in at an outdoor store or bookstore and see what they’ve got.
Depending on where you want to travel to, the map supply might be limited. I found this out during my trip planning for the Yukon and Northwest Territories. In the end, I bought all the maps I could find.
What Kind Of Canada Maps Should You Get?
I used many different maps over the years, everything from paper maps to Backroad Mapbook maps on my handheld GPS, to phone apps. I know what works and what doesn’t work.
Topographic Maps, (Canadians call them topo maps for short), are what you will absolutely need if you are hiking off track or driving off-road.
Topo maps come in a range of scales. Most of the topo map sheets are in 1:250,000 and 1:50,000 scale. For some areas, you can get maps as detailed as 1:2,500, but that’s not everywhere in the backcountry.
Commercial Canada Maps
I’m a firm believer that if you’re stuck somewhere, it’s good to have a real map to rely on, instead of trying to rely on a GPS. Your car is probably outfitted with a GPS and you have your cell phone with a 5-inch screen where it’s hard to read directions. Using your cell phone for navigation in your car can cost you, a lot!
The Canadian law says: “A person must not use an electronic device while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway.” Officers nail a high number of drivers every year under the distracted driving law.
So, paper maps might be out of fashion, but having one will keep you safe.
There are various map series on the market. So what’s the difference?
The biggest difference between the maps boils down to two things: map scale and map detail.
With map details, I mean the kinds of topics or information that each map series focuses on.
When I travel, I usually have more than one map. I nearly always have an AAA Road Atlas in my car, as well as a Backroad Mapbook (BRMB) in print for the area I’m at. My Handheld GPS with uploaded backroad maps comes along when I drive off major highways and on hikes. I also check whether there is a Go Trekkers Map available for the area I’m heading to.
Depending on what you’re planning to do, you might find that you need more than one option.
BRMB – Backroad Mapbooks
The Backroad Mapbooks series is the go-to source when it comes to Backcountry Canada maps. Backroad Mapbooks are loaded with are user-friendly topographic maps and outdoor adventure information.
These popular map books contain the most detailed maps in Canada (apart from the Government topo maps), plus extensive trails and regional information on hiking, camping, angling, snowmobiling, hunting, skiing, paddling, ATVing, and much, much more.
The Backroad Mapbooks are available for different regions. If you spend lots of time in one region and want to go into the backcountry, to buy a Backroad Mapbook will be worth it.
If you travel across the whole country, then it doesn’t make sense to buy all the Backroad Mapbooks. Buy a Backroad Mapbook for the area where you’re planning to spend time in the backcountry, do wild camping and backcountry recreation activities off-the-beaten-track.
I have various backcountry map books on my handheld GPS.
Complete area topographic map coverage at 150 000 – 250 000 scales (province and region dependent).
Price: $25.95 per book
Check the BRMB website and give these backroad maps a try, you sure will love them.
Waterproof Backroad Maps
The Waterproof Topo Maps are a blown up version of the maps you’ll find in the Backroad Mapbooks, allowing for easier reading and better scales, starting at 1:160 000.
You can tale a water-resistant, region-specific map along on your outdoor adventure and navigate with confidence.
These tear-resistant, waterproof, large format adventure maps highlight popular recreational areas showing hunting management units, logging roads or bush road systems, trails, parks, boat launches, ATV and snowmobile routes, and more. Designed to get you outside to play, these waterproof maps are currently available for areas in BC and Ontario and will show you the way into the backcountry and beyond.
Check out Waterproof maps for more details.
The BRMB Navigator is the leading-edge GPS navigation app from the publishers of the Backroad Mapbook series. You get access to recreation maps with 10,000+base scale topographic maps of all Canadian provinces, as well as satellite, terrain and street maps.
The BRMB Navigator app is available for IOS or Android devices.
They offer a 30-day trial and after that, it gets somewhat expensive
Backroad maps for your handheld Garmin GPS are also available. The Backroad GPS maps boast the most detailed and comprehensive coverage of Canada available to recreational users. They are the most complete maps available from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.
The GPS maps contain up-to-date outdoor recreation information including contour elevations and summits, logging roads, trails, parks, rivers, lakes and lots more.
The maps are compatible with Garmin GPS and Garmin Basecamp, these backcountry GPS maps let you navigate in the wilderness with confidence.
I purchased the British Columbia backroad maps for my Garmin Oregon 600 and they are what they promise to be. The GPS maps are very expensive and only worth buying if you have lots of use for them. More information on the BRMB Website here.
Gem Trek Recreational Maps
Gem Trek Recreational Maps come in two different series: Go to Driving
Maps and Go to Trail Maps.
Go to trails map is a full-colour, user-friendly recreational maps show all the hiking, biking and equestrian trails. They are also loaded with valuable visitor information, including mountain lodges, campgrounds, points of interest and even picnic areas. These maps are ideal for hikers and cyclists, as well as touring vacationers who want a detailed map of the parks.
Driving Map are for the traveller who wants a level of detail far beyond what’s on a regular road map. Relevant visitor information included on the maps makes planning your trip easier and takes the guesswork out of getting around while you’re there.
Scales: Between 1:20,000 to 1:400,000, depending on the area covered.
Gem Trek Maps focus on particular routes, not on the general areas.
MapArt Backroad Atlas
I often have a MapArt Backroad Atlas in my vehicle for the particular province I’m at.
You find most roads, with many attractions, but the atlas is not geared towards recreation.
The atlas also has some city maps which might come handy.Scales: 1:500,000
You can explore the West with the new Calgary to Vancouver Atlas from the CCC map series, GPS compatible with back road map coverage from Seattle to Vancouver all the way to Calgary!
These Canada maps are essentially a road atlas, no idea where “backcountry” came into the picture.
Visitors Centres and Tourist Information
Don’t forget to stop in at the Visitor Centre when you get into a town. Some maps they offer for free are of good quality.
Examples are the printed Provincial Park Maps, available for different regions with a good overview of the area with hiking trail suggestions and activities.
Many maps are offered online if you search for the province you’re interested in visiting.
I hope you’ve found this page useful for planning. I welcome feedback and suggestions of any other Canada maps that you’ve found helpful in your backcountry travels.
More About Canada