Maps + Navigation

Printing Full-Size USGS Or USFS Topo Quad Maps At Staples

Having a backup copy of paper maps is always a good idea for any trip in remote areas. You never know when your electronic devices may fail, run out of battery or have other issues. I recently spent some time trying to figure out the best way to print USGS (US Geological Survey) topographic quad maps on paper, and after testing a couple of different methods I settled on one – printing the maps full size at Staples.com.

I compared the prices to print the maps at full resolution and quotes ranged from $35+ per map at FedEx Kinkos to $5.94 at Staples… Yes, that is correct. Printed full-size on 24” x 36” paper was only $5.94 at Staples. The map is printed on regular paper, not waterproof paper like Tyvek, but if you are using the maps for backup and have a safe and dry place to store them regular paper should work fine.

I used the GeoPDF format for a local USGS quad to test the process. You can download either GeoPDF or GeoTIFF (image) files directly from the USGS or USFS websites. Here are the links to both sites:

USGS – The National Map Viewer
USFS – FSTopo



Using the USGS – The National Map Viewer

  • Go to the USGS National Map Viewer site
  • Search for the desired location in the search bar
  • Click ‘US Topo Current’ for the current map generation
  • Click ‘7.5 x 7.5 Minute’ (current USGS map standard size)
  • Click ‘GeoPDF’ for a map in PDF format
  • Each one of the squares on the map is an individual topo map. The name of the map is displayed in the center of the square
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Next, search for available maps and download them:

  • Click ‘Find Products’ in the window that appears above the map pin
  • You will see the number of matching results (maps) in the ‘Available Products’ window that appears on the left – click the ‘results’ link
  • The available maps will display, click ‘Download’
  • You can also see historical (older) maps for the area by clicking the ‘results’ link in the ‘Historical Topographic Maps’ section of the ‘Available’ Products’ window
  • Note the format and size of the map file (EX: GeoPDF, 29.85 MB)
usgs-the-national-map-viewer-download-2.jpg

Using USFS (US Forest Service) FSTopo Viewer

  • Go to the USFS FSTopo Viewer site
  • Search for the desired location in the search bar
  • Click on the map image (the actual topo map displays)
  • Click the download link for either format – ‘Download PDF’ or ‘Download GeoTiff’
usfs-fstopo-map-viewer.jpg

Next, head over to staples.com to create a printing project

  • From the navigation bar click ‘Document Printing’ > ‘Blueprints
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Click ‘Start Project’

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Select the map file(s) to upload for printing

  • NOTE: These files are typically large (30-100+ MB) so it may take some time to upload depending on your internet connection
print-full-size-usgs-or-usfs-topo-maps-at-staples-3.jpg

Make the following selections on the preview screen

  • Paper Size – 24” x 36” (width x length)
  • Uncheck ‘Scale to Fit’ (this will print the map at its native size/resolution and not scale it to make it larger so it fits the entire page)
  • NOTE: It’s a good idea to double-check the physical size of the map PDF document to make sure the paper size you select will accommodate the entire map. You can do this either by viewing the file’s properties or opening it in Adobe Acrobat reader and clicking ‘Properties’ from the ‘File menu
  • NOTE: Some of the USGS topo quad maps also include a layer for satellite imagery. It usually appears to not be on by default, but if you see the satellite imagery in your map print preview try opening the file with Adobe Acrobat reader and checking the layers to make sure the imagery layer is set to off
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Select ‘Color Ink’

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Note the price – $5.94!!

Complete the next 2 screens to select pickup in store or delivery and submit the order. I submitted my order around 9AM and it was ready by 6:30pm the same day.

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2 Comments

  • JH
    May 4, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    This is great! Exactly what i am looking for. question though. The USGS recommends printing on 23×27, and I see that you used 24×36. Can you confirm that it did print exactly to scale using your method? It looks like you just ended up with extra (whitespace) margin space, correct?

    Reply
  • Jeff Greenfield
    October 15, 2021 at 1:13 am

    I looked into this, JH, as I had the same question. And I discovered the answer, and I just ordered some printed the way this author described. They’ll be ready tomorrow. Here’s what I found out: Staples doesn’t offer the 23×27 that the USGS recommends. They offer these sizes for “blueprints”: 18″x24″, 24″x36″ (as the author suggested), 30″x42″, and 36″x48″. No 23″x27″ is offered, only Staple’s standard sizes. You uncheck the box to fill the entire page with the image, so the scale is perfect at 100%. Yes, 24″x36″ is bigger than 23″x27″, but we get an image size of 100%. We merely cut off the extra white space, or just leave it. Make sure you pick the “color ink” option and not black and white as the colors of course are important in a topographical map.

    Reply

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