06/19/2013 07:43 EDT | Updated 08/19/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C.'s new mobile device maps can't replace old-school paper maps, says government

VICTORIA - British Columbia's Forests, Lands and Resource Operations Ministry says its new high-resolution, mobile device compatible maps offer pinpoint-accurate detail, but weekend hikers shouldn't depend on them to find their way out of the wilderness.

The ministry joined the B.C. Search and Rescue Association Wednesday in advising hikers to carry traditional paper maps and not to depend solely on their mobile devices for directions in the bush.

Forests Ministry mapping spokesman Brad Hlasny said the government's new maps are designed for expert map readers, including seasoned hikers, resource company workers, conservationists and government officials.

He said weekend hikers should keep fold-out paper maps in their backpacks or pockets despite a government statement earlier this week that said recreation seekers "can now leave their fold-out maps at home."

Hlasny said he personally does not condone mobile-only maps for hikers and neither does the government.

"I'm a surveyor, so I'd never go in the bush without paper maps and stuff as back up," he said.

B.C. Search and Rescue Association President Don Bindon said the new high-resolution maps on mobile devices are welcome additions for hikers but they shouldn't be trusted as the only tool to get people out of the wilderness.

He said the new mobile device maps being offered for free by the Forests Ministry are one more safety device for hikers, but he's not about to throw away the fold-up map he keeps in his back pocket.

Hlasny said the new maps are created by the ministry's GeoBC branch and are updates of the government's Terrain Resource Information Management base map series used by devoted hikers and the resource industry.

The new maps, of which there are more than 7,000 B.C. maps in digital form, are formatted for easy and free downloads to mobile devices. Previously the maps were kept as PDF files and were not formatted for mobile devices.

Hlasny said the maps are high-resolution quality and are designed to zero in on sites with up-to-date global positioning system accuracy.

"They're not the typical map you'd get from the Capital Regional District for hiking," he said. "They're really an operational map."

Hlasny said the mobile maps allow workers to use their mobile devices in wilderness areas.

"It makes the work flow very efficient for those out in the field," he said. "What it does allow the workers to do is do immediate mapping."

The maps feature elevation contours, roads, railways, airports, transmission lines, population centres, built-up areas, municipal and regional boundaries, lakes, waterways, wetlands, wooded areas, trails, campgrounds, coast lines, parks, protected areas, place names and local landmarks.