We'll freely admit to being map and gadget geeks, and digital mapping combines both those enthusiasms to great effect. There's a lot of choice in the UK market, but slimmer pickings for those who like to venture abroad. Popular digital mapping company Memory-Map had a sniff at providing French mapping towards the end of 2005 with two titles covering the Alps and Pyrenees and obviously liked the smell - it's now launched products incorporating IGN 1:25,000 scale topographical mapping for the whole of France.
There's a range of options. Poshest are the Premium Edition titles, which include 1:25,000 maps and aerial photography. The Premium range splits France into 10 DVDs priced at £99.95 each - the areas are French Alps, Paris/Île de France, Pays de Loire/Poitou Charantes, Pyrenees & South West France, Alsace Lorraine/Franche Comté, Nord Picardie/Champagne/Ardennes, Provence/Cote d'Azure/Mediterranean, Massif Central, Brittany/Normandy and Bourgogne/Centre.
If that's a bit spendy for you, the Standard Edition does without the aerial photography and splits France into smaller sections - 38 in all. The mapping and software is exactly the same, though. Each of those is £39.95, or you can get half-country North or South discs for £119.95 or the whole of France for the customary few pennies under two hundred quid.
All the usual digital mapping features are present and correct - plan routes before you go, fly through a 3D rendering, print them out, load them onto a Pocket PC or smartphone, import your GPS logs the other way and analyse your climbing and descending and all that stuff. We could see it being particularly interesting for winter sports that don't, as a rule, follow narrow trails on the ground...