I went to a travel shop today, specialising in travel litterature and maps. I compared different brands side by side. In order of preference:
#1 Globetrotter Travel Map: This was my favourite by far. For road navigation purposes it was the easiest of all the maps to read. Although it missed a couple of references to fuel stattions, etc, it still had great coverage. The underrepporting of services may lead to a bit of wolf crying some places. The map was also printed on both sides, with smaller maps of some larger towns and cities on one side, making it a very versatile map. It also had a distance table. It is however fair to underscore that if you plan to be riding a lot of pistes and such, then this map should not be your first choice. Globetrotter also offer a small travel guide + map combo (map inserted in plastic pocket of the guide book). This map is slightly smaller in size than the map I reviewed above, andhence not as useful for navigation purposes as the larger map which is sold separatley... but still a good map. The guide book itself had little practical information in terms of lodging, etc. Although I found it an interesting read with nice pictures and good general background info, I only found it adequate enough for package tourists or as a second guide for "go it aloners". I found it insufficient as a single source for adventurers who like to go it on their own and who need lots of practical information along their route.
#2 Geo Center Map: A great map, good detail and fairly easy to read and lots of references to fuel stations and lodging. Where I can't find a Globetrotter Map, I will purchase this one.
#3 ITM: Probably the most detailed of all the maps in terms of topographical information. It also had lots of references to lodging, fuel stations, etc. But, the map was difficult to read as it was overly cluttered.
#4 Freytag & Berndt: This map looked like a sad attempt of some poor amateur African bushman who wanted to make a few bucks by copying another crappy map using Crayons.
It may be a good map, I don't know... I lost my interest in it rather quickly as first impression was rather unconvinsing. Still, I doubt that you would get any more lost wth this map than with the others.
I did not check out Hildebrand's, Philip's or Map Studio, as I have had trouble finding maps for as many African countries as with the brands above.
Guide books: The heavy duty guide books such as Lonely Planet and Bradt have many useful maps of town areas and cities. Combined with practical references on those maps, they are great once you arrive! The more narrow the guide book is in terms of coverage, the more numerous and detalied the maps will be.
The 1:4.000.000 Michelin maps are a must have for planning your African adventure (three maps cover all of Africa). As it only covers the main roads, it is not very useful for navigation purposes, but for planning, yes.
It is important to underscore that I don't know which of any of these maps brands are most up to date for the different regions. Even though some have been printed later than others, this does not mean they are the ones that are most up to date. My general notion is that the general serveyor info is poor all over Africa and that any African map will have lots of errors, regardless of brand (except for South Africa). This is not of great concern to me as roads seldom disapear but are usually added, meaning I will not likely get lost with an old map. However, if accuracy is very important to you, I'd compare maps and go with whichever map has the most tarmac on it (roads more often upgraded from gravel to tarmac rather than the other way arround). I know of a couple of guys who made a trip through all of Africa with just using general reference maps and by asking for directions along the way, it worked great...
[This message has been edited by Wheelie (edited 27 March 2006).]