With a First Class Map You’ll Be Able To Get Back On The Trail

by Leon Pizzagi

Introduction to Using Maps Will you use maps or GPS units to get around? Whether you use a well-constructed topographical map or a high tech GPS device, you’ll likely have little difficulty navigating through the countryside, along the trails, and among the wilderness areas.

Did you know that experienced hikers use these wireless devices and maps? Beginners tend to just wing it. Amateur hikers think if they travel on good trails they’er safe. They think that it will all work out. They seem to consider that taking the time to learn to use maps or GPS units is a waste of time. Yet there is a very real possibility that they can get very lost. The danger is that even stepping a few feet off the trail into a heavily forested area as a confused beginner in the absence of sun, stars, or geographical markers. The beginner usually ends up walking around in circles.

As far as maps go, there are maps that won’t necessarily help tourism per se. Nonetheless with a first class map you’ll be able to get back on the trail you were traveling down. So, how do you start with a good map? Your good map ought to cover the area you’re going to hike in. Obtain the map well in advance of your hike date so that you can look at it in the comfort and safety of your home. Get to know the feature of the maps including the landmarks shown. Landmarks can be as simple as a lake, river, escarpment, or highway.

Most maps will display a legend. Familiarize yourself with the symbols. Different publishers will have a different set of symbols. Discover what the map scale is. Is it for example 1 inch to 1 mile? Now remember that distance is only part of the story. If the ground is not level, distance on a map can be deceiving. For example, 1 mile on a straight-of-way is really a different thing from 1 mile that begins to climbe up a hill to 2,000 feet above sea level. To factor in the latter, you need to consider any altitude markings that will be included on a quality map. There will always be numbers printed along the lines of a quality maps to assist you. When you see curved lines around a hill, you should be aware that it indicates the altitude. These are usually termed contour lines. The further apart the lines are placed the flatter the land is.

Then you ought to consider longitude and latitude. Longitude moves north and south. Latitude on the other hand runs east and west. Maybe you’ve seen maps like this that has the world turned ‘upside down’ with Australia on top and Canada on the bottom. When you are hiking in the daytime, you can use the sun to keep yourself going in the right direction.

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Therefore, early in the day, locate the sun and you’ll find yourself turned toward the East. When it gets late in the day locate the light coming from its direction and turn toward that light. Having done this you’ll find yourself turned toward the West. You should take into account the coastlines. A good map can save your life.