You look right. You look left. Then you scratch your head and look down at your map. The hiking trail you’re on doesn’t seem to match up with the map that you just pulled out of your camping backpack.
According to the markers on the tree along the trail, you’re at a junction where the trail forks left and right. But according to your map, there’s no fork at all! After examining the map closely, you suddenly realize the problem…the map is a decade old!
While hiking during your next camping trip, it’s vital that you follow certain guidelines when using a hiking map.
Always bring a map whenever you go on a hiking trip. Even if your trip is well-planned, accidents, storms, trail damage, etc. could move you off the trail. If that happens, then having a map could save the day.
Make sure that you use a map that’s for the precise area that you’ll be hiking in. This may sound obvious. But you wouldn’t want to bring a road map of the state or region where you’ll be hiking, for example. Legends, contours, and Topographic.
When using a map, make sure that you’re familiar with the various components of the map:
- Contour/altitude lines: lines that run at identical altitudes.
- Date of printing: always use the newest version available.
- Latitudinal lines: unseen horizontal lines that run east to west on Earth.
- Legend: shows the meaning of lines and symbols located on the map.
- Longitudinal lines: unseen vertical lines that run north to south on Earth.
- Magnetic declination: variance between true north and magnetic north for particular points.
- Map number: shows where the map is positioned in the surrounding maps.
- Scale: the extent that the map was reduced. The tinier the reduction, the more precise the map will be.
- Trail duration: shows the time needed to hike between Point A and Point B on the map.
You should also master how to use topographical maps, also known as topo maps. These maps show how the land is shaped where you’ll be going. You can also find features of the map there, such as lakes and rivers.
Before leaving on your next camping trip, it’s important to master various concepts related to topo maps. These concepts include colors, direction, distance, grids, scale, and symbols. In addition, you should master using a compass, which will further improve the usefulness of your topo map.
When hiking with a topo map, you should also place gazetteers into your camping backpack. These books split various states into regions, and include useful information about roads and landscapes.
Even if you’ve done as much planning as possible before your hiking trip, there’s a chance that you could get become lost. If that happens, don’t worry.
Technology has made the world significantly “smaller” than it was in the past. The areas to hike in have shrunk, but we now have tools that make the trip more convenient and comfortable.
Another result of this technology has been that hiking maps have become extremely precise, making them as conveniently possible. By choosing the right map and then mastering how to use it, you’ll never really be lost—even when you are!