While going out on hiking trips to far off places, it is best if you are accompanied with a good hiking map. A hiking map does not only indicate the right track but ensures that you don’t get lost under unfortunate circumstances like thunder, lightning, storm or accidents leading to trail damage.

Since there are a wide variety of maps available, choosing the right map suited to your individualized purpose is essential. Apart from the usual tourist and road maps, Google maps provide an excellent option for easy navigation of different parts of the world free of cost.

Plotting places through a topographic map

While locating places using a map find your present position on the map and tally the landmarks, road names and other important features indicated on the map with those around your actual surroundings. Having done so, locate the desired destination on the map from your present position and proceed according to the route indicated.

In case you have a list of places on your list, select a route that takes you to the nearest places first and then heads towards the farthest. A map index is beneficial in depicting the exact locations of places through grids comprising of latitudes and longitudes. The intersection of a latitude and longitude gives the actual position of a place.

On reaching the desired location, crosscheck the landmarks stated with the actual surroundings to be assured that you are on track.

Important considerations for using a topographic map

A topographic map is a graphic representation of the rise and fall of land on the surface of the earth. It uses contour lines to show elevation above sea level. Widely spaced contours depict flat terrain as compared to close contours that indicate steep slopes. Usually, a number stating the elevation level accompanies every fifth dark contour line. While reading a topographic map, following points must be ensured.

  • Since the details of places keep on changing, so it’s important to look for the date when the map was printed to avail the most updated data. The map number should also be taken into account.
  • Orientation is yet another vital factor that deserves mention. While aligning the compass helps in locating the direction, the key assists figuring out the features of the map. A Magnetic Declination provides the difference between the actual and magnetic north.
  • The conversion scale indicates the measure of the distance on the ground to that on the map. An Altitude and Aspect Ratio Diagram gives a more appropriate estimation of the actual distance since the calculated distance between two points intends to vary greatly for mountainous regions.
  • Contour lines running at the same altitude with a fixed difference between intervals indicate the elevation of locations.
  • Trail durations are suggestive of the time required for hiking between different points. Trails may also be accompanied by a list of obstacles to be encountered.
  • Legend is explanative of the colors, styles, and symbols used on a map.

Having known the necessary features of map reading, you can now be your own hiking guide.