Three Reasons to Have a Full-Sized Topo Map
Kevin Felts 02.15.18
There are a number of ways to get a topographical map. Someone could easily print one at home, download the map to a cellphone, or even do both. Forgot all that. Get yourself a full-sized topo map printed on heavy duty paper.
What brought this topic up? In one of my navigation articles: How to use a Topographical Map to Get a Bearing – someone posted a comment saying, “Next time use a topo map that isn’t printed on a parchment scroll.”
With technology readily available like it is today, why even use a topo map? Much less a map that measures 27 inches X 22 inches?
Let’s talk about some reasons to have those large, printed on heavy paper maps.
Last For Decades
A couple of maps in my collection date back to the mid-1990s. One may date to around 1996, while the other one dates to around 1997, plus or minus a year.
The oldest map. which is around 22 years old, has been used on dozens of hiking and camping trips. Some small holes developed where the map folds. The map is stained with sweat and dirt, and has faded over the years. Guess what, it is still usable.
Printing a map at home will not provide the same level of durability.
I can mark a spot on one of my parchment scroll maps, then go back to the spot a decade later, or even two decades later. Do that with a map printed on notebook paper. The first time that notebook paper gets wet it will fall apart.
Easy To Read
Ever been on a hiking trip with several people? A map that measures 27 inches X 22 inches is large enough for three or four people to sit around and look at.
We can all look at the map and discuss what would be the best route – “Rather than going over that hill, lets go to the south, hit that creek, and stay in the shade of old growth timber.”
The details on the small notebook paper maps are too difficult to read. Much less three of four people look at at the same time.
Will Work Anywhere
Whether the hiker is in a river bottom, creek bottom, under a canopy of old growth timber, or anything else that may block GPS and cell phone signals, the topo map will work.
Cell phone dead? GPS dead? Guess what, the paper map and compass still works.
Around 1996 or so, two of my buddies and I planned a 4-5 mile hiking trip. We had camped on a hill top the night before, the headed out on the hiking trip the next morning. What was suppose to be a 4-5 mile hike, turned out to be closer to 6-8 miles. Each one of us took turns navigating through the dense woods we were traveling through.
One of the guys had been in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne. He gave myself and the third person instructions on navigating with a compass and topo map. Over the past 22 years I honed the instructions my buddy gave me.
A lot has changed technology wise since the 1990s. Even though smart phones are cool, I still prefer a topo map. It is not uncommon for a friend or family member to drop me off several miles from home and I hike back through the woods using a topo map and compass.