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Maps, Map Reading, Topographic Maps and Free APPs


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We rely on GPS but we also should have physical maps; not just road maps but topographic maps of our area. There are places to download free ones. Also free location and navigation apps that can be very useful. Do you know how to read a topo map?

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Maps, Map Reading, Topographic Maps and Free APPs

  1. 1. What You Need To Know About MAPS. How to Read a Topographic Map. Where to Get Free Navigation Apps and Free Topographic Maps
  2. 2. Most of us rely on GPS, whether in our car or via our “smart phones” or a handheld GPS while hiking/camping. However, that requires a number of things to be working: The GPS satellites. Cell phone coverage for the phone. Power. A solar flare could interrupt GPS signals. Why Do You Need Topographic and Road Maps?
  3. 3. There are places where there is no cell coverage and if you don’t have the map tiles you need already downloaded, you have nothing other than your location on a blank screen. It is always critical to have a physical backup that you know how to use. I use both physical and GPS maps in conjunction with each other. Often physical maps can give me the bigger picture better than GPS. There are also times when the GPS map is wrong or offset. The GAIA map app I discuss later is excellent in that it lets you toggle between various types of maps and layer them. Why Do You Need Topographic and Road Maps?
  4. 4. Learn how to read a contour map When you look at a topo map, you immediately see that it’s different than your road map. Features on it include: Roads, buildings, boundaries, railways, power transmission lines. Water: lakes, rivers, streams, swamps, rapids, kraken, etc. Relief: mountains, valleys, slopes, depressions, ridges, knolls, gnomes, etc. Vegetation: forested or clear areas, orchards, vineyards, Ents, etc. Toponymy: a fancy word for the names of the various things on the map. Reading a Topographic Map
  5. 5. Use the map legend to learn how to use the symbols, colors and lines on the map. Scale is the relationship between size on the map and in the real world. Everything always looks a lot closer on a map than when you’re walking. Seriously. Reading a Topographic Map
  6. 6. Reading a contour map
  7. 7. Here is my Jeep,120 miles from the closest paved road in southeast Utah and was quite glad I was prepared with a physical map. I was visiting Hole in the Rock. It took over six hours from Escalante, Utah, to reach this spot. How far do you think that escarpment is in the distance?
  8. 8. Legend It gives you a guide to the various symbols on the map. The types of roads will be defined in the Legend. This is critical. People have died misjudging the type of road they’re going to take and getting stuck. Reading a contour map
  9. 9. Contour lines This gives you an idea if elevation. If you trace a contour line on the map, you are tracing a line of equal elevation. If you walked that line, you will not go up or down. Check the legend for the contour interval—this is critical. There’s a big difference between a 10 meter contour interval and a 50 meter one. As you go from one contour line to the next, that is the contour interval difference. The closer lines are, the steeper the terrain. When they’re piled on top of each other, that means a cliff. Do not walk off it. If they are very far apart, that equals relatively smooth terrain. Contour lines always dive in toward streams and rivers.
  10. 10. The key to using a map is orienting it to the terrain. While there are many field-expedient ways of doing this, the easiest is to orient using a compass. Next easiest is to use roads or easily identifiable terrain features around you. Depending on where you live, you might have useable boundaries that can keep you oriented. For example, in Boulder, CO it is usually easy to tell which way is west: just look for the big mountains. On Hilton Head Island, the Atlantic is east, the Intracoastal is west. Reading a contour map
  11. 11. Keep a road map in your car. The image on the left is a large scale road atlas. The state map of TN is part of a series covering all states that has contour maps for the entire state and surrounding area. I recommend getting the one for your state. I have my own state and the surrounding ones. click on images for links
  12. 12. Or download the contour map for your area for free, then print it out, or order the map sheets. Click here or on image below for USGS free downloadable topo maps. I also have a series of National Geographic area specific maps for various National Forests and Parks Map
  13. 13. Always put your map in a waterproof map case. A rule of survival is: what can get wet, will. Click on image to get the one below. Note it has a “dummy cord”. Always tie critical things off to you. Another rule of survival is: what can get lost, will. Map
  14. 14. I have the one below tied of to my survival vest. I also have various smaller, survival compasses on different gear including in my Jeep and in my various Grab-n-Go bags. You also have a compass on your cell phone. Compass
  15. 15. Is covered in detail in my survival guide. Some keys: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, the sun is arcing across the sky to the south. In winter, it is farther south. If it’s sunny, put a stick in the ground and mark the shadow point; wait 15 minutes and mark the next shadow point. Midway between them is a north/south line. Learn the basic constellations where you live such as the Big Dipper and the North Star. Water runs downhill. You can usually follow streams to rivers to civilization. Field Expedient Navigation
  16. 16. To understand how GPS works, check my slideshare on that topic using the link below or at the end. Knowing how GPS works will improve your ability to use it. This is another free slideshow on my web site. GPS
  17. 17. Location Apps There are several topo map Apps you can get. I’ve used a number over the years but the best one I’ve found is Gaia. The basic app is free and then there is a premium membership. Gaia allows you to layer various types of maps, such as National Forest Service Roads with Topographic with Public Lands, and adjust it to your preferences. The premium, which is discounted 20% via my affiliate link, is $32 for a year, but for the number and types of maps you get, it is definitely worth it. (All proceeds from my affiliate links, including Amazon, go to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation).
  18. 18. Location Apps One useful thing to using any map app is to download the map tiles you want to use beforehand (for when you’re out in the wilds with no signal) and learning how to use the app before you need it. Gaia also sends interesting and useful email updates on various outdoor activities that are very informative from outdoor experts.
  19. 19. maps you can download and use. You can have multiple maps on screen at the same time, adjusting them as you need. In this case, I have the US Forestry Service Map at max along with USFS roads and trails along with public lands. I can bring up hidden layers as needed. Also note the Historic Topo for 1930 which is fun to play with. You also have National Park Service Visitor, topo maps, streets maps, weather and more. They even recently introduced latest satellite imagery, which is by far, the most up to date layer. There are dozens of different types of maps available to premium members.
  20. 20. Location Apps Family Locator-GPS Tracker for Android. GPS Tracker for Android. Family Locator simplifies life in the digital world by making it easy to stay connected to the people who matter most. With Life360 you can: • Create your own groups, called “Circles,” of loved ones, friends, teammates -- whoever matters most and chat with them in Family Locator for FREE. • View the real-time location of Circle Members on a private family map that’s only visible on Family Locator • Receive real-time alerts when Circle Members arrive at or leave destinations (Eliminate disruptive “Where are you?” texts) • Track stolen phones or lost phones
  21. 21. Location Apps Emergency Alert System for Apple. Alert, track and notify loved ones as well as 911 in an emergency situation. Silent Beacon provides you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you and your loved ones are able to instantly connect. The emergency alert system for the digital age.
  22. 22. Road ID eCrumbs App (Apple and Android) for Apple and Android. This is one I use when off by myself running, biking or hiking. It’s a way of alerting people by email and text if something happens to me and I stop moving for a certain period of time (mine is set for 5 minutes), or past a set overall time limit. Another useful thing about this app is that if you have a tumble while biking or hiking and lose your phone, just wait five minutes and it will start making noise and vibrating. I’ve done this a couple of times during mishaps while single- tracking when my phone got ripped out of the mount.
  23. 23. Location Apps Google Earth (Apple) (Android)
  24. 24. Orienteering and Map Reading There is no substitute for practice. Pull out the road map every so often and use it. For topographic maps, nothing is better than a little orienteering. REI offers courses on orienteering via their various stores. Also check you local community college for outdoor courses.
  25. 25. I carry a SpotX 2 Way Satellite messenging system that also gives me my exact GPS coordinates anywhere in the world. There are places all over the country, including in the Smoky Mountains, with no cell coverage. I view this as a potentially life-saving investment. Also peace of mind as my family can get hold of me any time and I can update them on my progress. Every evening when I stop, I hit the update button and my location is automatically sent out.
  26. 26. MAPS The bottom line is that maps and map- reading are critical skills. Spend some time getting the right equipment and apps. Then practice. Stay safe!
  27. 27. More Free Information I constantly update free, downloadable slideshows like this on my web site for preparation and survival and other topics. I also have YouTube Survival videos. HERE Also, I conduct Area Study workshops for those interested in properly preparing for their specific circumstances.
  28. 28. The guide on the left is the complete preparation and survival guide. The one on the right is a pocket-size manual with just the survival portion. Useful in your Grab- n-Go bag, car and kitchen drawer. SURVIVAL GUIDES
  29. 29. New York Times bestselling author, is a graduate of West Point and former Green Beret. He’s had over 80 books published, including the #1 bestselling series Green Berets, Time Patrol, Area 51, and Atlantis. He’s sold over 5 million books. He was born in the Bronx and has traveled the world. He’s lived on an island off the east coast, an island off the west coast, in the Rocky Mountains, the Smoky Mountains and other places, including time in East Asia studying martial arts. He was an instructor and course developer/writer for years at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School which trains Green Berets and also runs the SERE school: Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape.