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A Quick Guide on How to Read a Map

compass laying on travel map

We are living in an exciting time of technical progress with great innovations and electronics wonders. At first glance, there is no need to have the skill of reading a map when every person on Earth having GPS in the pocket, there are numbers of applications that gonna lead you from point A to point B with just a click of a button, however by the irony of life, the low battery charge will catch you in a most awkward situation. At the moment, when you'll be one on one with the World, just not to get lost in it, a trusty map and knowledge of how to read it, will come into play.

Whether you are hiking, planning a road trip, or a sightseeing tourist, there is a map for it, and it's important to pick the right one to serve your purpose.

Road maps are a great accessory to bring on a road trip, they are helping drivers to navigate back roads and interstate highways, topographical maps are very important for hikers, they telling hikers what trail to follow, how to reach campsites or lodging areas, and tourist maps useful for city breaks, they generally show the attractions and points of interest around a city and available in visitor centers, gas stations, lobbies of the hotels and so.

When the right type of map in our hands, time to understand and profit what on it.

1. Check orientation.

Open up the map and take a moment to double-check that you're examining it from the correct perspective. One of the bottom corners of the map has a “compass rose” sometimes also called “rose of the winds” what used to display the orientation of the cardinal directions (north, east, south, and west) and their intermediate points. The top of the map will always correspond with North.

2. Study the Legend of the map.

Legend is a chart that explains the scientific methods used to draw up the map and lists what important symbols mean. Familiarizing yourself with a legend is the key to comprehending the way map displays information.

3. Pay attention to the scale.

The scale provides a ratio of map distance to the actual distance that gives an idea of how far you need to go, and typically will be presented as a number ratio, like 1:100,000 this ratio simply means that 1 unit of distance on the map is equal to 100,000 units in real life.

Usually, the scale can be found at the bottom or off to one side of the map. Depending on the type of map you’re using, the scale will be adjusted accordingly. For instance, an explorer map used for hiking, cycling, kayaking, or so, will have a scale of around 1: 50,000 this means that for every centimeter on the map, there are 50,000 centimeters (or 500 meters) in real life, and broken up into grids, with each box of the grid measuring 2 centimeters, meaning that every full box on the map covers 1 kilometer in real life. It's very useful for quick estimation of distances at a glance.

4. Find Your location on the map

If You are in the city and using a tourist map, look around, find some attractions, monuments, museums, check legend for particular symbol and locate it on the map. Congratulations! you created the “ You are here” pin.

If you’re on the road, the simplest way to do this is to observe nearby street signs or highway markers and cross-reference them on the map.

If there is no way to say where you are, start from the beginning of your track, retrace steps, and once you are confident of the correct general area, start to look around for landscape features, such as mountains, rivers, walls, saddles, roads, so on and so for. As soon as you identify 3 surrounding features in real life and pinpoint them on the map, you can easily locate yourself.

5. Plot the course

After identifying a location on the map, it's only a matter of choosing what path you'll take to reach a desirable destination. Keep in mind that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, usually, it's best to stick to a direct route with a minimal number of branches or detours.

6. Create checkpoints

Good practice, from time to time, to mark your current position on the go, so it will be faster to retrace your steps in case of losing path, come back and correct the course.

Last but not Least

- Make sure to keep a map where it can be easily reached and to avoid tearing, smudging, or misplacing your map, highly recommend using a waterproof case.

- Do not forget a pen or pencil.

- When using a map to go out of the city, a compass is suggested to navigate the way. A compass can be a vital direction and survival tool that in combination with a good map can guide and protect.

Have a Great Adventure,


Travel Opener


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