Reading Topographic Maps
A Free On-Line Book on How to Read Topographic Maps and Use a Compass
Historically, the development of highly accurate, detailed topographic maps has largely been driven by military requirements. Army map reading training developed to a high degree of proficiency for the same reason. The information contained in this website comes from actual U.S. Army map reading training manuals, but it is also applicable to such civilian uses as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, hill walking or any other use where precise, accurate land navigation is desired or needed.
A unique characteristic that distinguishes topographical maps from other kinds of maps is the fact that they show the topography or shape of the land in addition to other features such as roads, rivers, lakes, etc. Because topographical maps show the shape of the land, they are the most suitable type of map for most outdoor activities that take place in areas that are not heavily populated.
Some people like the term Topographic Maps while others prefer Topographical Maps. According to my dictionary, both terms are correct, and mean the same thing, so this website uses both terms interchangeably.
Global Positioning System, or GPS, devices are wonderful instruments.
They allow you to pinpoint your location to within a few yards, no
matter where you are on planet Earth! They are great fun, they are
very useful tools, and they are easily obtained at reasonable cost.
But be careful! Don't rely on a GPS until you first prepare yourself with
the knowledge and skills required to find your way with simple tools
like a map and compass. Any instrument can be lost or damaged. The
prudent person will prepare him/herself with the knowledge and skills
necessary to be able to find his/her way with elementary materials
before setting out into unfamiliar territory.