View Full Version : Does one really need maps?

03-05-2003, 13:26
Who has actually used trail maps for navigation or contingencies? I'm talking, "If I had not brought my maps!" stuff. All I can see is looking at them for reference like "what's next?", "Oh, that's where I am!", and "Gosh, I thought I was closer than that!" Seems like a large expense on such a well marked trail not farther than a day's hike from any major town/ road.

03-05-2003, 13:51
While hiking the AT, I've never needed the maps in a life-saving emergency. I do use them, though. Maps are good for finding places to camp (level areas near water) or showing various road routes to town.

Some folks use the maps to take side trails. In the Shennies, e.g., White Oak Canyon trail is one I recommend to lots of folks. With the map, a hiker could create a loop route instead of a down and up one. And, yes, some folks use it to find alternate routes to the AT.

Maps are also handy when you want to get someplace not listed in any of the books (lots of concerts and festivals to attend)

Me? I just like maps. Are they absolutely necessary? Probably not.

03-05-2003, 14:02
I went down side trails once or twice when I quit paying attention to the white blazes, sometimes the side trails are not blue blazed, so if you are not paying attention you can go quite a way's up the wrong trail before you notice the lack of blazes. Then the map comes in handy.

03-05-2003, 14:08
Never needed maps. I feel they are a luxury item. However, I liked them for planning our day. Occaisionally there is water/campsites marked on the maps not in the guidebook and the profiles are nice for planning. I would take them again but they certainly are not necessary.

03-05-2003, 14:20
I would say that, usually, hikers on the AT, at least in the south, will probably not encounter a situation where maps are really necessary. The trail is well marked and roads are frequent. It is fairly easy to escape relatively quickly. However, carrying maps is a lot like carrying a first aid kit, at least one that has something more than pain killers and duct tape. You probably won't need it. But, to leave it at home is tempting fate to put you in a position where you will need them. I like maps and carry them. However, one compromise would be to not carry maps, but have something like the Companion that at least lets you know what is coming up.

03-05-2003, 15:03
I love maps. Well actually, I never really used the maps on the AT, but I loved looking at the altitude profiles. I also loved reading wingfoot, and seeing how many miles to the next point of interest.

With that in mind, I wrote a web site that will generate an altitde profile for any trail in the database. It also allows you to plan a trip, combinging many different trails. The site will combine all the trails to created a big altitude profile. It also will calculate the different waypoints along the route. (I also do maps too)

Check it out. More importantly, tell me what you think.


Currently the database has most of the trails in New Hampshire, and various segments of the AT in vermont, New York, Maryland, and Virginia.

Oh yeah, anyone w/ a gps, can submit a trail to the database.

Jack Tarlin
03-05-2003, 16:08
While not all of the situations were "life and death" or anywhere near it, I've used the Trail maps on ALL of my trips in "emergency" situations". These involved evacuating badly injured hikers; searching for lost and/or injured hikers; searching for lost pets; searching for alternate water sources during a drought; avoiding areas which were on fire; helping hikers get out of the woods in a hurry due to emergency news from home; avoiding dangerous stream crossings during a flood season, and so on.

This subject has been debated many times before here and elsewhere. In my opinion, it's foolish and reckless to go ANYWHERE in the backcountry without an up-to-date map and the ability to use it. There are all sorts of reasons to carry trail maps. The only reason NOT to carry them is to save money or weight, and there are tons of ways to accomplish this that make more sense than skipping maps.

Sleepy the Arab
03-05-2003, 19:44
If it weren't for my maps, I wouldn't remember anything about my hikes (well, aside from the two weeks that were covered in my journal). I also like to know what I am looking at from viewpoints. Someday I'll actually carry a compass and know for sure whether that lump of the horizon is Stratton Mt. or just another anonymous lump in the wilderness.

Oh, and if you decide not to carry maps, don't you dare ask to look at mine, 'cause I won't let ya!

03-05-2003, 20:54
Love the new title under your name, Sleepy! Can we expect to see you sign trail registers that way?

My money is on "yes"

Oh, and You're Welcome, my friend! :D

03-05-2003, 21:53
I liked having maps. I could plan my day better, and it helped in timing a stop or town visit. By looking at land marks, I could keep a good estimate of speed made over the ground. For me it took the guess work out of "how much further up this mountain?" or"the shelter should be 1 mile further". Thats information I liked knowing. I also noticed the people who had no maps always wanted to look at mine. I was glad to share.

03-05-2003, 21:58
and like Sleepy the Arab said the maps help me remember my hike. I can pull them out now and remember places ,people and events. Things that took place on each map. The rips ,tears and crumples bring back memories also.

03-05-2003, 23:11
For safety concerns the answer is always

On the AT, the trail is well marked.
Often upon entering a state or national
park/forest maps are posted on
information boards.

You might decide you don't need them after a while, however.

Bandana Man
03-05-2003, 23:27
Someday I hope to hike in a wilderness area that is just open country and no trails. Take maps and compass then plot a course and go for it! Some of the national forests out west are supposed to allow this kind of hiking (ie, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, etc). So, I take maps everywhere just to keep my orienteering skills from getting too rusty. It's a lot of fun (ok so I'm easily amused) to sit on an overlook, orient the map, and match the squiggly lines on the map with the peaks and valleys that you can see.

03-06-2003, 01:15
I have never "needed" maps on my AT hikes, keep in mind I only have 1,700 miles on the trail, but they are pretty nice to have sometimes. They don't weigh much, help you if you want alternative routes and or hitching into towns etc...I am sure people with more miles might have run into situations where they were necessary.

03-06-2003, 03:11
I didn't want them, didn't have them and didn't need them.

In the wilderness I think it's foolish not to have maps. The AT is great, but I don't consider it wilderness. I had my guidebook that listed mileages, so it was easy to know where I was on the trail, and which way it was to the nearest road crossing.

I have no problem with folks carrying maps for emergencies, but I personally feel that there's always another thing to carry "just in case" and while a compass was one of those items I carried, maps weren't. (if it's foolish not to have maps, isn't it foolish not to have a phone?)

One reason not to carry maps on the AT that I haven't seen mentioned is sometimes it's nice to discover the world as you go along. It would have been safer for Jim Bridger to have a map and GPS, but it wouldn't have been as adventurous!

Of course, if you like maps, you should use them regardless of what anyone says.

03-06-2003, 08:36
I didn't use maps from the Shenandoah to Special K. Its not something I would encourage others to do however. Just a decision that I made after hiking thru 2 maps without even looking at 'em.

The thing about needing maps, is that you don't know when you'll actually need 'em. Hence, if you make a choice not to take 'em, you run the risk of not havin' 'em when you might actually need 'em.

Little Bear
GA-ME 2000

03-07-2003, 12:12
Originally posted by BamBam
Oh yeah, anyone w/ a gps, can submit a trail to the database.

Isn't the entire AT in available in a gps database, here (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/protect/gis/index.html) ?

Of cousres having profiling online would be nice for those of us that just do 100 miles at a time.

03-07-2003, 12:42
Yup. I'm entering that data into the system. So far I've got Northern VA to PA and Mid-Vermont to Gorham into the DB. The problem is that the data they offer is segmented into thousands of tiny sections that need to be joined together. Also the data has lon - lat points, but no elevation, so I need to overlay the USGS data elevation models over the App Trail data in order to get profiles....

And sadly I have seen very few other trails that have data available. The USGS has some trails on thier high definition digitized topos. I've found most of the major trails in New Hampshire there and I've entered those in to the system. Unfortunately the USGS tops for other areas (Like harriman) are way out of date, and only have about a third of the trails. I've entered what's there, but I really need someone to walk those trails with a gps before I'll be able to put up really good maps.

I hope to have a whole bunch more of the AT entered soon, as I have that data. I also try to get in whatever side trails that the USGS has available.

03-07-2003, 13:57
Didn't realize their data was missing elevation. Too bad.