Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paper maps indispensable for hikes w/ kids

Paper maps may sound passé in this age of GPS, but you’ll find the variety and breadth of view they offer to be useful. During the planning process, a paper map (even if viewing it online), will be far superior to a GPS device. On the hike, you’ll also want a backup to GPS. Or like many casual hikers, you may not own GPS at all, which makes paper maps indispensable.

Standard road maps (which includes printed guides and handmade trail maps) show highways and locations of cities and parks. Maps included in guidebooks, printed guides handed out at parks, and that are hand drawn tend to be designed like road maps, and often carry the same positives and negatives.

Topographical maps give contour lines and other important details for crossing a landscape. You’ll find them invaluable on a hike into the wilds. The contour lines’ shape and their spacing on a topo map show the form and steepness of a hill or mountains, unlike the standard road map and most brochures and handmade trail maps. You’ll also know if you’re in a woods, which is marked in green, or in a clearing, which is marked in white. If you get lost, figuring out where you are and how to get to where you need to be will be much easier with such information.

Satellite photos offer a view from above that is rendered exactly as it would look from an airplane. Thanks to Google and other online services, you can get fairly detailed pictures of the landscape. Such pictures are an excellent resource when researching a hiking trail. Unfortunately, those pictures don’t label what a feature is or what it’s called, as would a topo map. Unless there’s a stream, determining if a feature is a canyon bottom or a ridgeline also can be difficult. Like topo maps, satellite photos (most of which were taken by old Russian spy satellites), can be out of date a few years. Google satellite photos aren’t in real time.

Learn about more than a hundred other hiking diversions for kids in Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities.