Monday, April 1, 2013

Pros and cons of standard maps when day hiking with children

Depend on topographical rather than standard road maps and their kin
when navigating a hiking trail. Photo courtesy of ulrikkold / Photoree.
Standard road maps (including 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.

The main advantage of a standard road map is that it eliminates all of the extraneous info you’ll find on other maps, focusing on a key landmark feature, specifically roads. Because of this, a road map is mainly useful for helping you figure out how to reach the trailhead, and in the case of printed guides, pointing out highlights you can see on the trail.

The benefits end there, though. Standard road maps rarely show trails or forest roads that you might traverse. In addition, they don’t give you a sense of the lay of the land, such as how high hills and mountains are. If hand drawn, as are many of those on printed guides, they are not always done to scale, making any estimate of how far you’ve got to go difficult if not impossible.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.