Map Reading: The Basics of Land Navigation

You  don’t want to get lost in an alien place. So, your best tool is a map because there are times when you don’t have a GPS or phone with you. But do you know how to use your tool? Map reading is one of the essential skills in surviving inevitable odds. Learn the terrain and use it to your advantage.

Here are map reading skills you should know:

1.  Reading the colors. Maps use standard colors in determining the topography of a location. Here’s the guide:

Blue – water features like lakes, ponds and streams.

Black – man-made objects or rock features like roads, trails, buildings, cliffs, boulders.

White – open woods you could run through

Green – thick vegetation (light green) or fight (dark green) that you might want to avoid

Yellow – open land, semi-open land, where you can look up and see the sky like fields or power lines.

Brown – land features like earth banks or contours

2. Measuring the scale. In the map,  there are certain scales that you can find in a corner.

If a scale says 1:10,000 , it means that one unit measure in the map is 10,000 unit measures in the ground. most maps use meters as a unit of measurement.

Tip:  Simple way to measure distance is by using your thumb. Measure a part of the map with your thumb and walk that part then measure the number of paces.

3. Thumbing. Thumbing is your way of tracking your move just like the GPS on your phone. Place your thumb in the map to mark your current location. To track your location, as a beginner, use large land features such as hills, cliffs, rivers, or mountains.

4. Using the compass. A map is always paired with a compass. Your compass will be used to orient your map to North. You should be able to use both tools if you want to navigate properly.


Did you find these map reading skills useful? Share it with your friends and family!

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