How To Improve Your Topo Map Reading Skills
In Evan Stevens’s article Backcountry Navigation 101, the first task he outlined was, “Learn how to read maps well.” Why, you may ask, is this still important? Can’t we just follow the blue dot on our digital map app?
Knowing how to read topo maps enable powerful capabilities when planning tours. First, reviewing maps before your tours will get you familiar with aspects, elevation and landmarks, making you more efficient once you’re actually in the terrain. It will also help you estimate the time it will take you to move through the terrain, and help you avoid mountain hazards. Being able to read a map will also make following that blue dot easier, too.
Here are a couple of resources to get you started:
- Gaia GPS employee Mary Cochenour recently published an excellent tutorial, How to Read Topographical Maps.
- Once you’ve read it, follow it up by watching this video by REI.
With this foundational knowledge, you can practice during your next few ski tours. You can also practice at home by comparing maps to terrain photos and google earth.