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Do you carry a compass and Topo Map every trip?

Posted: Oct 30 2003 1:05 pm
by kiddiehawk
I'm just curious how many people carry a compas and topo map every backpacking trip. I know they can be lifesavers, but actually haven't started that practice, yet due to the mere hassle of buying topos and stuff...

Any ideas on where to get topos inexpensively and easily/quickly or do you always have to go to REI or order them off a website or from the parks dept...?

Posted: Nov 01 2003 4:00 pm
by mttgilbert
Hegstrom, I put a poll up at this link; ... 5869#15869

Yes to compass

Posted: Nov 02 2003 8:15 pm
by montezumawell
Yes, we carry a compass on EVERY hike.

Posted: Nov 02 2003 9:29 pm
by bzachar
Wiz wrote:
bzachar wrote:...some of those guys are clueless when it comes to mapping software. (Ask me how I know this).
How do you know this?
Back in the day ('96) I used the "Topo Companion" (essentially a clear plastic ruler with different scales) to manually measure & create waypoints on laminated 7.5" quads. I'd write lat/lon in on the topo for a route I was going to follow and then manually enter all those numbers (waypoints) into my trusty old Garmin GPS-45 and assemble them into a route inside the GPSR.

This was quite time consuming & prone to data entry errors. I once transposed two digits (must have been the minutes) and then in the field could not figure out why I was so far away from one of the waypoints when I had hit all the others dead on.

About two years ago I bought a Garmin GPS V which has a computer interface on it. I thought,"What I need is a program where I can manually click on positions on a 7.5 quad to create waypoints, assemble those WPs into a route and then download all of it to my GPS V... no manual data entry and thus no possibility of data entry errors and it would be fast.

I had heard about "mapping programs" but didn't know what they were capable of. I went into Wide World of Maps and told them what I wanted to be able to do.

The first salesman said,"I'm pretty sure you can do that".

me:Are you sure?


He starts up NG TOPO on the store's computer and clicks around for about 5 minutes trying unsuccesfully to create a waypoint.

To motivate him I said,"If it can do what I want I'll buy it now."

He clicks around for another 5 minutes without success.

him: "Yea.... I'm pretty sure it can do that"

me: "If I buy it and it can *not* do what I want, can I return it?"


me: So you're asking me to gamble $100 (the purchase price) on "I think so?"


Another salesman comes over, I told him what I wanted to be able to do. In 20 seconds he was creating waypoints. In 30 seconds he created a route out of them. That's when I said "I'll take it."

Posted: Nov 10 2003 7:11 pm
by ADGibson
I always take topos for the areas I backpacking. It's always good to be able to pull it out and see what's around.

Posted: Nov 13 2003 7:52 pm
by kiddiehawk
I'm thinking of doing an overnighter on the Charlebois from Peralta TH or Charlesbois from First Water TH. Charlebois from First Water TH has a map on this site. I know I'm just being lazy and will prob go get a topo of that area, since I'll prob go a million more times and have gotten a bit off the trail at one time in those parts before, but still am curious if people are going mapless in areas like Charlesbois.

Posted: Nov 14 2003 11:20 am
by Daryl
I wouldn't go very far into the supes without a map unless it's an area I know very well. People get lost and need rescue almost every weekend out there.

Posted: Nov 14 2003 1:56 pm
by Wiz
I go into the Supes a lot. Never without a map & compass.

Posted: Mar 15 2005 9:36 pm
by Sybil
Compass, yes, topo? Go with the software versions. I have yet to need or use one(as in being lost), but with the DeLorme Topo that I have, I can burn my own scale and size to suit each need. While I'm on the trail? NO! Takes a bit of prior planning. It is nice to be able to ZOOM into an area for details.

We did a bike ride to a wilderness area SSW of 4-Peaks a few years ago based on my topo. The signage was exactly where the map showed it to be. I was pleased and would recommend it to anyone.

Absolutely And Always (AAA)

Posted: Mar 16 2005 6:47 pm
by montezumawell
Yeah, let us re-emphasize that carrying a map and compass is "Absolutely And Always (AAA) a good idea. Why not? Whether it is a USGS "Old Style" topo or one of today's fancy-schmancy computer-generated custom quads, who cares? Why worry? Sure, we know you are all traveling with a GPS. We are, too. Sure, we know you are all carrying spare batteries for your GPS, too. We are, too.

But....what happens if your GPS fails? What happens if your spare batteries aren't any good? What happens if you are LOST? Oh, oh....

There is simply NO substitute for an accurate map and a compass.


Weighed together, these two items account for perhaps 1% of your total pack weight. IF that. SO what's the beef? WHY NOT carry them?
Machismo? Who knows?

Yeah, I figure this post will elicit some possibly-heated opinions along the line of "I don't need no stinkin' maps."



PS--Just give me ONE GOOD REASON WHY you don't need a map and compass and let's let the HAZ Jury decide if your logic holds water.

Re: Absolutely And Always (AAA)

Posted: Mar 17 2005 12:25 pm
by john.roach
montezumawell wrote:PS--Just give me ONE GOOD REASON WHY you don't need a map and compass and let's let the HAZ Jury decide if your logic holds water.
I've found my magnetic personality throws off a compass so much I haven't bothered carrying one in years! :wink:

Seriously though, I whole heartedly agree with you. There is no good reason not to pack an aditional >2.0 ounces on extra insurance from getting lost.

Posted: Mar 17 2005 3:54 pm
by SedonaHiker
This may have been mentioned in a previous post, but both map and compass seem unnecessary on well-known (familiar) trails or heavily travelled trails (for example, any of the main Grand Canyon trails, many of the trails in Sedona).

I might be assuming that adequate pre-hike planning has included a long hard look at the appropriate maps. Once you are three miles up a canyon, you are pretty much on the trail you're on, and you're coming back out the same way (depends on the hike of course).

Thanks for your post!

Posted: Mar 17 2005 5:02 pm
by montezumawell
Thanks for your post. Logic would suggest you are correct. Today, while traveling to Grand Falls, I was musing about this topic. And I recalled why I like to carry maps of even such ordinary hikes as the Bell Rock-Courthouse Butte Loop. Believe me, you have to be pretty messed up to get lost on this hike.

However, I have actually had use for my maps FOUR TIMES this winter.
No, not for finding my way. But for chatting with "tourist hikers."
For some weird reason, I get stopped a lot by people who say something like, "You look like you know the local trails..." Well, yeah, I do.

And the next thing you know we are pointing, drawing diagrams in the sands, mud, whatever. Believe, those maps have come in real handy in those four instances where we were able to spread them out and talk about them.

My most enjoyable use of the maps was with a quaint couple from some suburb of London, England, whose name I can't recall. (I don't get TOO nosey.) They were absolutely FILLED with pertinent questions about the area. Since I carry all of the USGS quads that cover 90% of the Sedona vicinity trails, I was able to pull out the topos and we had ourselves a fine little "intercultural hiking moment."

Yes, technically, most competent day hikers "don't need no stinking maps," but they do have other purposes you may wish to ponder.

And besides, I have had great fun using the Sedona quad to conclusively PROVE that Courthouse Butte is, indeed, 500 feet higher than Bell Rock's tiny tip!

Happy Trails!


Re: Thanks for your post!

Posted: Mar 17 2005 11:16 pm
by big_load
In response to montezumawell's reply:

I totally agree. Even when there is little chance of getting lost, a map is helpful in estimating how long it will take to reach key points, including some you might not have been looking for in the other direction. This applies to not only to yourself, but especially in places like GC to unprepared people in trouble you come across. Several times fellow hikers have made crucial changes in plan after a peek at my map.

Posted: Mar 17 2005 11:31 pm
by SedonaHiker
OK, I'm sold. I am heading into the Grand Canyon for a three day backpack on Sunday and I'll take a map to guide any unwary dayhikers I come across in, say, Grapevine Canyon. And, to correctly identify the various geological features on offer there. A compass will be handy for that, too!

Posted: Mar 18 2005 6:47 pm
by Nighthiker
I carry Map (I prefer the USGS 7.5 MIN. type) and compass. I also carry spare maps of the area that I visit and hand them out.

Posted: Mar 19 2005 9:12 am
by mttgilbert
I almost always carry maps of the area I plan on hiking in. If nothing else they double as a handy firestarter if I find myself having to spend the night unexpectedly.

Most of the areas I hike in are fairly well known to me and like J&S I often find my maps of more use to other hikers than to me.

Posted: Mar 20 2005 8:22 am
by sherileeaz
I carry a compass and my hiking buddy Darl AZ_Iroc brings along his GPS. My friend Trish Trishness has an awesome map of the Superstitions which I keep meaning to buy one for myself.

Over a year ago, we had a HAZ get-together and in the morning we had a great Map and Compass course given by Matt Gilbert and a few others. It was well worth learning all the different ways to find your way.

Sherileeaz 8)

Posted: Mar 25 2005 11:07 am
I always carry my GPS and lot's of batteries. In some of the more rugged and secluded areas I carry a topo map too especially in areas where the GPS does not work 100% of the time (i.e. forest and Canyons). I know it's best to always carry a topo map besides a gps but I'll admit I don't.


Posted: Mar 27 2005 8:58 pm
by bigracket1
Not that carrying a map is a bad idea, but two of the worst hiking experiences I've ever had occurred when I knew exactly where I was on the map. One was coming down Mazatzal Peak, which has no easy trail to the top, and the other was coming down from peak #4 of the Four Peaks. There's nothing worse than being able to pinpoint exactly where you are on the map and not being able to make progress, except maybe not having the map at all.


Posted: Mar 27 2005 9:15 pm
by fairweather8588
I'll rarely carry a map and compass when I'm outside. However I usually stick to areas I'm very familiar and comfortable with. If I carry a map in popular places like the Grand Canyon, I use it more to help out other people on the trail ("How far to ________" etc.)