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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Maps and Direction


Keep maps in your car and know your direction. It could save your life.
I love maps, all kinds of maps. I can still remember some of my first experiences as a young boy learning how to use a compass and read topographical maps. I became instantly hooked with the prospect of navigating through the woods using only a compass and a topo map. Looking at the lay of the land around you, the hills and valleys while facing different directions, and then looking at the map to determine your probable location… what fun it was.
Once you learn how to use a compass and read maps, you never forget. Maps and survival go hand in hand and map and compass reading are essential skills to survival.
Know your direction. Knowing the approximate direction that you are facing, without using a compass, is a skill that will greatly assist you while navigating with a map, and could save your life in a survival situation.
Find your direction during the daytime. Knowing that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is the basis of determining a direction during day time. Any time during the day, place a stick upright into the ground and mark the spot of the tip of the shadow cast by the stick. Wait about 15 minutes and add a mark at the new spot of the tip of the shadow. A straight line between the two spots will be your approximate east-west line, the west end being the first marked spot.

Find your direction during the nighttime. If you can find the north star (Polaris) at night (northern hemisphere only), you will know the direction to “true north”. The north star is not the brightest one out there (some people unknowingly assume this), but if you can find the Big Dipper, locate the two stars at the outer edge of the cup. An imaginary line between these two stars will point towards the last star at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. This is the north star, Polaris.

Keep maps in your car. You most definitely should keep maps in your car and/or your 72 hour emergency kit which should also be in your car. Do not solely rely on GPS to guide you because that system could potentially go down in addition to the fact that a GPS receiver requires power to run. Don’t get me wrong, GPS is fantastic tool that is a nice luxury item to include with your preps.

I keep several maps in each one of our cars.
  • Road Atlas of the state we currently reside in which includes fairly detailed topographical and street maps in about 140 pages. It allows a good “scale” while viewing each page, enough to see local detail of terrain, rivers, and lakes. It also includes blow-up views of the major metro areas. It happens to be from a company named “Benchmark Maps”.
  • Detailed topographical Atlas of the state we currently reside in, including back roads and off road trails. The state is actually split into two Atlas books of about 130 pages each. It happens to be from a company named “DeLorme”
  • Road Atlas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It happens to be a “Rand McNally”.

Here are a few links to good road atlas maps:
Rand McNally 2011 Road Atlas: United States, Canada, and Mexico (Rand Mcnally Road Atlas: United States, Canada, Mexico)
Benchmark California Road & Recreation Atlas – 6th Edition
2010 Collins Road Atlas Europe (International Road Atlases)
2011 Collins Big Road Atlas Britain (International Road Atlases)

Do not settle for a simple fold-up state map (although it’s better than nothing!). It is well worth your while to buy a detailed Atlas of your state and another for your country. Keep them in your car, not in your house!

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