As I prepare for a long season of backpacking, orienteering, adventure racing and general outdoors exploration, maps are on my mind. They’re also sprawled out on my dining room table, marked up, highlighted, drooled on and sitting ready for action. Here are four new products I’ve been using with the maps at home and in the field.
Silva Map Measure 701
Trace your course on the map with this pen-like tool ($30, www.silvausa.com)Silva Map Measure 701 and its gauge will provide exact distance measurements in miles or kilometers. It works with most common map scales — 1:24,000, 1:62,500, 1:250,000, etc. — and also measures out inches and centimeters on the page in case a map’s scale is not built into the reader. It has a fold-out magnifying glass for inspecting small details. No batteries are required, as the Map Measure is a completely analog device that works with internal gears and a spinning gauge needle to provide readouts.
ARequip UTM tool
Plotting UTM coordinates on a map is an essential skill for anyone involved in the sport of adventure racing. The ARequip Adventure Racing UTM Plotter ($5, www.arequip.com) is a 3.4 × 2.1-inch transparent plastic card with tick marks for the four most commonly used map scales in adventure racing. Pre-drilled holes in the card allow for quick marking of control points, transition areas and other significant areas on a map.
SealLine Map cases
To protect paper maps from the elements, these tough plastic cases close shut with a Ziplock-like seal. The HP map cases ($22 – $30, www.seallinegear.com) come in three sizes, with the Large measuring 15.5 × 22 inches; Medium, 14.5 × 16 inches; and the Small, 11 × 13 inches. Map detail can be easily read through the transparent case, and the seal closure will protect your map from rain, snow, mud or an accidental drop in the river.
Wilderness Navigation book
Updated last year by The Mountaineers Books, “Wilderness Navigation” ($13, www.mountaineersbooks.org) should be required reading for anyone who spends time outdoors with a map and compass. The 144-page book is a quick-reading manual to most every aspect of outdoors navigation — from strict orienteering to adventure racing to mountaineering. Information on GPS devices and altimeters is included along with chapters on how to use a compass and deal with direction, declination, bearing and distance. There’s even a chapter that details what to do to avoid getting lost — and then what to do if that sad fate does fall upon you.