In the past, someone going hiking could navigate his or her environment with ease. They knew where they were and what direction they were heading. Specific items such as a map and compass would enable them to figure out where they were relative to something else entirely. The angle of the light could tell the hiker roughly what time it was without the use of a watch. With the introduction of cell phones and GPS systems, the map and compass became obsolete, or so one would think. In this list, we will explain why maps and compasses are invaluable.
Cell phone batteries don’t last forever
This is something that has happened to everyone. We are in an important phone call or using an important phone app, and within a short time, the phone won’t work. It has lost power and there is no power outlet or charging cable in sight. While one is hiking, this can be especially disastrous. Getting stranded in the woods without a working cell phone is a fate that no one wants to suffer. Knowing how to read a map and compass could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Terrain knowledge is invaluable
It can be easy to take knowledge of one’s surroundings for granted, even while out on a hike. While a GPS can tell someone where they are geographically on an electronic surface, a map, especially a contour map, can show the hiker the type of land they are on. Such a map can provide a better sense of elevation and water features. This comes in handy, especially when survival is taken into account. When hiking into unfamiliar terrain, the hiker needs to know how high up the land is, in case they either need to get quickly back down, or if their cell phone is functioning, get a clear signal and see where they are.
Where land meets water
In a pinch, it helps to know exactly what type of environment the hiker is in for sheer survival purposes. In the aforementioned scenarios where either the cell phone is not functioning, or knowledge of elevation is needed, a proper map/compass combination will make all the difference. If the hiker is near a body of water and a storm is coming, will that water flood? If food is scarce, could the hiker forage for certain foods at higher elevations? This type of knowledge is critical. Even if a GPS was functional, that’s not information that a GPS can provide.
Conclusion: The instinctual hiker
A good hiker will know the land they are traversing like the back of their hands. Even if not for survival purposes, knowing how to read a map in today’s age can make for bragging rights. Hikers know the layout of their trail, and how to get back home. Even the best smart phones run out of batteries, and without the right preparations, it is easy to get lost if one is not properly prepared or experienced in how to read a map and/or compass.