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How To Read A Topographic Map: Quick Guide

When you want to take a trip somewhere, and perhaps even return in one piece, you use a Map. A Topographic Map, quite simply, provides you with a representation of the roads you will use as well as the features you will pass along the way.

But what would happen if not only roads but other features were needed to keep you on your course? Or if there were no roads along your course and you needed other features to keep you on track? For these situations, you would need to use what is called a topographic map, which gives you a lot more information about the land you are traversing.

With a topographic map, you will have a lot more information that will tell you what you need to watch for as well as what you need to watch out for on the way to where you are going. This article will teach you how to get the most out of your topographic map.

To Read A Topographic Map: What You Will Need

To get the most from this article, it would be best for you to have an actual topographic map of an area you are familiar with. This will allow you to make associations between what you see on your map and what is around you. Even if it's not possible to have a topographic map of where you are or someplace that is familiar to you, having a good topographic map is invaluable to understanding how they Work.

How to Read a Topographic Map

Before you learn how to read a topographic map, you need to understand the symbols used and how they represent what you want to know. Nearly everything you will need to know about interpreting the map you are looking at is explained in the guide you will normally find in the lower right-hand corner of the map. This is called the map's "legend," a key to the symbols used on your map. There are three symbols in particular that deserve further explanation:

1. Contour Lines

Contour lines are imaginary lines that represent equal paths of the earth's elevation.

Elevation the vertical measurement of distance above or below sea levelas well as relief (the shape of the Earth's features) are shown with contour lines. If you look at a topographic map you will see squiggly lines all over that resemble a child's scribbling all over it. These are contour lines. Contour lines are not all created equal. First, there are indexed contour lines, which are solid lines that are interrupted by a number.

contour-lines on map

Contour-lines on map represents equal paths of Earth's Elevation

This number is the elevation that particular line illustrates and serves as a reference point for the contour lines around it. In most cases, every fifth contour line is an indexed line. Contour lines that are lighter and are between the darker indexed lines are called intermediate contour lines.

Intermediate contour lines have no elevation numbers on them, but they are found between the indexed lines. Finally, there are supplementary contour lines, which are shown in dashes to indicate elevations that are half that of the lines on either side of them.

The most important thing to remember about contour lines is that the closer they are together, the steeper the terrain they represent is. If, for example, you want to take a leisurely Walk on a

Sunday afternoon, you will want to find an area where there are contour lines spaced apart that indicate the land is relatively flat. On the other hand, if you plan to enter an area where the contour lines are close together or practically on top of each other, you would be best advised to bring your rock climbing gear with you.

2. Colors

Colors that are used on a topographic map illustrate what kind of land you are getting into. For example, some of the most common colors used are:

  • Brown most often indicates a contour line. These show features and elevations.
  • Green indicates vegetation or woods.
  • Blue indicates water, lakes, swamps, and rivers. In areas where snow and ice are usually present year-round, glaciers are often indicated in blue.
  • Black is used to indicate man-made objects such as trails.
  • Red indicates man-made features such as roads and political boundaries.
  • Purple use most often used to show features that had not been shown on previous editions of a map.

Basics of How To Read A map and Contour lines : Reality Survival

3.  Shading

Shading is often used to show differences in features that might be colored the same. A good example of this might be different types of water features such as a stream or a lake, which might be shown as a light blue, but a swamp might be shown in a different shade of blue.

Orienting Your Topographic Map

Once you learn how to read a topographic map you will need to make it useful to you. To do this, you will need to position it so that it represents the World as it is really laid out around you. This is called the orientation of your map, or terrain association. To do this, you need to turn your map in the same way the land is around you.This can be done by just looking around.

Assuming you have the right map for where you are, look around to see what landmarks might be nearby. If, for example, you have two mountain peaks on your right, and a small lake or stream on your left, you will want to look for such features on your map, and then turn your map so that those landmarks are positioned appropriately. When you find them, you will turn your map so that your location is between these features. It's usually a good idea to find several landmarks on your make to ensure that you are positioning yourself correctly.

When you are on land that has fewer elevation changes and landmarks it's usually a little more difficult to orient your map than when there are more of these, but with closer attention, it can be done. Even better is that when you do understand what a topographic map is showing you, you can go anywhere, without even a Compass