Learn About Reading a Map

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Learn how to read a topographical hiking map

This video is the first chapter in a free program all about hiking for beginners.

Leading the World - jewelbeat.com
Voice-over by Dominic di Rollo

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Learn how to read a hiking map

In this video, you are going to learn how to read a hiking map. A map is simply the representation of an area, in the form of diagrams and symbols. It's your paper GPS! Learning how to read a map will make you more independent, and more safe, during your hikes.

Hiking maps are all made up of 4 layers of information. These 4 layers indicate the elevation, water, man-made development and place names. All grouped together, they give an accurate overview of the area to the hiker.

The first layer represents the elevation and the shape of the terrain. We can read the altitude of the terrain from the contour lines, which can be brown, blue or grey, or other colours depending on the terrain.

To learn more about contour lines we suggest you watch the video 'Understanding contour lines on a map.'

The second layer indicates all types of water : rivers, lakes, marshes, the sea, etc. This is shown in blue on the map.

The third layer of information, often black in colour, represents all kinds of manmade developments: buildings, roads, paths, and administrative boundaries. It also represents forests and areas of cultivation or agriculture, in different shades of green.

Finally, the fourth layer indicates place names, such as the names of villages, towns, summits, forests, etc. This is what we call toponymy.

When you have a hiking map in front of you, the top always represents true north, the bottom represents the south, the right side represents the east and the left side represents the west.

To read a map, remember there are 4 layers of information, which show the elevation, the water, man-made developments and place names.

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