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Protecting maps in the field
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Dennis Park
(dpark) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 10:36:10 MST Print View

Can you guys provide some ideas on managing and protecting maps while in the field?

Nathan Baker
(Slvravn) - MLife

Locale: East Coast - Mid Atlantic
Re: Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 10:41:14 MST Print View

I like to use ziplock bags of varying capacities to keep maps clean and dry. On top of being very cheap and lightweight they are also pretty durable. Another suggestion is using an Aloksak bag. They are like ziplocks on steroids.

Loksak Web Site

Edited by Slvravn on 01/05/2010 10:45:31 MST.

James Dubendorf

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 11:17:52 MST Print View

For hikes where I anticipate checking the map often, marking it up with information, or working with it in the elements, I make smaller, zoomed in images of my planned route. I typically keep the large, folding map tucked safely away in my pack, while the smaller images stay close at hand in some kind of plastic bag. One could even laminate these, I suppose. I don't know of a light, practical way to keep maps close at hand, protected from the elements, and in the kind of condition you'd like to keep a nice new map. So the sacrificial maps can be abused, don't have to be folded and refolded, and are often more useful because they are custom tailored and zoomed in. Personally, I still like to have one large map for perusing at stops or at the end of the day. Hope this helps.


Keith K
(klopfer) - MLife

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 11:35:58 MST Print View

I usually get my maps through MyTopo ( and printed on waterproof paper. They are pretty durable and "fairly" waterproof. For extreme durability and waterproofness, check out 20Sub3 ( They print maps on a waterproof synthetic fabric that can survive a wash cycle (but they're very expensive and the selection is limited). Otherwise, I just use an aloksak.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 11:37:35 MST Print View

Unless I anticipate rain or snow, I just fold them up. I prefer USGS 7.5 Quad maps, if I don't need more than 2 of them. Otherwise, I use Topo! for California, and print the sections I need. I don't have the program for any other state.

You can purchase waterproof legal size paper to print Topo! maps.

When percipitation is in the forecast, I use a zip lock or Alosak. All the commericial made map holders I have looked at are either too bulky or too heavy.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
cheap on 01/05/2010 12:03:57 MST Print View

ziploc. no need for anything fancy

Don Meredith
(donmeredith) - F

Locale: SouthEast
Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 13:12:32 MST Print View

+1 on the ZipLock. I typically photocopy or print the section(s) I need and fold them up to display well in the quart sized ziplocs. The thinner plastic folds over and slips into the pocket easier than commercial map cases in my experience, they're lighter and cheaper.

The map sections that you've already used make nice fire starters in fair conditions as well.

Edited by donmeredith on 01/05/2010 13:13:16 MST.

bill smith
(speedemon105) - F
map holder on 01/05/2010 14:47:07 MST Print View

I print all mine on waterproof paper (rite in the rain). To hold them, I took a paper towel tube, and gave it a coating of epoxy inside and out. Made it waterproof and stiff enough that it won't crush easily. No real need for any other protection, since it is waterproof, and the paper will stay waterproof if you don't repeatedly fold it (not necessary with a tube).

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 17:00:05 MST Print View

Gallon sized zip lock, the kind where you close it by just pressing the zip together, not the kind where you have a plastic thingy that slides back and forth to open and close. The plastic thingy tends to reduce the capacity of the bag.

I like the 7.5' USGS maps. Fold them in half the long way, and then in thirds, with the printed side out. It will fit in the gallon zip lock perfectly. I keep it in a cargo pocket and can pull it out quickly for reference which is particularly handy on XC hikes. On longer trips, bring an extra zip lock if you're going to be hitting brush. Brush tends to snag things.


Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Protecting maps in the field on 01/05/2010 18:57:09 MST Print View

+1 on the Gallon sized zip lock

Have used this system for several years. Fits perfectly in the bladder sleeve on my Mariposa Plus and is easy to get to.

USAPhotoMaps ( is great freeware for printing UTM gridded topo/aerial maps.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Adventure Paper on 01/05/2010 20:41:05 MST Print View

+1 -> maps printed from NG TOPO! on weather resistant "Adventure Paper".

Before TOPO! I'd trim USGS 7.5min maps to the area of interest and have it laminated at Kinkos. For big trips I'd sometimes have to splice together sections from two or more maps first.


drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Kinkos on 01/05/2010 21:51:44 MST Print View

The Kinko's website says it'll cost about $3 to laminate a page. I suppose that's okay for some items, but if I did that for Halfmile's maps of the PCT, it would cost me over $600.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Protecting maps in the field on 01/06/2010 00:13:03 MST Print View

I've used the gallon size ziplock for many years; no problems.

Paul Davis
(pdavis) - M

Locale: Yukon, 60N 135W
colour photocopies, lamination, silicone map case versus vinyl.... on 01/06/2010 01:45:05 MST Print View

Here in the Canadian North West we try to get colour photocopies of the original topo maps, then laminate that, leave a 1cm margin and carry that, leave the original at home on the wall!

If we have to carry a tonne of maps, then we go to the 1:500,000 Visual Navigation Charts, pilot's maps, which are printed double-sided, and have enough detail for river or bike trips.

Silicone map cases work well in cold weather as well as in hot weather, but yellow over time.

Vinyl map cases are brittle in the cold (-10C)+ may spontaneously absorb photocopy ink from photocopied maps, into the plastic under warm conditions, make the map case itself unreadable.

Hence the silicone map case...Orlieb makes good ones, but nothing beats a laminated map if you can afford to do that!

Print shops may let you pool together laminations such that many smaller items fill up the full width of the laminating plastic, and then let you cut up items on your own, for a lower price...