Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
specific Map question:
Display Avatars Sort By:
Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
specific Map question: on 12/15/2006 18:07:36 MST Print View

Anybody out there do "no map" travel, ever? Like in a place you have never been before?

If so, care to share details?

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
No response? on 12/16/2006 16:54:36 MST Print View

No response?

Is this because going without a map is like paddling w/out a life jacket, climbing without a rope, cycling without a helmet, having sex w/out protection?

Is it really *unsafe*? Simply irresponsible? Or just not fashionable?

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: No response? on 12/16/2006 17:33:19 MST Print View

It is simply irresponsible. I have seen examples of theoretically "no-brainer" trails where vandals have altered ducks and/or trail signs. I have discovered that trail markers were under the snow or washed out by storms. I have helped others where they needed information on contingency routes because of an injury.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: Re: No response? on 12/16/2006 17:36:21 MST Print View

I get lost in my hometown (55 miles away). So I had to buy a map of the city just to run errands. Imagine what trouble I'd be in playing Christopher Columbus or Magellan?

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: No response? on 12/16/2006 17:52:36 MST Print View

I'll confess, I have done a few day hikes with no map. The first time was unintentional. When I got to the park there were no maps in the map box. We found another one a ways down the trail, but still no maps. Luckily I had a guide book with a VERY rough map of the trail I wanted, but we still ended up getting turned around once, but it was no big deal.

The second time I did a hike without a map it was at a state park on trails of less than 5 miles and I was within earshot of a road and campground the whole time and the trail was very well marked.

If I know there aren't going to be many people where I am going (like wilderness areas), I will make sure I buy a map or print one off and study it. If its an area like a state park I normally rely on them having a map at the visitor center, which has been the case in all but those two times.

Bear in mind that I don't do any off trail hiking and all of my hikes thus far have been less than 3 days. If I were to plan a longer hike I would make sure I had a map even before I left the house and had reviewed the route many times.


Terry Boldt
(TeeDee) - F
no map on 12/16/2006 18:08:31 MST Print View

Having a map or not depends a large part on the person. Some people get lost walking out their front/back door. A map is a necessity for them.

Some people are able to keep a general map in their heads and a good sense of direction. By a general map, I don't mean much detail, just an idea that such and such is west/north/east/south. By keeping a general sense of direction they are able to pretty much find themselves where ever they are.

Then again it depends on your mission. Are you heading to a very specific location and need to get there at a specific hour and/or day? If so, nearly everybody will need a map of some sort.

If you are heading out to cross the next range of hills and don't much care so long as you come out anywhere within 100 miles of some general area, then a detailed map may not be necessary.

Before paper maps were developed for much of the world, the only maps that existed were verbal. People still got where they were going by following landmarks - that's why landmarks have names.

Also, a lot depends on how adventuresome you are and how much risk and uncertainty you can tolerate.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: specific Map question: on 12/16/2006 18:26:47 MST Print View

I do it fairly often in areas that I am already pretty familiar with; but given that I am getting on in years, travel mostly solo, and spend most of my time in the Cascades and Southern Sierra, where it can be very time consuming to back out of dead ends, I would be reluctant to do it in an unfamiliar area without a partner and a good reason(like maybe finding out at trailhead that I had forgotten the maps). Even so, if I had paper, pen, compass and altimeter, I would be confident that I could construct a map on the go that would serve to get me back out again. Hmmmm. Methinks Roman may have suckered me into a summer project.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: specific Map question: on 12/16/2006 18:29:32 MST Print View

Terry, Most of us get "mud map" directions fairly often, and then we have to keep it in our head.


That sounds like a very cool and adventuresome project.

Edited by romandial on 12/16/2006 18:31:52 MST.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: specific Map question on 12/16/2006 19:53:41 MST Print View

Roman, the closest I've come was only a day hike at Bandalier National Monument, NM in January '06. I was on a business trip and had a day to spend. I couldn't find a topo map and ended up with only a NPS brochure map. It was pretty scant. The description of the loop I picked looked reasonable for the short hours of daylight, about 12 miles. Well, as the day went on, those 12 miles stretched to 18. There were numerous features the NPS map didn't include -- creeks, crossing a canyon, etc. It made for a great and adventurous day. I was carrying a light weight pack but still had enough gear to weather an overnighter. I'd left specific directions for my walk with my manager. It was a great time. I made back to the car well ahead of sunset and park closure.

I've not had a chance to try a map-free trip on a larger scale. That might be an interesting challenge.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: specific Map question: on 12/16/2006 20:23:21 MST Print View

As for hiking a trail you have no experience on sans map, or that's not a very well marked, that's probably not the smartest thing one could do.

On trails I've been on before that are otherwise well marked, I typically don't take a map. I do however, typically carry a GPS (+ extra batteries), and with pre-marked waypoints, routes and points of interest.

The biggest disadvantage I see to a GPS vs. a map is you really don't have the whole view resolution that you do with a 1:24k (or whatever) scale map, but I believe have a much higher certainity of where you're at and other trip parametrics.


Edited by eaglemb on 12/16/2006 22:10:11 MST.

nathan matthews
(nathanm) - F

Locale: Bay Area
hiking without maps on timber company land on 12/16/2006 21:43:12 MST Print View

I've hiked off-trail without maps in commercial timberland I've never been in before. This is typically in Coastal Northern California, where I'm not too worried about getting caught in a thunderstorm or a blizzard, so maybe the risks are less. It's great--you pay a lot more attention to where you are, and as a result of that (and just moving slower), you see *much* more of the place you're passing through. You also don't have to go as far to get away from crowds. Although I'll admit that I've occasionally had hikes turn out to be longer than I expected...

Not to change the subject, but I highly recommend that people check out their options on private timerland. The best is land owned by companies "certified" by the Forest Stewardship Council. As part of their FSC certification, companies have to agree to letting the public use their land on reasonable terms. See Typically, you have to ask permission to go to certain places on a certain day, and as long as no timber operations are planned at that time, they'll probably grant it (although this might be different if you're planning an overnight trip). Commercial timberland obviously lacks that 'pristine' backcountry feel, but it's often much more accessible, and much less used (recreationally, that is).

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: hiking without maps on timber company land on 12/16/2006 22:06:43 MST Print View

nathan m,

While I totally agree with you.

Going on any private property without permission is wrong. The lands of private timber companies are the same.

Therefore, as a map issue it should be moot whether it is on their lands or not.

Edited by bdavis on 12/16/2006 22:14:09 MST.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
without maps on 12/16/2006 22:36:26 MST Print View

Depends on what you mean... Have I headed out without a map? Sure, on little day hikes around Seattle.

Have I ended up without a map in the middle of the Alaska wilderness, for one reason or another? There have been times...

Probably the longest I've been off-map was about 4 and a half days, heading down the Alaska Peninsula with only very rough and inaccurate sketch of the coastline we'd copied off a wall map of the state. This turned out to have the key rivers in the wrong places (probably our poor copying). After the 4 and a half days, we ended up at the Aniakchak cabin, and got to look at the map on the wall there. It was another day or so before we were back on our map.
This is why I no longer order maps and have them mailed to me in the middle of nowhere before I see how they line up...

I've been off-map for a couple days coming into Seldovia at the end of the Kenai Fjords trip. That wasn't really a problem, since we (especially Hig) knew the area well.

Otherwise, I think all my off map excursions (usually due to me not being generous enough with how much extra map I printed out) have been less than a day. This summer, I walked off my map for most of a day, trying to go inland enough to avoid the swamps and sloughs along the Kvichak River. And I've done it for several miles here and there occasionally (I'm remembering one time in the Brooks Range).

Though most of these off-map excursions weren't planned, I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea. Hig and I have toyed with the idea of going trekking somewhere we've never looked at the maps for (maybe somewhere like the Ogilvie mountains?) just for fun. It would be a very different style of trip, of course. But people used to do it all the time.

All my wanderings off the map have also been off trail. And I think that's actually safer. It's much easier to get problematically lost on a trail, since you're hanging your hopes on the trail to get you somewhere, and don't have to pay as much attention to your surroundings. And if the trail isn't going the right way, its harder to correct your course. The three times I can think of that I've gotten temporarily lost have been on trails (two animal, one human).


Edited by mckittre on 12/16/2006 22:54:03 MST.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: No response? on 12/17/2006 05:02:28 MST Print View

After reading all the posts two situations have come to mind.

Last easter i was hiking some GR's in Belgium. We only had a map of the whole of Belgium pepicting all the GR's in Belgium. I think the scale was 1:300,000 or 1:400,000 and it work fine. Mainly because of the excelent waymarking of these GR's. Besides there is no wildernis in this part of europe so an navigational error wil only put you in the next village. It's impossible to get lost.

On my Scotland Solo i had trimmed my maps to size. One day i had enough and wanted to short cut to the bothy instead of climbing that extra ridge. The area i had to detour through i didn't have on map, it was a ~6 by ~3 inch piece of map. Luckily there was a couple reading their map there. So i had a look at their map, scetched it on the back of my map and made it to tha bothy without any problems. Allbeit that this bothy was very well hidden in a piece of woodland.


Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
NO MAP? on 12/17/2006 05:28:10 MST Print View

I really enjoy maps and have a long "to do" list of hikes. It does not make sense to take the chance of getting blocked by cliffs/swamps/fight brush on a multiday hike. I travel slow enough and have a good enough sense of direction that I am not going to get "lost" in a day. I have been out there without a map by accident a couple of times. For me it is not a major safety issue. If your plan is an unplanned adventure then have at it. An oxymoron?

A memory course is a good orienteering training technique. At each control is a map with the location of the next control, but you travel between the controls without a map.

Roman, you should try "hashing" sometime. Google Hash House Harrier.

Edited by food on 12/17/2006 05:43:46 MST.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: NO MAP? on 12/17/2006 14:34:26 MST Print View


Could you tell me more about Google Hashing?

What is it? How's it done? Why do it?

Sounds cool. Please, more....

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
re: sans map on 12/17/2006 17:33:27 MST Print View

There's a story about Daniel Boone, who (while back in "civilization") was asked "Do you ever get lost out there in the wilderness?" "Nope, he replied, I've never been lost. Mind you, I was a mite confused for a week once."

Mapless travel tempts me often but I've almost always resisted the temptation. I don't believe it is in itself dangerous. What's dangerous is heading into the backcountry without skills. Maps are a crutch to compensate for my weak skill in finding my way. I expect that by starting small and developing skills with progressively more challenging situations many people could become good at mapless travel.

Edited by jcolten on 12/17/2006 17:34:52 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: re: sans map on 12/18/2006 03:10:14 MST Print View

> There's a story about Daniel Boone, who (while back in "civilization") was asked "Do you ever get lost out there in the wilderness?" "Nope, he replied, I've never been lost. Mind you, I was a mite confused for a week once."
One of the icons of Australian walking was a guy called Paddy Pallin. His autobiography is called 'Never Truly Lost'.

For us, 'lost' is a mental thing. It means you have given up. Tourists get lost. Being 'geographically embarrassed' is a known tempory problem for walkers.

Yes, we have been on extended walk(s) in the mountains many years ago with a 6" square sketch map. It was all that was available for that remote area. Good fun - even in the bad weather.

More recently, we have been known to not get the map out for several days or more. Just navigated off the sun - and memory. Ah - this was winter in the snow, so we did resort to a compass in the fog twice.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
hashing on 12/18/2006 07:38:15 MST Print View


The Hash House Harriers (commonly abbreviated "HHH" or "H3" and referred to as "The Hash") is a more social version of Hare and Hounds, where one joins a pack of hounds (runners) to chase down the trail set by a hare or hares (other runners), then gather together for a bit of social activity, which depending on the particular hash, is known as the On In, On On On, Down Down, Religion, or Circle. This social activity is usually furnished with refreshments, humorous camaraderie, songs and sometimes a feast.

The organization of the HHH is completely decentralized, with chapters (also commonly called kennels) allowed to form and disband at any time and in any place. It has more than 1700 groups in every major city in the world.

Also know as the drinking club with a running problem.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: hashing on 12/18/2006 12:36:55 MST Print View

Ahhh, I see. Thanks Richard. Roman