My motto is that you can get lost anywhere – whether you are just a couple of hours away from the nearest town or truly in the wilderness. Here’s what I usually pack.
Paper Map and a Compass
Of course, the very first step is planning. Decide which trail you want to follow, estimate how much time it will take and pack accordingly. But to be able to check where you are or come up with alternative routes on the fly, you’ll need to have the map with you. The best solution is to purchase a recent, official map. This is especially recommended if you plan to hike in the area several times.
Another solution is taking a screenshot of the map online, and then print it. In case of a long hike, it is better to print several, more detailed maps. My usual source is http://www.hikebikemap.org/:
But you can also try http://hiking.waymarkedtrails.org/en/ or others.
Keep in mind that these maps may not be 100% correct. I have run into no longer maintained hiking trails when using these maps, but then again: that can happen if you have older paper maps as well.
Also make sure you have a compass. It’s small and light, and can be invaluable.
GPS devices for cars have been very cheap since years and everyone I know has one. The problem is that you won’t be able to use them in the wilderness. Even if there are hiking trails, the GPS from your car won’t show them – those maps are just for driving.
One solution is to buy one of the dedicated hiking GPS devices. These certainly have their advantages, but if you are just starting to get into hiking or find these too expensive, the solution is simple: use your smartphone.
I’m not one of those guys who can’t go longer than a minute without checking their smartphones, but I admit that it’s very valuable to navigate in the wild without extra costs.
Of course you can’t just use Google Maps because they don’t have all the details you need. Unless you are satisfied with “high detailed maps” such as this one:
Use google and you’ll definitely get lost and possibly eaten by a bear or a bunch of angry ants that show no mercy. If you are lucky, you’ll stumble upon an “offline” map, like this one here:
But if you are serious, you’ll need a good hiking map and because there may be reception problems you’ll need to have the maps available offline. I bet there are several apps for this, but I want to show you the one I use: Oruxmaps.
Here’s the feature list:
- 100% free, 100% no adversisements
- Online map viewer
- The tiles used online can be cached, and can be used offline after
- Create offline maps from online sources
- Build composite maps from online map sources, with different values of transparency
- Support to WMS online maps
- Offline map viewer. Use maps calibrated with OruxMapsDesktop or MOBAC (Manuals and download section)
- Mapsforge vectorial maps
- Maps offline .rmap, .mbtiles, .ozf2
- Partial support to Garmin vectorial maps
- Save your tracks, waypoints and POI,s
- Add photos/vodeos/audios to the wpts.
- Suport to external GPS bluetooth
- Support to external heartrate monitors bluetooth
- Support to ANT+ (cadence, speed, heart rate, steps, temperature)
- Map rotation
- Export your tracks to different format files (gpx, kml and kmz)
- Import/analize your tracks (gpx, kml and kmz)
- Upload/download tracks from everytrail.com
- Live Tracking with MapMyTracks.com
- Upload tracks to gpsies.com, trainingstagebuch.org, ikimap.com and many more
- Connect with AIS devices (wifi, BT, USB)
- Share your position with other people
- And this is only the beginning!
I always make an offline copy of the area I go to. As I said, the mobile data reception may not be reliable, and that would just deplete the battery faster anyway. In the early days of the app you had to make the map on your PC and then copy the files to the phone, but no more: it’s extremely easy now!
Click on the “maps” icon, then select New Map:
Choose one from the “Online” list:
Try several to find out which is the best for your purposes. Also note what levels of detail you want: on the first image it’s “11” next to “100%”. You’ll want to have zoomed-out as well as a zoomed-in resolutions, and everything in between. Select “Map Creator” from the Maps menu, then click on the corners of the area as instructed:
Now select the resolutions you need, give the map a name, and click “Download”:
Once it’s finished you will have the map among the offline maps:
And that’s it. Of course, there is a lot more: you can use it for geocaching, make waypoints, track you route, but this should be enough to get you started! The most important thing is to have fun!
Do you have all the necessary equipment for your hiking trip? If you need a shortlist for a beginner hiker, here’s our article on that. Or check these articles for best backpacks for hiking, and best essential hiking equipment too.
Now that you are set, go and explore the world. Hike like a pro and live like there is no tomorrow.