I keep a US road atlas in the pocket behind my driver’s seat. I got it in 2010, and I don’t think I’ve used it for navigation since a year or two after that. That’s because now I have a supercomputer in my pocket called an iPhone and I don’t have to think about route finding on the road anymore. It’s a different story with hiking though. Yes, there are plenty of apps that you can download that will help you way-find in the mountains and forests, but to rely on these entirely? Not a great idea. For one, errors in backcountry travel can create consequences far more severe than following the wrong road to a dead end. Additionally, electronics can fail; nature hates your phone and wants to break it with rocks, dirt and water.
There’s no substitute for a trail map. Even if you are an app-user, you should have one stashed in your backpack for worst-case scenarios. A hard copy of a trail map is at best an easy way to prevent catastrophe, and at worst, it’s a cheap memento of a trip that you can save on a bookshelf for future use.
National Geographic’s trail maps are some of the best available — they’re waterproof, tear-resistant and show essential information like points of interest and elevation. Right now, trail maps for many of the United States’ National Parks and wilderness regions are on sale for 15 percent off with the code LABORDAY15. (And if you need a road map or a t-shirt, the code applies to those items too — it applies to everything on the site.)
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