Maps: My favorite piece of gear

My favorite piece of outdoor gear? A map.

As I’ve written previously, gear and talk about gear is what seems to be the favorite topic for outdoor websites, blogs, magazines and so on.

And the invariable question raised or discussed is What is your favorite piece of gear?

It is very simple for me.  It is not my backcountry skis, my favorite hat, a pack or shelter.

Rather it is something far more simple, useful and straight forward: A map.

I am not being facetious when I make that statement.

I truly love maps.

Be it  buying a new map before I go on a trip, looking over an atlas to see how to get to a trail head, looking at maps online to help plan for a trip or poring over one at the kitchen table as I excitedly show someone my route for the upcoming weekend.

Maps fuel my outdoor dreams. Places to see, experience and savor.

Maps show possibilities, planned adventures and dreams all in topo line form. I look at a map and I see the climbs up the mountains, passes leading to alpine lakes and ridges with views that seem to go on forever…

To quote a favorite book of mine: 

“I am an agnostic on most matters of faith, but on the subjects of maps I have always been a true believer. It is on the map, therefore it is, and I am.”

Maps make me smile because they lead to possibilities and those possibilities become reality.

Maps truly are my favorite piece of gear.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paul from Scotland
Paul from Scotland
10 years ago


Here’s another map quote:

Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all looked that) I would put my finger on it and say, When I grow up I will go there.

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

10 years ago

You should read Barry Lopez’ excellent short story The Mappist

8 years ago

Would like to improve my map skills before doing the GET. Although I am spending time with various how to books by Kjellstom or Burns, it’s just not giving me a comfort level. Are you aware of any quality navigation courses?

8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Appreciate the response. I think I’ll also contact our local SAR group. Hope you find some quality time soon for the GET.

The SilverBack
The SilverBack
8 years ago

Hi Mags,

Love your website and the Trail Show. Am a big fan.

Have printed a map on CalTopo for a TRT adventure. Am using the print website you all suggested on the Trail Show. One question I have is, what is the best paper to use for a trail map? What finishes to order? Does it need to be Waterproof? We used to use mapcases/Zip Locks when I was in the Army, but not sure which techniques are State of the art, or best for the light weight hiker.



Doug K
8 years ago

best part of trip planning is getting the maps out.. my favorite map story, “Jachin-Boaz lives in a dusty town where he owns a shop that sells all kinds of maps: maps to find water, love, money, whatever the heart desires. He has a son, Boaz-Jachin, for whom he is making him a master-map that will be given to him when he is a man. This map that will contain all the secrets of the other maps combined, so that he will be able to find whatever he wishes to seek. Jachin-Boaz shows his son the map, a labor… Read more »