There are a number of different types of maps associated with the outdoors, all have their particular function and purpose;
Often called the Topo. or Contour map, this type of map gives an accurate representation of all the geographic features around you in a “flat 3D image.”
In New Zealand, the best hiking Topographical maps are the NZ Topo50 series that use the 1:50,000 map scale. (1cm on the map = 50,000cm or 500m on the ground)
The Topo. Map also contains all the information you require to navigate by compass and GPS(never just GPS) in any weather conditions with a track or with out.
While Topographical maps can appear difficult in the beginning, there are now plenty of great online learning resources that can help you. Two that I recommend are;
- Land Information New Zealand:(LINZ) Download the Topo50 Map Reading Guide (I keep a copy on my smart phone to take on hikes also)
- NZ Mountain Safety Council: Get Outdoors- Expeditions – # 13 Read a Map
Route Overview Map
Commonly seen on Park Information signs boards, or Department of Conservation (DoC) & Regional Council park leaflets/pamphlets. This type is designed to only show the approximate route of the track, they do not show accurate geographic information like Topographical maps.
These are a series of Maps printed for the New Zealand Great Walks.
While they do show the terrain relief around the track, they are not Topographical maps. Instead they focus on detailing information specific to hiking that track. (Huts, camp sites, track route and historical information etc)
What Maps to carry on a Hike
- A “paper” Topographical map of the area you are hiking, and keep it in a waterproof map bag refolded to present the page you are on.(*1)
- A park route map, showing the tracks you are intending to use.
With the rise of hand held GPS units and Smart phones, it is now possible to take digital Topographical / other maps along on hiking trips also. These are particularly useful for;
- Reading in low light conditions
- Bad weather conditions (particularly if your phone is waterproof)
- Zooming into really close to view Topography and detail
- Orientating direction to known fixed features
Despite these advantages, never rely solely on digital maps/ GPS units for your navigation when hiking.
(*1) I regularly observer other hikers who carry their map in their pack, not looking at it when they are unsure, as it means they need to dismount the pack. I carry my Map in my PLB bag, (along with my compass and GPS) which means its in easy reach all the time, including in the event that I am separated from pack.
- Land Information New Zealand,(LINZ)
- NZ Mountain Safety Council
- Geographx, New Zealand
- Department of Conservation New Zealand
- Department of Conservation New Zealand, Maps.
- Fat Canyoners