Knowing how to use topographic maps and carrying a cel phone are important tools for outdoor survival.
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How to Read a Topographic Map: Avoid a Bailout from Search & Rescue

Good for you. You’ve decided to explore the great outdoors by hiking in a remote location. You’ve got a smart phone so you’re ready but this is a fatal flaw because the moment you leave the city, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon are as worthless as tits on a boar. You don’t know this so you trek to the hinterlands looking for peace but are bound to be hopelessly lost. Don’t get your Victoria’s Secret panties in a wad, this article will teach you how to find your way to civilization without paying for search and rescue to recover your corpse using a topographic map. 

Step 1: Make the Map and Save your Phone Battery

Keep pictures of the topo maps where you’ll be. No one keeps paper maps so take a picture of them on your phone for reference. Ensure the picture encompasses the key and north arrow. You’ll need these when you’re contemplating if you should drink your piss when you get lost. 

Your phone’s worthless without service so keep it on airplane mode if you get lost and don’t have cell reception. This saves your battery for when you need it. Cell phones use most of their batteries looking for a tower. If you want to live, don’t let it search for a tower until you get close to civilization and do map reconnaissance with the pictures you saved. 

Step 2: Make a Fist

Most natural features you’ll see can be formed with a fist. Your first step is to ball up your fist and punch your dad in the face for not teaching you this. After that, tell him you’re sorry, you love him, and make another fist to learn terrain features. You’ll need these to understand the backcountry landscape you’re about to trek and find a way out in an emergency. 

Get to high ground and look for features. In most cases you can reach a hill on a ridge and find a road to take you to civilization. This may not be the case in a wooded area but stay out of draws as this is where water drains. A rainstorm at the ridge can cause a flood down the draw, bringing debris and flash flooding. Don’t make your family identify your bloated remains while wondering why you didn’t camp your dumb ass on a hill or spur. Think of your children! They love you. 

Knowing how to read a topographic map is an important tool for survival.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Step 3: Reading a Topographic Map

You’ve survived thus far and can’t see a road but see one on your topo map. You need to sack up and get to civilization. First, point your map in the direction of the earth. You know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west so lay the map to coordinate with this so you know where to start walking. This is basic survival. If you need to travel a certain direction, don’t be cute and play GPS by moving your map in the direction you’re moving. Orient your map to the north. 

Now, look at the contour lines. The further they are apart, the less elevation. Closer means more elevations. You can reference these against the hills near you. If all the contour lines meet at one spot, that’s a cliff. You want to find the easiest route to survive which means more space between lines.

Next, figure out your distance to a road or where a human may be. You can do this by looking at the map key but generally each inch on a map is equal to 1/3 of a mile. This is not the time to lie to yourself (or your spouse) about length. If you’re 12 inches from a road, it means you have a four-mile trek to get there – not the three-mile trek you tell your wife is in your pants. Also, it’ll take more than the 45 seconds of pleasure you normally have stored up. 

The shortest distance between you and human contact may be over a hill but you could take a saddle to get to a road in less time. When you look at a topo map, Freud should be filling your head with images of breasts. The quickest route is never over the nipple even if your mom had a great rack. Always go down through the saddle to save energy and time. 

Cel phone towers can be very useful in an emergency situation.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Step 4: Turn your phone on

Not like that sicko. Just turn your phone on to see if you have cellular reception without calling it a dirty slut. Most paved roads have cell reception and now’s the time to call for help. Cell towers can get a location within 15 meters of a phone once they connect regardless of carrier. Call your wife. She’s likely getting a pedicure but will answer the phone asking if you can bring home Taco Bell because she doesn’t want to make dinner. Either way, it beats paying for a helicopter rescue. That’s amore and a sound fiscal decision. 

When all else fails, you have to rely on your ability to survive and that means reading a topographical map. Now you have the skills. Plan ahead and stay alive. Author Bio: Morgan Lerette is the Author of Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money, and Mayhem in Iraq. If you enjoyed this, check it out you filthy animal.

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