How To Use a Map

By Subodh / June 7, 2014

Knowing how to use a map can be a very handy talent to you. It will help you get from one place to another without getting lost and it also will let you know how many miles it is from your present location to your destination. Depending on the type of map you are using, you will be able to pinpoint a country you just heard something about on the news or you will be able to figure out the topography of a region. You can do all these things only if you know how to use a map and get the correct information from it.

Here are some tips to help you use a map correctly.

Title of the Map

Check the title of the map. It will tell you what the map is about. For instance, if you want to drive from town to town in Florida, you may want to invest in a Florida highway map. That way, it will be easy for you to find your way from one town to the next using the best possible route. On the other hand, an elevation map of a region will give you information about the highest and lowest points. So, a title of the map is definitely important, as it will give you an understanding what information you can glean from the map.


Check Out the Map Key

Familiarize yourself with the map key. Understand and learn all the symbols, as this will help you locate some important points and routes. Usually, majority of the maps has symbols and the key to these symbols is located at the bottom corner of the map in a box. Getting back to the Florida highway map, the map key will help you differentiate between a bold black line and red line on the map.

Understand the Map Scale

Most maps are drawn to scale and it is important you understand this scale. For instance, in one map the scale can be 1 inch of the area on the map is equivalent to 100 miles in reality. Some maps also use the metric system, so it is prudent to familiarize yourself with this system, especially if you notice the map saying 1 cm is equivalent to 10 km. Typically, it is advisable to use a ruler when you are going to use the map scale. Use the ruler to measure the distance between the two points and then use your calculator to convert the ruler distance into real-life distance.

Finding Your Way

Now that you know the basic of map reading, it is time to collect the necessary information. Open the map in front of you and look at landmarks around you. Try to identify those landmarks on the map, so that you can pinpoint your location. Then look for the destination and try and see which is the best route to take to reach it. If you have a ruler handy, try to use it to estimate the distance between the two locations. Remember, since you will not be travelling in a straight line, this distance could vary in reality by a few miles. So, be prepared for it.

An Important Consideration

There is no doubt knowing how to use a map is a wonderful skill to have. However, with the advent of GPS-enabled devices, people are not using maps as often as they used to. Nonetheless, these devices are not fool-proof. In bad weather they can breakdown or give incorrect directions. That is why you should not rely solely on these devices. You also should always have a map with you if you are travelling long distances, hiking or camping.