Maps in our Guides

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A topographic map is considered the best type of map for walking and navigation and displays streams and contour lines. Contour lines show height above sea level and are useful for both displaying the general shape of the landscape and also for measuring heights and climbs and descents along tracks.

Mapping Policy

We draw colour topographic maps of walks in our books. These have been provided to show a track or route location and some of these tracks are not displayed on other topographic maps. To aid location of the tracks and routes, our maps show streams, all roads and tracks and generally display contour heights of 25m or 50m. These contours give general relief of the landscape but will not show every ridge, rise or knoll. While liking the maps and finding them very useful, some have asked for these maps to have even more contours. We have considered this and generally will not be increasing contour lines to 10m or 20m - it is a huge amount of work to do so and it would not improve safety on many walks. Maps in a book can only be a maximum of a double page in size and often the tracks and routes will be right on the edge of the page. If you lost the route you could very easily walk right off the maps in a guide as the maps only show a small part of an area. With the larger and generally more detailed topographic paper map sheets or digital maps, you can see more of the surrounding country. It is then harder to 'walk off the map' and also with a map of the surrounding country you will have more features to use for navigation hence improving safety.

This is why our maps are designed to supplement the information on topographic map sheets and not replace them - on all of our maps we provide a suggested map/maps to carry and use when walking. Yes we know some walkers will refuse to spend the few extra dollars for a map but its very cheap when compared to the cost of gear, travel costs and food. Guide books supplement maps and do not replace them. In other words - we recommend using a map in conjunction with any guide book.

We use GDA94 for all our Australian grids, this is essentially identical (within 1 metre) to the universal grid format, UTM


Related to maps, some have asked for GPS plots for all our walks. I carry and use a GPS for spot checks on our walks these days. However we dont leave the GPS continually turned on as that requires carrying lots of batteries and really it is not needed, we do lots of walks of more than 2 weeks in length. Hence we do not have a continuous set of single GPS waypoints and hence cannot supply our readers with one. We do provide a grid on all our maps so waypoints can be created for GPS use. As for creating lots of waypoints for downloading into a GPS from the web - we simply dont have enough time to create a set by hand and we are leaving that for others to do. If you read our Online Policy Page you might understand there is actually little demand for guide books for overnight walking - for GPS plots the demand would be much less.

Another GPS issue that has been raised with me is that when we give one in our books, it is in the format of the grid that is used for the locally produced topographic maps. This is so you can directly transpose our maps onto the local topographic maps and see what point we are talking about. Of course there are different grids used around the world and setting up your GPS to use the same grid can sometimes be a bit of a hit or miss affair. Unfortunately, not all GPSs use the same setup, we have used 3 generations of Garmins and the menu system has been changed each time!  So I can only give general advice. First change the GPS to display a grid, Change the Position Format from the default degrees, minutes and seconds to a grid type, UTM/UPS is often a good starting point as it is the universal grid format. Sometimes its not the correct choice so scroll through all the options to see if a special one applies for the country you are in, example is New Zealand uses its own so if there select that. Then after that you select the map datum, for all of our current books select GDA94 or WGS84. When I travel to a new area (another country), I setup my GPS at a known location (the end of the road is a good choice) as its a known point. It took me more than 10 minutes the first time in New Zealand as it took some time to find that they have their own grid system, they actually have two so I tried both. However once I had set up the GPS it matched the local maps perfectly after that.

One of the nice features of a GPS is that on the walk you can save waypoints as grid numbers and later on change your Position Format to degrees, minutes and seconds. Most of the GPS readings you get from the web were created that way. However it is extremely difficult to translate degree, minutes and seconds to a position on a map. Hence if you upload GPS readings from others, use your GPS to change the display into grid numbers and you will then be able to relate them to maps. Just note that we have found that some of the web GPS readings have errors, like all free content, the author spent very little time editing and checking so be aware of that problem. Thats why I suggest not to blindly follow uploaded waypoints, instead, alter the display to show grid numbers so you can check where it is on the map. Most errrors will then be found. Is this a problem?  Well, recently, there have been several groups that have had to be rescued who were 'lost' as they were blindly following GPS coordinates from the web that led them into very difficult country.
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 Last updated : March 5th 2022