Try this: a better way to get topo maps (cheap & fast)

Life hack for getting better topo maps, cheap & easy

I wanted to share this quick life hack I’ve been doing for several years, but haven’t seen anyone else do. If you’re into topo maps for hiking & backpacking, you already know they can be kinda pricey, and usually aren’t exactly what you need.

With this hack though, you get the EXACT map you want (waterproof, high-quality), centered on the exact area where you’re hiking, and can even get custom shading for the topography.

So, what’s the hack?

OK, first, here’s how most people get their topo maps:

  1. From REI (who will have a limited selection) or USGS. With REI, you’re limited to whatever they have in stock. Or, if you plan ahead enough, you can order your maps from REI & USGS, BUT, you’re limited to their stock maps & quads. Meh.
  2. Or, you can print a custom map from one of the online topo maps sites. Yes, they’re free, but the downside is — unless you have a $20,000 map printer, your maps will be on plain old 8.5" x 11" office paper. Again, meh.

A way better way:

My hack? I head over to my local surveyors’ supply shop. They’ve got literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of GPS software and map printers all at your disposal.

No, they won’t let you play around on their high-end equipment, but they WILL (happily) print you a custom topo map to fit your heart’s desire.

Oh, and for a super cheap price — like $12 or so.

For more details, you can see exactly how I’ve done it in the blog post on my website:

Seriously, stop f-ing around with stock topo maps that kinda suck, or office-paper homespun maps that really suck. Get a real map that’s pretty enough to hang on your wall.