The following is the basic 2 days (4 hours) Training Manual, I give training to companies, organizations.

Map Reading and Its importance

A map is a 3 dimensional graphic representation of a portion of the earth’s surface in a 2 dimensional space as seen from above, drawn to scale.  When reading a topographic map, you need to visualize in your mind’s eye a 3-dimensional view of what the symbols and contour lines are

Historically, the development of highly accurate, detailed topographic maps has largely been driven by military requirements. A unique characteristic that distinguishes topographical maps from other kinds of maps is the fact that they show the topography or shape of the land in addition to other features such as roads, rivers, lakes, etc.

Even in Nepal, there are cases of misleading of groups, so a map is always the best guiding tool if a guide is able to read it.

We human being, have been making a map of a Mars, Moon, Galaxies and a Universe.

Map Importance:

  • A guide should know most details of trekking/ expedition routes as much as possible.
  • Environmental factors like mist, fog in changed weather situation might confuse a guide for a correct direction, especially young or emerging guides.
  • Tourists usually carry Maps with them while travelling and might ask you about off the beaten treks information.
  • It is not always that you will find tourists that prefer normal trekking routes.
  • Most important thing is that it makes you a professional one and stands out as a different from general guides.
  • World is going digital, so carry a full battery on mobile, laptops, and download navigation and travel apps for your references.
  • Correlate with Safety issues, Acute Mountain Sickness, Natural Disasters, Altitude.

Technology and Guide Job(World is at our Finger Tips- ARJUN)

With development of technologies, Geographic information systems (GIS) are at the forefront of the mapping revolution. A GIS makes it possible to combine layers of digital data from different sources and to manipulate and analyze how the different layers relate to each other. Now there are many APPS for mobile devices for Map, Compass, Altimeter, Global Positioning System (GPS), Google Earth etc. which can be downloaded for individual purposes available in Android, IOS, Windows 8.1 versions. You can find it a free latest downloadable version. Some of its use as follows:

  • Portable to carry and use,
  • Advantages to navigate,
  • Know the Altitude,
  • Longitude and latitude by GPS.
  • Contact with GPS info for Rescue and Emergency.

Some disadvantages:

  • Calibrate it as per the guidelines of technology as directed while installing.
  • Need Wi-fi access
  • Extra monetary charges (Expensive)
  • It is not 100% accurate.
  • Battery charges and its charging stations availability.
  • Need Practice of its use and APPS differ upon company.


  • How to search appropriate Apps and download Apps?
  • Learn how to Navigate with Mobile Apps system.

Teaching Method

  • Demonstration of use of digital navigation tool on a real Map.
  • Group Discussion on identification of geographical features on a map.
  • Video presentation of a map in understanding contour lines and a real geography.
  • Survival Skills and Contours

Materials Required

  • Digital Apps,
  • Topographic Maps,
  • Marker, White Board,
  • Transparency sheet, Pencils, Eraser,
  • Smart Phones
  • Graph Paper
  • Computer, Laptop, Software.

Basics of Map Reading

Map information is available in Point, Line and Polygon system.Some important features to be considered in Map Reading are as follows:

Latitude & Longitude

Latitude and longitude is the most common grid system used for navigation. It will allow you to pinpoint your location with a high degree of accuracy. Latitude is angular distance measured north and south of the Equator. The Equator is 0 degrees. As you go north of the equator the, latitude increases all the way up to 90 degrees at the north pole. If you go south of the equator, the latitude increases all the way up to 90 degrees at the south pole. In the northern hemisphere the latitude is always given in degrees north and in the southern hemisphere it is given in degrees south.

Longitude works the same way. It is angular distance measured east and west of the Prime Meridian. The prime meridian is 0 degrees longitude. As you go east from the prime meridian, the longitude increases to 180 degrees. As you go west from the prime meridian longitude increases to 180 degrees. The 180 degree meridian is also known as the international date line. In the eastern hemisphere the longitude is given in degrees east and in the western hemisphere it is given in degrees west.

Map Scale

Map scale represents the relationship between distance on the map and the corresponding distance on the ground. The scale on the topo map is found at the bottom center of the map.


Scale is represented in two different ways on a topographical map. The first is a Ratio scale. The ratio scale on this map is 1:24,000. What it means is that one inch on the map represents 24,00 inches on the ground. Below the ratio scale is a graphic scale representing distance in miles, feet and meters. The Graphic or Linear scale can be used to make fast estimates of distances on the map. The space between the 0 and the 1 mile mark on the scale is the distance you must go on the map to travel one mile.

Contour Lines

A Topographic Map includes contour lines drawn to represent changes in elevation. Contour lines placed on the map represent lines of equal elevation above (or below) a reference datum.  When you follow a path on a topographic map that crosses these contour lines, you will be either climbing or descending. A path running parallel to contour lines is relatively flat.


One of the advantages to using a topographical map is that it shows the three dimensional lay of the land. It does this by using contour lines. On the topo map they appear as the Brown Lines.The contour line traces the outline of the terrain at evenly spaced elevations. These are determined by the Contour Interval. The contour interval is found below the map scale.

Tips for understanding contour lines.

 Every point on a contour line represents the exact same elevation. Contour lines on the edge of a map do not appear to close on themselves because they run into the edge of the map, but if you got the adjacent map you would find that, eventually, the contour will close on itself.

2) Contour lines can never cross one another. Each line represents a separate elevation, and you can’t have two different elevations at the same point.

3) Moving from one contour line to another always indicates a change in elevation. To determine if it is a positive (uphill) or negative (downhill) change you must look at the index contours on either side.

4) On a hill with a consistent slope, there are always four intermediate contours for every index contour. If there are more than four index contours it means that there has been a change of slope and one or more contour line has been duplicated. This is most common when going over the top of a hill or across a valley (see figure).

5) The closer contour lines are to one another, the steeper the slope is in the real world. If the contour lines are evenly spaced it is a constant slope, if they are not evenly spaced the slope changes.The most important thing to remember is that CLOSE contour lines mean STEEP terrain and OPEN contour lines mean FLAT terrain.Shaded relief added to a topographic map makes it more realistic and helps visualize the real landscape.

 6) A series of closed contours (the contours make a circle) represents a hill. If the closed contours are hatched it indicates a closed depression (see figure).

7) Contour lines crossing a stream valley will form a “V” shape pointing in the uphill (and upstream) direction.

Topographical Map Symbols/ legend

Every map has a legend, or key, that explains the meaning of the symbols used on the map. The legend is usually printed right on the map, although some maps, like USGS topographic maps, publish legends separately. Legends tell you what different lines mean, whether they are roads, trails, power lines, streams, or boundaries of some sort. Legends also show different symbols and translate them, like the symbol used for a spring, windmill, or maybe a gravel pit. The legend also provides information about the map including its title, scale, projection, cartographer, publisher, date of compilation, and date of printing.

There are many other symbols on USGS topographical maps. Here are some of the most common:

Map Orientation and Navigation

Orientation of a Map to the North direction is most important before making a decision. Once a map is oriented to the North direction(N)and a digital compass or a simple compass will help you to orient at exact direction for navigation.

Many birds use Earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate when flying long distances. Scientists have not yet discovered the precise mechanisms involved, but it seems that birds can in some way detect changes in the angle of dip and in the magnetic declination, which together give an indication of latitude and longitude.

A freely suspended piece of magnetic material-the needle of a magnetic compass, for example-points North-South, because Earth itself has a magnetic field. The earth’s magnetic poles are geographic poles. The angle between true (geographical) North and magnetic north is called the magnetic declination (or deviation). It varies at different points on the earth’s surface, according to the observer’s position relative to two poles and his distance from them. Not only do the magnetic north and south poles move slightly from year to year, but at certain periods in the earth’s past they have been completely reversed, so that the present magnetic north pole was at one time the magnetic south pole.Earth is not the only planet with a magnetic field.

The magnetic poles of a magnet are the points where the attractive or repulsive force acting in an isolated north pole appears to be concentrated. The point of maximum repulsive force is the magnetic North Pole; the point of maximum attraction is the South Pole.


In a map, colors play a vital role in understanding features for example

Green : Forest land
Blue : Water bodies (Lake , Ocean )
Orange, Yellow :Agriculture field
Contour line: Brown

How Contour Lines are constructed?


What is a watershed?

John Wesley Powell, the great geographer and scientist, described a watershed as, that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of the community.   Simply, a watershed is an area of land that all drains to the same receiving body of water, whether it be a stream, lake, or river. Another term for watershed is drainage basin.


How do you find your watershed address?
First, you figure out your location on a map in relationship to the nearest stream or river. Then you look to see where that stream or river drains to or connects. It might drain into another stream, river or even a lake. Continue to follow the flow of these bodies of water until you reach an ocean where your watershed address ends.

How do you figure out the area encompassed by a particular watershed?

A topographic map is needed for that. By picking out the highest elevations, divides between drainage areas can be located. If a raindrop falls on top of a mountain and flows downhill without evaporating or percolating into the soil, where will it end up? If it flows down the opposite side of the mountain, does it end up in the same water body? If not, it would be in a different water- shed. Within this major watershed there are many minor watersheds; each tributary or body of water is part of a small watershed.

  • World is changing with technologies.
  • Be adaptable to the new software for APPs.
  • Be a professional guide in front of your client (Tourists) by displaying your unique skills.
  • Map in Travel for Survival skills and knowledge of our surroundings.
  • Weather change anytime so young, inexperienced guide needs to know it.
  • Take a separate details course on Map Reading and Navigation.
  • Learn English lessons.
  • Basic Computer Skills for software experience.
  • Map information are available in Point, Line and Polygon system.


Bearing–Geographic orientation of a line given as an angle measurement in degrees clockwise from true north.

Cartography        –        the     art     and    science        of       producing    maps, charts         and          other representations     of       spatial         relationships.

Contour      –        a        line    drawn         on      a        map   joining         all      the     points          on      the     Earth that   are     the     same  height         above mean sea     level.

Coordinates         –        angular       or      linear values          that   designate     the     position          of       a        point  in       a        given  datum         or      projection    system.

Coordinates, geographic        –        a        system         of       spherical     coordinates          commonly    known         as      latitude       and    longitude.

Coordinates, grid –        a        plane-rectangular coordinate   system         expressed     as          eastings       and    northings.

datum         –        a        mathematical        surface        on      which a        mapping      and          coordinate   system         is       based.

Elevation    –        the     height         above mean sea     level.

Geocentric datum          –        a        datum         which has    its      origin at      the     Earth’s          centre         of       mass. The    advantage    of       the     geocentric   datum         is       its          direct compatibility         with   satellite-based       navigation   systems.

Geographical coordinates      –        a        position       given  in       terms of       latitude       and          longitude.

GPS    –        Global         Positioning System        –        is       a        satellite       based          navigation   system         developed     by      the     United         States          Department of          Defense        and    widely          used   for     civilian        navigation   and    positioning.

GNSS –        Global         Navigation Satellite     System

Graticule    –        a        network      of       lines   on      a        map   or      chart representing          the     parallels      of       latitude       and    meridians    of       longitude     of       the          Earth.

Grid   –        two    sets    of       parallel        lines   intersecting at      right  angles          to          form  squares.

Grid convergence –        the     angular       difference    between       Grid   North and    True          North.

Grid coordinates  –        the     equally        spaced         vertical        and    horizontal          intersecting lines   superimposed        over   the     face   of       a        map.            One    set          of       grid   lines   runs   north-south,         while the     other runs   west-east.    The          position       of       a        point  on      the     map   is       described     as      its      distance          east   from  a        north-south line    and    its      distance       north of       an      east-west          line.

Grid/magnetic (G-M) angle    –        the     difference    between       grid   north and    magnetic          north and    is       a        positive        value  if       magnetic     north it       is       east   of          grid   north and    a        negative      value  if       it       is       west   of       true   north.

latitude      –        the     latitude       of       a        feature        is       its      angular       distance          on      a        meridian,     measured     northwards or      southwards from  the     Equator.

longitude    –        an      angular       distance       measured     east   or      west   along the          equator       from  a        reference     meridian      (Greenwich).

Magnetic north    –        the     direction     as      indicated     by      a        compass       to      the          earth magnetic     pole.

Map   –        a        representation      of       the     Earth’s        surface.       A        cadastral          map   is       one    showing       the     land   subdivided   into   units  of       ownership;  a          topographic map   is       one    showing       the     physical       and    superficial   features          as      they   appear         on      the     ground;       a        thematic      map   displays       a          particular    theme,         such   as      vegetation   or      population   density.

Map projection    –        any    systematic   way    of       representing         the     meridians    and          parallels      of       the     Earth upon  a        plane surface.

Mercator projection      –        the     conformal    cylindrical   projection    tangential   to      the          Equator,      possessing    the     additional    valuable       property      that   all      rhumb          lines   are     represented by      straight       lines.  Used   extensively   for     hydrographic          and    aeronautical         charts.

Meridian     –        an      imaginary    line    from  the     North Pole   to      the     South Pole          connecting  points          of       equal longitude.

Relief          –        the     deviation     of       an      area   of       the     Earth’s        surface          from  a        plane. It       refers to      the     physical       shape of       the     surface        of          the     Earth.

Topography         –        description  or      representation      on      a        map   of       the          physical       and    cultural       surface        features.

Transverse Mercator (TM) projection       –        a        conformal    cylindrical   map          projection,   originally     devised        by      Gauss,          also    known         as      the          Gauss-Kruger        projection.   As      its      name implies,        its      construction         is          on      the     same  principle      as      the     Mercator     projection,   the     only   difference          being that   the     great circle of       tangency     is       now   any    nominated   meridian.          Meridians    and    parallels      are     curved         lines,  except          for     the     central          meridian      for     a        specified      zone   (meridian    of       tangency),   which remains          a        straight       line.   The    amount       of       scale  distortion    may   become          unacceptable         at      distances     greater        than  about 1.5     degrees        in          longitude     from  the     central        meridian.

Posted August 4, 2014 by arjunlimbu in Travel

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