Exploring remote areas in your RV can be a thrilling experience. The problem is that some thrilling places have lousy cell phone coverage. The absence of cell phone reception and GPS signals in remote areas may pose a significant challenge to navigation. That’s why it’s critically important for RVers to develop a solid understanding of good, old-fashioned map reading. Whether you’re a seasoned RV full-timer or a beginner planning your first off-grid journey, this article will equip you with the necessary skills to confidently explore the great outdoors…without navigational technology.
Getting lost stinks. It’s inconvenient and frustrating, and we feel silly when it happens. But it can also be a safety concern, especially for an RV owner. Not every motorhome can go anywhere. Height, weight, and width clearances are all factors we have to account for. We also have to assess the turns that we expect to negotiate. A good map can not only prevent us from getting lost, but it can also show us alternatives when it becomes apparent that the route we planned is not as safe or accessible as we originally thought.
Choose the Right Map
When venturing into remote areas, it’s essential to have accurate and reliable maps. First, make sure they are current. A 10-year-old map may not show current road closures, changes in weight limits on bridges, or other things that can affect your drive. Detailed road maps that cover the specific regions you intend to explore are the best. Topographical maps can also be highly useful. National parks, forestry offices, and online resources are excellent sources for obtaining this kind of map and others. One excellent resource is the USGS.
Electronic versions are fine, but make sure you can still access them offline in case you lose signal. Ensure that your map includes crucial details like elevation, contour lines, and prominent landmarks. Having a comprehensive map can help you plan your route and understand the terrain. This knowledge can also help you know if a climb or descent is too steep for your RV or what you feel your capabilities are.
Familiarize Yourself with Map Symbols
Maps use various symbols and legends to represent features like roads, rivers, mountains, campsites, and more. Take some time to study the symbols and their meanings before your trip. Understanding these symbols will enable you to interpret the map accurately and navigate with confidence. You can usually find explanations for map symbols on the map itself, in an area called the legend. In some cases, accompanying guides can be helpful. By familiarizing yourself with the symbols ahead of time, you’ll be better equipped to identify important features and navigate effectively.
Have a Plan
Before setting off on your journey, meticulously plan your route using the map. Identify key points of interest, RV campgrounds, fuel stations, and potential water sources along the way. Consider the terrain, road conditions, and any specific challenges the region may present. By planning your route in advance, you can anticipate potential obstacles, make more informed decisions, and ensure a smoother journey. Take note of alternate routes or detours in case unexpected circumstances arise.
Related to this, make sure to check the weather forecast. A road that seems perfectly easy to drive may be very little different in a thunderstorm or with winds slamming into the side of your RV.
Orient the Map
Simply put, orienting the map means making sure you and the map are looking the same way.
While most maps are oriented so that north is up, that doesn’t always mean you’re looking north. That simple difference changes the left turn into a right turn. Properly orienting the map is crucial for accurate navigation. Ideally, you’ll use a compass to orient it. If you don’t have one available, find a landmark or a recognizable feature in your vicinity and align it with its corresponding representation on the map. This could be a mountain peak or a prominent river. Once aligned, the map will provide you with a clear representation of your surroundings and improve your ability to navigate confidently.
Pay Attention to the Scale
Not the weight of your RV, but the scale of the map. Not only are all maps not the same, but all parts of a map may also not be identical. One part of a map may have a different scale than another part. Understanding map scales is essential for estimating distances accurately. The scale indicates the relationship between the map and the real world. For instance, a scale of 1:50,000 means that one unit of measurement on the map represents 50,000 units on the ground. Use the scale to measure distances between key landmarks, plan your stops, and gauge the time and fuel required to reach your destinations.
Landmarks and Compass Bearings
In remote areas where traditional navigation aids may be limited, natural and man-made landmarks become invaluable for orientation. Mountains, rivers, distinctive rock formations, or notable structures can serve as reliable guides. Combine these landmarks with compass bearings to plot your course accurately. Determine the direction you need to travel in relation to a landmark and maintain a consistent heading even without GPS or cell phone signals. By using landmarks and compass bearings together, you can navigate confidently through unfamiliar areas. Field and Stream did testing on some compasses on the market that may help you choose a reliable one.
Keep Track of Progress
As you embark on your RV adventure, regularly mark your progress on the map. Use a pen or a highlighter to trace your route, indicating the paths you have taken and the ones you plan to explore. This tracking method will help you stay oriented and prevent unnecessary backtracking. It also serves as a valuable reference if you encounter any unexpected obstacles or need to retrace your steps. Plus, tracking your progress will give you a sense of accomplishment and provide a visual representation of your journey.
Lack of cell service shouldn’t keep you from exploring where you want to go. Practice your map reading skills when you have your map apps available so that when you need to go old school, you can do it with confidence. Embrace the art of map reading and let it guide you on unforgettable adventures, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature while navigating remote areas with ease.
Ready to map out routes in your very own RV?
Investing in an RV is a big financial decision, no matter where you want to take it. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff here at Transwest is eager to help you choose from the highest quality motorhomes from top manufacturers. Find a location near you today, or shop our online inventory and let our experts help you find the perfect RV for you to get lost in…and find your way again.