GPS is great, great until the battery runs out. If you’re really planning to get lost in the backcountry, figuratively not literally, you absolutely must have a good map of the area and a compass on hand. National Geographic‘s new service, makes every United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic map easily searchable, downloadable, and printable. And best of all it’s free of charge.
Downloadable maps aren’t all that new. They’ve been available on the USGS’s own site since 2009, I still have some waterproof paper sitting around for printing them. The USGS site, however, was an outdated, unorganized mess that was nearly impossible to navigate and once you did tease out the map you needed, it wasn’t formatted for home printing. National Geographic‘s site is a breath of fresh air. It’s easy to use and works with any home printer. If you can use Google Maps, you can download and print topo maps.