Old Hickory Council - Hanging Rock District

Troop 444: What is a Map

Reading maps is not usually difficult because there are some rules that are generally followed when creating and reading maps:

  • North, South, East, and West are the four main "cardinal" directions.
  • On a map, North is at the top, South at the bottom, West to the left, and East to the right.
  • Every map has a Map Scale which relates distance on the map to the world. For example, one inch equals one mile. For more information on Map Scale <Click Here>       Printable Version
  • Using the scale of a map, you can tell the actual distance between two points for real.
  • Maps use Map Symbols to represent real-world things, such as buildings, trails, roads, bridges, and rivers. For more information on Map Symbols <Click Here>
  • Maps use colors to share more information. Blue often means water, green means forest, and white means bare land.
  • A map has a Legend which lists the symbols it uses and what they mean.
  • A grid of imaginary lines wrap around and over the earth. These lines are called Latitude and Longitude and can identify the exact location of any point on earth

Basic Map Parts

This simple road direction map contains a lot of information:


  • * North is marked in the upper-left corner so you know which way this map relates to the world.
  • * The Scale is marked. One inch equals 5 miles, so you can tell it is about 15 miles from Seattle to Woodinville.
  • * Main roads are included so you can find the best route direction between two locations.
  • * Roads are labeled so you know what to look for when navigating.
  • * Bodies of water are colored blue.



So, you can see even a simple road map is packed with good direction and navigation information. The maps we use for hiking are even more packed with details.

Maps or Photos




The topo map on the bottom represents the land in the aerial photo on the right. Notice the buildings and roads on the map can be seen in the photo. A navigation map is actually more useful than a photograph since it can highlight important items and ignore clutter like trees and shadows.









Shaded Relief Maps

Adding shading to denote shadows thrown by the sun and colors to denote elevation change, beautiful and somewhat realistic maps can be created. The example right shows a high mountain in white in the NorthEast (upper-right) with elevation dropping to a low, flat plain in the SouthWest (lower-left). Mountains, ridges, cliffs, canyons, and plateaus can all be identified. Shaded relief adds depth and interest to a map, but more is needed to make a map truly useful to us hikers and explorers for navigating wild areas.

Contour Lines

Contour lines are extremely important for outdoors dudes so you know what to expect a mile ahead on the trail. Contour lines show the elevation changes of the terrain. These are called Topographic Maps because they show the topography of the land. In this example, the elevation at the spot marked A is about 4400 feet above sea level as indicated on the contour line close to it. The elevation of B is a bit more difficult to figure out, but if you look closely, you might figure out that it is about 4350 feet.


Boy Scout Oath

On my honor, I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Boy Scout Law

A Scout Is...

A Scout tells the truth.
He keeps his promises.
Honesty is part of his code of conduct.
People can depend on him.
A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.LOYAL
A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.HELPFUL
A Scout is a friend to all.
He is a brother to other Scouts.
He seeks to understand others.
He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position.
He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.
A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle.
He treats others as he wants to be treated.
He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.
A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop.
He obeys the laws of his community and country.
If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.
A Scout looks for the bright side of things.
He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
A Scout works to pay his way and to help others.
He saves for unforeseen needs.
He protects and conserves natural resources.
He carefully uses time and property.
A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid.
He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.
A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean.
He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals.
He helps keep his home and community clean.
A Scout is reverent toward God.
He is faithful in his religious duties.
He respects the beliefs of others.