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If you own property or are thinking about developing property then having a topographic map is a great resource to use in making your purchase decision.  If you are hiking in a state or national park then having a topographic map is one tool to help you navigate. Understanding what all the lines and symbols mean is important for referencing  your position on the map. Learning how to use a compass and how to navigate with a compass can be a fun and rewarding family activity on a nice spring or fall weekend. 
How to read a Topographic Map



Once you see how easy it is to read a topographic map you may want to search for one in your area. The Topo Zone is a great place to start.

Hiking and mapping with a Pocket Transit

The Pocket Transit is a fun and relatively inexpensive instrument that can be used to hike and locate lines. This transit can be used as a hand held instrument or attached to a Jacob's Staff or Tripod. It takes some practice to use but has the ability to read an angle within 1 (degree) in the horizontal plane and 10' (minutes) in the vertical plane.

How to use the Surveyor's Pocket Transit

Surveyor's Pocket Transit

With the advent of GPS hand held devices it would seem that the use of the compass becomes less and less. If you like to hike I would suggest keeping a compass or pocket transit as a backup. When the terrian becomes such that a clear sky in not available or the batteries in the GPS just didn't last as long as you thought the compass will become a good friend.