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Magnetic declination refers to the angle between the geographic North Pole and the magnetic pole located in the Arctic Ocean. You will discover that good hiking and topographic maps always indicate the local magnetic declination via a declination diagram, which includes one arrow pointing to geographic north (commonly labeled as True North, or TN) and…

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A map and compass make up two of the 10 essentials recommended for safe backcountry travel, but they’ll do little good if you don’t know how to use them. Misuse could even turn a situation in which you’re simply confused into one in which you’re totally lost. The bottom line? Learn proper technique before your…

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Last fall, National Geographic introduced a free, user-friendly web tool that automatically breaks up USGS topographic maps to fit onto standard 8.5 inch x 11 inch printer paper. If you’ve ever used any standard-sized USGS topographic map, you are well aware of the over-sized dimensions that such maps typically come in. That means that if you download one in its entirety—and you can…

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Regardless of the length of your trip, from a three-hour hike to a three-day or three-week expedition, all hikers should carry the 10 essentials—a list developed by the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, the public agency responsible for the majority of search and rescue operations in New Hampshire. In this outdoor skills video, AMC…

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I admit it—Pokemon Go is a pretty awesome game. Basically a digital treasure hunt, it combines so many great elements into one smooth game: finding new places that you would never have found otherwise, walking around outside, stacking up points by finding treasure. As a parks director, I like to see people outside, and if…

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X marks the spot. As easily as that, you can get a kid interested in a map. Who doesn’t like looking for hidden treasure? But ask that same kid where north is or how far it is to her grandmother’s house, and she might not have a clue. Lisa Gilbert, an instructor with AMC’s education…

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Edward G. Chamberlain (1845-1935), one of AMC’s earliest members, immersed himself in mapmaking from a young age. He devoted his life to surveying and cartography, both for the commonwealth of Massachusetts and for AMC, and eventually became the organization’s unofficial cartographer. When he took it upon himself to volunteer his assistance at an AMC outing…

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One of AMC’s founding goals was to produce a White Mountains map—and AMC member Louis Fayerweather Cutter (1864-1945) was one of the first to do so. The MIT-educated civil engineer spent a lot of time in Randolph, N.H. From there, he launched his extensive explorations of the White Mountains. He painstakingly measured trails with a bicycle…

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It’s always good to know where you are. If you’re hiking on trails, here are the techniques I use to keep track of where I am at all times. Have the best trail map available Locate, purchase, and carry the most detailed, up-to-date, and accurate trail map for the area you’re visiting. Whenever possible, spend…

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I recently wrote about the Ten Essentials, which includes quite a few extremely, ahem, essential items. But which is the least useful? From my perspective, it’s the one I’ve carried for more than 20 years and barely ever used: a compass. Why do you need a compass? A compass allows you to very quickly orient…

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