14 Jul

Racing Tips – More on Maps

Over the coming weeks we will be posting information that we hope will help you improve your adventure racing skills. If you have topics or questions you would like us to cover, send us an email at flatfeats(at)gmail(dot)com and we’ll try to address them in the near future.

In our post about Measuring Distance on a Map we discussed  the importance of scale and height to figure out our distance. In that post we showed examples of contours and scale bars but there are other useful bits of information on maps.

Contour lines are used to show the change in elevation on a map. The contour interval of each line is usually found close to the scale bar. If you haven’t, read the post mentioning scale and contours for more details. Note: Depressions (holes in the ground) are denoted with small tick marks pointing toward low ground.

Example of contour lines showing a hill (center) and a couple of depressions (lower right).

All bodies of water (lakes, rivers, streams) are represented by the colour blue. Marshes and bogs are often identified with either a hashed blue or symbols. Be sure to refer to the map legend for additional details about water.

topo-marsh orienteering-marsh
Example of river and marshes on CanMatrix map and orienteering map.

Roads and Trails
Roads and trails are represented by solid or dashed lines. Depending on the map they can have different colours to represent major highways, minor highways, gravel roads, farm roads and seasonal trails. On a CanMatrix topographic map dashed lines are roads that are either seasonal or can only be accessed with a 4×4. Orienteering maps show further detail. Dashed lines on these maps represent trails (as opposed to 4×4 trails). The thiner the line the smaller the trail. It is quite common to have deer trails or faint trails marked in an orienteering map.

topo-roads orienteering-roads
Examples of roads & trails of the same area on different map types.

Trees and forest are usually represented by green on maps. Forests in orienteering maps start at white (runnable woods) and use several different shades of green to denote forests. The darker the green the thicker the forest. Single trees in orienteering maps are usually noted by a green x.

Open areas on CanMatrix maps tend to be white while orienteering maps have open areas in shades of yellow or beige. Orienteering maps also show sandy areas as a reddish beige colour. Hashed open areas tend to be rougher than their solid colour counterparts. Be sure to study the map legend to know what each colour means.

Vegetation (green) with open areas (white) on the CanMatrix topographic map and the same area with vegetation (white, light green, dark green) and open areas (beige, hatched beige) on the topographic map.

A satellite image of the same area for comparison.

Man Made Objects
Most man made objects found on maps (houses, power lines, rail road tracks) are denoted in black. There are some exceptions to this rule (such as roads) but most things build by people are drawn in black. Buildings are denoted in squarish blocks, fences have tick marks inside their perimeter (single ticks can be jumped while double ticked fences are not crossable), boulders are usually little black circles on the map.

man-made-topo man-made-orienteering
Example of bridge and building on a CanMatrix map. The same area with trails, more buildings, a fenced in area and a parking lot are found in the orienteering map.

We’ve mentioned it multiple times in the post but if you aren’t sure what a particular colour means have a look at the map legend. Here’s a link to the International Specification
for Orienteering Maps (it is extremely in-depth). If you want to find more information on orienteering you can visit orienteering.org

If you’re a more visual learner the video below will animate an overlay of all the different items on a map.