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I never venture into the outdoors without a topographical map. Even if my itinerary for the day doesn’t involve any route-finding, I’m still fanatical about knowing where I am. I’m a topo man.

So it was a bit frustrating when, on a recent trip to the canyon country, I was unable to find a suitable topo. For most of the red-rock areas I like to explore, I can find a Trails Illustrated map with sufficient detail or, alternatively, I can stop at an outdoor store or federal land agency office near my destination and get what I need.Not so on my most recent trip. I was headed to an out-of-the-way canyon, and I was to meet my partners late at night in another out-of-the-way place. What to do? Without my own topo, I’d have to depend on someone else’s navigational skills (strictly unacceptable), and I’d miss the fun of locating myself in a confused sea of sandstone.Thankfully someone suggested, where I was able, for a reasonable price, to create my own map to my own specifications.

Starting with a simple search for a city, town or natural feature, you can find the place you’re looking for, select the boundaries, size and detail of your map, and even put your name on it. You can preview the map before you click the “buy” button and even choose to laminate it or get it in a waterproof material.My map cost me $14 plus shipping, so it’s more than I would have paid for a paper version at the local mountaineering store. But, after all, the map I wanted wasn’t available in the Roaring Fork Valley, and I wasn’t prepared to dump the money for a CD of the entire state of Utah.When I met my buddies that late night in the desert, they said they had all the 7.5-minute maps of the area and that we were set. I needn’t have gone to the trouble. But it took four of their maps to cover the area in question, and every time we found ourselves on the edge of one map we had to dig the neighboring map out of the Ziploc, place them side by side and …

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before my topo had become the weapon of choice.

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