The Single Greatest Piece of Gear

June 24, 2015 20 Comments

The Single Greatest Piece of Gear

Recently, I was sitting in my office pouring over maps and I started wondering if other people love maps as much as I do? Many of my far-off adventures have begun with me standing in front of our world map that hangs on the office wall. I have spent hours staring at maps of large and small pieces of land, of river valleys and mountain ranges looking for the simplest of details that might reveal habitat, safe passage or an animal’s “secret” hangout. We spend so much time studying an animal’s biology and with maps we get to look at their world in a way that is truly revealing… finding edges or funnels that create travel corridors, meadows for grazing, deep pools begging for a dead drift, potential bedding areas, wintering areas, and our own routes of travel… the possibilities are endless.

Maps elicit participation, and really that’s why we ultimately do this isn’t it - to participate? Sincerely, maps are the greatest piece of gear that we get to use; no other single item gives us this much information or drive to reach an end goal. Here is a little tidbit that I’m not even sure I should be telling you about because I love his work so much, and selfishly I don’t want him to get too busy! Ben Harshyne of Hunterra makes all of my maps and they are incredible, beautiful and functional pieces of art. Ben didn’t ask me to write this and Ben doesn’t sponsor me. In fact, Ben doesn’t even know that I am writing this… I order my maps from Ben just like everyone else, but I feel strongly that this is information that every outdoorsman deserves to have at their fingertips.

Ben believes that maps are so much more than pieces of paper, rather they are images of our lifestyle and blueprints for becoming better land stewards and creating a legacy of sorts - I couldn’t agree more. I order maps of hunting properties I have here in Wisconsin, of rivers that I’ll be floating, of mountain ranges that I’ll be hunting…and lately, in an effort to try and keep better journals and memoirs, I’ve been ordering maps of past hunts (and they make great gifts, ok I’ll stop!). I want to be better at my craft, be a better hunter, a better fisherman and conservationist and up until recently I didn’t realize how much I was using maps. If you’re interested, give it a shot! I promise it will make you a better outdoorsman, and make you ask better questions.      

Donnie Vincent 



20 Responses

Ash Muir
Ash Muir

February 11, 2016

i want your office! That stone work looks great. The perfect place to plan the next adventure.

Billy2beers
Billy2beers

February 11, 2016

Especially old maps with trails no longer marked or maintained leading to forgotten places, these are the maps I love best.

Frank Escalona
Frank Escalona

February 11, 2016

Donnie, your work is exceptional, Just got your River’s Divide, thumbs up! Maps are the greatest tool to let the imagination run wild, fell in love with maps at 12 yrs old in Seattle, Wa. We were lucky there in the early 70s because we had REI, Eddie Bauer(when it was still owned by Eddie) and a guy named Walt Locke who started “Green Trail Maps” in 1973. His maps showed every potential berry field in the North Cascades just east of Seattle and a good idea of access, as long as you knew what to look for from experience of seeing places and looking at the maps. I still have my worn maps from many trips and it is now 42 years since I bought the first one. Keep telling your stories, being a story teller is a fading gift. All the best to you and your crew

Gil W
Gil W

February 11, 2016

Good on ya, I’ve never used a GPS so I can not give any real thought on that but I do have a Suunto compass I’ve had for years and a bunch of topo maps.
I agree maps are cool, good subject matter DV.
Have a good one

Jason
Jason

February 11, 2016

I couldn’t agree more. I’m a disabled veteran so I can never really do what this guy does but I love through him with his majestic adventures. I used to be able to hike and do some sections of the AT before my back went out on me. At least I do know what some of its like

Drew
Drew

February 11, 2016

I find it amazing how many people are unfamiliar with how to navigate and read a map. Far too much reliance out there on electronic devices. I also use topo maps in my whitetail hunting, you would be amazed at how finding a terrain break on a map can lead you into a really hot funnel come November. Arieal maps can prove great as well for a scouting trip prior to heading to an area, studying arieal maps before a hunt in Kansas led to my uncle killing a 177" buck. You are spot on with this DV, maps are an invaluable tool.

-Drew.

Brian Mcconnell
Brian Mcconnell

February 11, 2016

I couldn’t agree more,it’s how everyone of my hunts begin. My son’s and me map out every bit of the area we want to hunt and mark out where we saw the most action. We can always fall back to our map’s to know what areas are good and where to avoid.

Brandon Wynn
Brandon Wynn

February 11, 2016

I was going over an old USGS 7.5’ topo quad of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness in the Black Range here in New Mexico today with a long time hunting buddy today. My notes of dry water holes and wet water holes and lots of elk sign and unmapped roads and trails from 15 years ago took me right back to those places at that time. The map has been used so much that it is has 3 different kinds of tape holding it together and still some of the folds are barely holding together Maps are magic.

I have lent my map collections for hunting areas across several Rocky Mountain states to many perfect strangers that have tracked me down. Not once has anyone failed to mail them back to me. More than once the person I have lent them to has become a lifetime friend. It’s one of the many joys of being a hunter of a certain type.
keeblerhunts
keeblerhunts

February 11, 2016

I couldn’t agree more! I LOVE reading maps. It’s a game to figure out where the animals might favour roaming or hang out at different times of the day. Plus, I try to memorize the lay of the land I’m going to hunt in so I’m less reliant on using my GPS Garmin Rino or my papermaps I bring with me. That means more time to hunt! Also, there have been times where re-reading the map after a day in the woods helps tie it all together like the proverbial golden moment when opening a mystery box.

Tommy Richmond
Tommy Richmond

February 11, 2016

Donnie your right on the money as usual, to many hunters claim this and that as being the greatest one piece of equipment to own (sponsor driven). But you and I both know that maps are where all adventures begins. I have a storage bins full of maps from all the years of hunting/hiking. Love your articles and pictures of your adventures, keep up the good work!

Tony
Tony

February 11, 2016

Great stuff Donnie. Getting more proficient at reading maps is definitely on my list. I am sure the places you go maps are an essential tool.

Brad Maxwell
Brad Maxwell

February 11, 2016

The best fishing I have ever had came from mapping with my ultra light . I remember the first time I looked at a topical I was lost but with hard work I am now having way to much fun with it . Thanks for the post Donnie !

Derek Gentile
Derek Gentile

February 11, 2016

Not surprised to learn you value them as art as much as a necessary tool. I too can stare at a map for hours. I’m religious about studying where I hunt in advance. Google Earth is awesome and I have bought everything I can get my hands on over the years. I download data into my GPS and mark waypoints during the hunt. I then print out the map after the hunt and consider additional possibilities given my experience. It’s a great way to relive the hunt. I also started collecting rare and antique charts and maps years ago and have a nice collection. A few have expedition routes marked on them from early explorers. Totally awesome to see the changes in map data and consider what true pioneers would have experienced 150-200 years ago or more. Love it!

Kathi
Kathi

February 11, 2016

With all your love of the outdoors and adventure, have you ever tried diving?

marshgooding
marshgooding

February 11, 2016

Thanks Donnie- Well put. I’d recommend reading ‘The Mappist’ by Barry Lopez for all of you who love maps. You can find it here: http://www.pugetsound.edu/files/resources/7040_TheMappistLopez.pdf

Clayton
Clayton

February 11, 2016

Thank you for your service, man. And I think we all live through guys like Donnie!

Rick Boucher
Rick Boucher

February 11, 2016

Way to go, Donnie! I am an old fashion “Maphead” & I love it.

Alex
Alex

February 11, 2016

Another decent way to study terrain and get a feel for an area is to use Sketchup – which can be downloaded for free. Going to File>Geo-location you can select an area and input an image from a map. Then by going to File>Geo-location>Show Terrain the image turns into a topographical map. You can also make contour lines set at whatever interval you want. It’s too involved to be explained here, but is quite easy and can be done in minutes once you get the hang of it. Google ‘contour lines in Sketchup’ – there’s a good youtube video of it. I believe the map images are pretty up to date too, but obviously do not show the detail that Hunterra’s seem to. Still good for people on a tight budget. That said, I’m saving up for Hunterra maps.

Kelly
Kelly

February 11, 2016

You are not alone. I am especially drawn to maps when cabin fever peeks (mid winter). I plan, plot and pour over every detail topographic line and trail. People that love maps can see the country and imagine themselves there already!

Jeff Pauly
Jeff Pauly

February 11, 2016

I could not agree more, even before I read the article it is what came to mind for me. Today we see more people relying on a GPS and many who can’t read a topog. The other essential piece I take also is a basic compass. No batteries required, it will work in all kinds of weather and for the fue today that can use one, you will never get lost.

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