The topographic map is a wonderful invention full of useful information once you learn how to read one. They come in different shapes, sizes, and scales, but they all share certain conventions that make it easy to pick up a map from different manufacturers and read them without a problem.
They are used by the military, surveyors, and anybody who has the need of knowing where they are and where they’re going. If you plan on doing a back country hiking trip, a canoe trip, or anything in the woods or wild it would be foolhardy to leave without one of these in your pack even if you’re carrying the latest and greatest GPS.
A topographic map is simply a two dimensional representation of the Earth; however, the way it’s drawn represents three dimensions, which is handy if you want to know how high a mountain or how deep a valley is.