Ryan Jordan


When I weighed the definitive trail map to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (which includes the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, and Scapegoat Wilderness areas), the 1:100,000 scale map published by the USDA, it made me feel queezy: 3.7 ounces – that’s almost worth 500 calories of food!

So I set out to hack it up and trim out the areas that we didn’t need (oh wait, I mean — didn’t THINK we’d need)…


But this is a two-sided map, so it was tough to trim much off of it – I only got it down to 3.1 oz. Plus, it lacked any sort of meaningful lat-lon grid for navigating, no shaded relief (not a deal breaker, but I think it’s pretty to see it when you step back from the map and look at the landscape), and it would be quite tedious to pre-plot our route and key waypoints on it.


So I decided to make my own with NG Topo! and our friends at Speedy Print in Bozeman.


Because 1:24k maps are huge and largely unnecessary for summer hiking (even most cross country travel), I settled on the 1:100k scale, which usually provides more than enough detail for long routes.


So I picked off a square area of about 3,190 square km, crammed it into 392 square inches of real estate by shrinking the scale down a little (to 1:126k). I plotted our proposed route with a bunch of little diamonds spaced every few miles, put some key waypoints on the map (possible camps, trail junctions, packrafting portages, etc.), added a UTM grid with 3km spacing, exported it as a big PDF, and had it printed on a single, 20-inch square sheet of Epson color paper on a fancy pro color sheet printer.


The final weight was 1.6 oz and it’s gorgeous – a work of art with eye-popping sharpness. Not bad for a 200km route. The same map printed on lighter paper in B&W came to 0.7 oz. My hiking companions will each carry one of these. We also have some small 1:24k sections of areas we know the trails to have been … compromised … since the big fires there a few years ago, and some tricky off trail sections along the top of the Chinese Wall, where we’ll attempt 25 miles of off trail travel – those sections weigh about 1.5 oz.


The paper accepts a fine point rollerball without smearing (I like to use the the Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine, 0.3 oz), and folds precisely and perfectly into a size that fits right into my favorite map case – a 12″ x 12″ Aloksak (weight 1.1 oz, nice to contain all my journaling stuff, and protect the map in case I flip the packraft or get bombarded with a deluge, although by itself, it’s water-resistant enough for most trekking).


And my favorite part: I left big enough margins on the map to write a lot of notes, and I plan to journal on the backside – which is entirely blank …


… which means I can leave my 0.8 oz notebook behind.