One of the most overlooked parts of survival gear, whether in your bug out or get home bag, is the physical map. A critical part of survival is knowing your surroundings! You may know your immediate area like the back of your hand but if you need to leave that immediate area due to a disaster (natural or otherwise) or threat you will need to know where to travel safely; that is where a map will come in hand. While GPS is a great technological achievement they cannot be relied on as they need to be powered. Once a source of power is gone, they are dead weight.
However, if you have one of those hand crank flashlights that have USB, the GPS out of your car would work great. In times of catastrophe, the power may be down but satellites will be in space for years and most car GPS’s can be loaded up with topo maps as well as SD cards for e-books, pictures of documents and other pertinent information.
But if the event happens to be something solar-related; such as a solar flare or increased solar radiation that saturates or destroys the GPS satellites all bets are off!
So make sure your bug out or get home bag has at least one map in it!
Detailed Local Map (City/Town/Township Map)
You need the most detailed local street map you can possibly get. By local I mean just your town, or if you are in a large city, your neighborhood and the areas you frequent. Many people may know their local area like the back of their hand but in an emergency situation you may be nervous, stressed, etc. and having a map will guide you better than your already stressed brain.
In an urban survival regional emergency, like a flood, hurricane, or other man made disaster any number of things could happen that will be much easier navigated with a super-local map. Maybe a couple of the roads you usually take are blocked or flooded. Maybe you need to get out of town in a direction you don’t usually go. (One of these should also be in your Get Home Bag)
If you think of the maps you need in an expanding circle, after your detailed local map you are going to need a regional topographic map. In the event of a serious regional problem or a total collapse scenario you are going to need to head towards important natural areas like a water source.
Whether walking or driving there will certainly be chaos on the major roads and the smart people will be cutting across country. You need to be able to plan around mountains and rivers.
Extended Area Maps (Other States)
Wherever you might be going, it’s almost certain that once you get outside of your local area you don’t know all of the roads. Taking an extended area road map, like your state road map that I mentioned earlier, and the surrounding states if applicable, just makes sense. This can be an important tool, not only for roads to follow, but for noticing cities and roads to purposely avoid.
Maps of railroad track routes are useful too. If everything around you is going to hell roads may not be safe to travel on. Trains run to and from large and moderate sized cities and could provide a safer, more stealthy alternative if you find yourself on foot.
It also allows you to bypass checkpoints and road closures. Some state Department of Transportation websites offer them for download at no cost.
While it is a good idea to get all three maps DeLorme publishes state specific gazetteers that are topographic and give most roads.