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Plot an Off-Trail Route

Try these 10 tips for cross-country travel.
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Looking to escape the crowds, scramble a trailless peak, or camp next to a secret, unnamed lake? Cross-country exploration is the ticket to all three. But cruising from trailhead to destination in a straight line is rarely the smartest option. Here’s how to use the newest tools to plot the best and safest route to your goal.

Choose a Map
For tricky off-trail navigation, you’ll want a paper 7.5-minute USGS quad for backup in the field. But digital maps are better for planning and storing route information. Mapping programs–many of them web-based and free–let you draw and save tracks, mark key points, calculate trip stats, and more. We humbly suggest BACKPACKER’s free Map Editor program (at

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