Item 10 on the Boy Scout version of the Ten Essentials list is the map and compass. In this post, we will look at the former, leaving the latter for a future post. On The Mountaineers classic list, the map earns its own spot as item 1 and on their updated list, item 1 is navigation and includes both map and compass.

At, a map is defined as “a representation, usually on a flat surface, as of the features of an area of the earth or a portion of the heavens, showing them in their respective forms, sizes, and relationships according to some convention of representation.” Per the Online Etymology Dictionary, “map” originates in the 1520s as a shortened form of late 14th Century Middle English “mapemounde” or “map of the world” and Middle French “mappe” which is a shortening of Old French “mapemonde.” The English and French terms come from Medieval Latin “mappa mundi” or “map of the world.”

It is true that part of the Family Trivium household spent last week at camp with a minimally representative map of the camp, but nonetheless, we had a map, stuck to established trails, and, as far as we know, out of about 200 youth and half as many adults/staff, not one person became lost.

Mr. Family Trivium has always been enamored with maps. Perhaps it was his childhood spent in Scouting. Perhaps it was reading so much National Geographic, with all of their beautiful cartographic inserts. Perhaps it was his many classes on geography.

On the other hand, he may have taken so much geography because of how maps so eloquently describe place. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then perhaps a map is worth a million. Through universally understandable symbols, maps instantly break language barriers and communicate place to all observers.

There just might be a map-loving geographer in each of us. Take kids to the zoo or a theme park. Get one map for each of them, because it you don’t, they’ll surely fight over it. It’s an innate human desire to have some idea where we’re going.


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