Building a Great Truck Camper Navigation and Reference Library

IMG_1005There’s no doubt about it. If you have a desire to explore previously unknown areas in your rig, good navigation aids are a must. These include navigating by the sun during the day and the North Star at night, by using a compass, by using a GPS, and by using good, old-fashioned paper maps. Recently, a long-time reader asked me what smart phone app I used on our truck camper adventures and what maps and pamphlets I kept stored in the magazine rack in my camper. That’s a great question and one I’ll address in this short article.

First, let me say I really don’t use a smart phone app like Google Maps for navigating on our trips (though I do use one to determine elevation). Sure, I use Google Maps in town when I’m looking for a specific address, but not when I’m exploring remote areas. Instead, I like to use paper maps. I guess you can say I’m old-fashioned in that regard. I prefer to look at my maps on something larger than a small iPhone screen. Besides, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been led astray by Google Maps when looking for a location in town. Not only that, but paper maps don’t require batteries nor are they affected by cloud cover, snow, or rain. Paper maps have a lot more detail, too. Yep, give me a good map and a compass or a clear view to the sun and I’m happy camper.

So what maps do I keep stored in my camper? I always have a wide assortment on-hand. “Better to want what you have than to have what you want,” the old proverb says. First, I have four GTR Topographic Recreational maps for the four corner states: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. I’m sure you’re familiar with this folding style of map. These maps were the kind our parents and grandparents used when they went on road trips and they still work great today. The only real negative with them is that they can rip along the folds after time. Because of this you have to be careful when using them.

When I want greater detail for the areas I’m exploring, I often turn to maps published by the federal agency overseeing that area. These include National Forest maps as well as maps produced by the Bureau of Land Management. These are invaluable for identifying roads and trails–which ones are open to vehicle travel and which are not–and for identifying areas that are open to dispersed camping or boondocking. You’ll have to pay a little more for these, but they’re well worth it. I have maps for the Kaibab, Tonto, Coconino, and Dixie National Forests as well as BLM maps for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and for the Kanab, and Monticello regions. I also have National Geographic maps for Canyonlands National Park, Death Valley National Park, and the Grand Canyon.

AZ DeLormeAnother great reference that I turn to often is the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetter. I always keep two in my camper, one for Arizona and one for Utah. Each one provides topographic maps of the entire state with back roads, trails, BLM, state and national lands, GPS grids, outdoor recreation information, and trailheads clearly marked. If you’re serious about exploring, then these incredibly detailed Atlases are invaluable. These are so good in fact that you can probably get by with just these alone, but at 15.5 by 11 inches, they are pretty big and difficult to store. Because of this I like to keep them under the seat cushions to our dinette.

Since my truck camper serves as my Bug Out RV, I also like to keep a few survival references on-hand. A personal favorite of mine is the SAS Survival Guide. This pocket-sized gem is considered by many to be the world’s preeminent survival guide for campers, hikers, boaters, and overlanders. It covers everything from basic first aid and campcraft to strategies for coping with any type of natural disaster. This guide is considered the quintessential handbook for outdoor skills and preparedness, and includes information on the latest navigation and survival technology. If you find that this $6.00 guidebook is a bit too small for you and hard to read, then you can buy the larger, easier to read SAS Survival Handbook, but it does cost a bit more.

Sonoran Desert Food Plants is another great resource I keep stored in my camper’s magazine rack. It’s written specifically for the hiker, camper, hunter, or survivalist who’s in need of a concise, no-nonsense booklet. This information-packed reference provides instructions on the collection, preparation, and use of 53 edible plants found in the Sonoran Desert. It contains 106 color photos, location maps, common and scientific names, preparation and toxicity issues, as well as concise medicinal and related botanical uses for each plant. Without a doubt, this is a must-have desert-rat resource.

Lastly, a magazine rack has to hold a high quality magazine and there are few magazines better than Arizona Highways Magazine. I have fond memories of this magazine going way back to when I was a kid. My grandparents always had a small stack of these displayed on the coffee table in their living room. I remember sitting of their couch and flipping through them, staring at the colorful pictures. I still enjoying looking at them to this day. Another thing that I like about this magazine is that they often feature obscure, little-known areas of the state. Based upon these articles, I’ve taken several trips to explore these remote areas and have written about a few in this blog. An annual subscription of 12 issues is only $24, a bargain when you consider all that’s contained in it.

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About Mello Mike 452 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.