Survival Maps for SHTF

maps featured image

There are a lot of guides on maps that you should have for an emergency, but I see many types and topics left out. This guide will consist of having multiple maps that cover the same area to obtain the most complete documentation you can have. This can be used for sheltering in place either at your home or bug out location and knowing the lay of the land around you for either tactical or scavenging purposes.  It will also cover finding alternate routes whether bugging in, out, or just exploring.

We will mostly be looking at the town of Kingfisher and the surrounding area, except where it doesn’t contain needed information for demonstration.

First, we will take a look at a standard road atlas. These can be very valuable when travelling across country, but only really contain highway information. Some have more detailed areas of city’s but those areas should probably be avoided in most emergency situations. Depending on the situation, you may or may not want to travel on the highways. Look at the recent hurricanes, all the major highways were completely clogged with people trying to evacuate the area. In a Without Rule Of Law (WROL) situation, highways may have roadblocks or be used to ambush unsuspecting victims. A road atlas won’t help much in these situations.

road atlas westen ok

We will be looking at Kingfisher near the center. What info does this show us for the area? Not much… Just major highways and waterways.

Next, we will jump to a map type I never see covered for survival and prepping. It’s easy to come by and provides information that a lot of other maps don’t have. It is the FAA VFR Sectional charts used for visual navigation while flying. It will be providing a bunch of information that will be of no use to most people and may seem cluttered, but it contains most landmarks that are easily identified from the air. When else might this come in handy? I don’t know… maybe if you are having to travel across country on foot while bugging out?

faa sectional chart maps

FAA VFR Sectional Chart showing the area around Kingfisher.

Much of this map should be instantly recognizable to non-pilots. Taking a look at this area we can see many landmarks that would be easily recognizable from the ground at a long distance with a clear line of sight. We have grain elevators to the West. A windmill farm to the South. A 1428ft tall tower to the North East. Many shorter cell towers, smaller waterways and also railroad tracks and large power lines. The inclusion of the railroads and power lines give great alternate paths for foot travel. If you happen to have a radio that operates on the aircraft bands and you saw a plane using the local airport you would know he is most likely using the frequency 122.9.

faa vfr sectional maps

I picked this example to show these VFR sectionals also show the difference between True North and Magnetic North. It’s only about 5° where I live, but other areas can be much more. In this example it’s a 12° difference. Also note the wildlife refuge, ranches, reservoir, and military facility. These charts contain all kinds of useful locations that may not be known otherwise.


Continuing with the alternate route options, train tracks are probably the one most people will think of first. I would still be leary of walking in the open along them or using rail bridges to cross rivers. However staying near one would be a sure way to navigate. Power lines are a great alternative and should be much less travelled, as most people have no idea where they go. A third, even less thought of would be to follow pipelines. These take a little more research but the routes can be found easy enough. Both power lines and pipelines have a clear path through the countryside making traversing wooded or rugged terrain much easier. If you know the railroad, powerline, and pipeline routes it gives you a whole network of navigation where they cross each other.


pipeline maps kingfisher

The publicly viewable pipeline map will only let you zoom in to a certain extent for security reasons, but the routes are easy enough to map by satellite images once you know the location. Check your local areas, there are more than you think.


Pipeline and Powerline Crossing

This area is heavily wooded making travel difficult except where paths have been cut for both the power lines and pipeline. Crossing points create a network of pathways.


The previous methods are not just useful for hiking across country, you will want to know alternate paths around your home or bug out location. If you know you will be staying in one place then collect as much information as you can for the surrounding area.  We have taken a look around Kingfisher in a broad perspective covering highways, notable landmarks, powerlines, and pipelines. Now, let’s move in closer.

First will be a county map. The ones I found cover every county road. These are great again for finding alternate routes if the main roads are deemed unusable for any reason. I would definitely have one for your county, if not the entire state.

Kingfisher county maps

The county maps will show every county road giving many more options to avoid main roads.

Cropped County Maps Kingfisher

This particular county map doesn’t show detail of the town or street names, but would be easy enough to navigate as it’s laid out in 1 mile grids. It also designates whether roads are paved or not.

Next will be a city map that lays out every street in town. Even in a small town can you remember every street and turn? How about finding alternate routes without a GPS? Cities and towns can be more difficult to navigate than the countryside, especially if areas have been blocked off.

local city maps

City maps will give you a much higher detail of local streets and routes.

We are starting to get a pretty good idea of everything surrounding our location, but there’s more we can know. Now we want to know the terrain and lay of the land. Topographical maps are great for this, you need to know the terrain for both alternate travel paths and tactical situations. These are fairly localized maps and it would be hard to cover the entire state. I would recommend all the sections surrounding your property and anywhere you plan on going, or the path between the two.


Topo maps quad

Each topo map has 5 pages. One showing the 4 quadrants and surrounding area. Also note that these show the difference between Magnetic North and True North along with the county roads.


The individual map sections provide much useful information on top of the topography. We see a sewage disposal pond (might not want to drink out of that), railroads, old railroads, water sources, gas wells, gravel pits, and county roads. All of that information in addition to the topography, which could help with travel, scouting, avoiding flooding, etc.

So far we have really collected a lot of information surrounding our hypothetical location, however, you can still have more. The last thing we will be looking at is satellite imagery. This is a little harder to obtain in paper form but it is possible, even without paying someone. The advantage of satellite images is that you can have a very detailed layout of a specific area. They can show you areas of cover, every structure, and the layout of vegetation. You can print these off for specific locations or larger areas surrounding your property. Watch the date of the images as more changes are apparent on these maps than other types. I happened to find some that were less than a year old for my area and created a 25 square mile map surrounding my property.

With satellite images you can find every structure, tree line, and water source.


With all of the above information, we have obtained a full picture of the surrounding area. These should cover every bit of our navigational needs, on or off-road. Landmarks, water sources, high ground, and every path can be found. Make sure to have hard copies of all these resources. You may not be able to just pull out your phone and get GPS directions and satellite images when you need them.

Have a plan, whether it’s to stay put, bug out, or bug out and then stay put at a secure location. Use all of these resources in making your plan, then have the appropriate maps ready for that plan. Make modifications, you may want to take details from one map and add them to another. This article is to help you find the resources to make your perfect set of maps. Make sure you know how to read each set, they are all in different scales. It won’t help you if you measure wrong on one and miss your destination by miles. Also, study the maps before an emergency, get to know your area or route for your plan.

Below are the links to the resources I used.

Hard copy FAA VFR Sectional Charts (If you know a pilot ask for their old charts as they cannot be legally used) (Use this plotter with the VFR Sectional Charts)

Digital FAA VFR Sectional Charts

Oklahoma County Maps (Printable)

Digital Topo Maps (Printable)

Custom Printed Topo/Satellite Maps

Pipeline Maps

Railroad Maps

Road Atlas

Guide to printing large Google maps. (I used a different method I figured out and will do a separate article on it)



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