Serious outdoor photography got a little easier thanks to the folks at National Geographic. Ever been to the USGS website to hunt down topographical maps? Hell, you need a map for the site.

National Geographic had the same issues and did something. And in the process made life easy for those of us who view hiking trails as a mere suggestion. The issue with the USGS site hasn’t been only finding the correct map; it’s the PDF files are not formatted for a standard printer.

Raise your hand if you feel like hitting a local print shop every time you want a map printed out? Exactly…

The National Geographic site solves both issues with an interactive, searchable map. Search and zoom to the spot you need. Click the quad when you find your spot and the printable PDF loads up. And and it’s formatted for the printer next to your desk.

Nat Geo USGS topographical maps

In total, each map generated is five pages. The first contains the entire quad area you selected, and the next four contain one-quarter of the quad.

Need another reason to fire up the printer? Nat Geo added in hill shading to better visualize the topography of the area you plan on roughing it.

If you’re a city photographer, you might stare at the topographical lines and thank the gods you have GPS. Those who live rural (me) or like their adventures? Grabbing a USGS map became a hell of a lot easier. Let’s all give Nat Geo a fist bump for being badasses.

And if you’ve never hiked with a topographical map before, it’s not a point and shoot camera. You can’t just pick it up and wander into the woods. Unless you want to be a 20/20 special or that person getting choppered out of the woods.

It’s the internet, and there’s damn near a YouTube video for anything. Section Hiker offers an excellent primer. Read, watch and then practice. Don’t just print and go.

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