I tried to find topographic maps of my area in Brazil, but the best I could find is some 1:50000 map from 1983.

My biggest need for a map (besides not getting lost) is avoiding private properties and finding some terrain features to help me navigate. My area is very flat, so pure elevation maps aren't much of a help here, but the satellite images (like those from Google Maps) do provide some hints to what is a private property and what is forest area.

I haven't been able to discover a way to print or manipulate the images to use those as a map, can it be done? Also, is it ok to navigate using satellite images (instead of proper maps)?

EDIT: To further illustrate my need, here is a Gmap4 location of my area and its "flatness". In the aerial view I can see forests, streams, houses, roads, I don't know how distorted it is and to print it to scale, but I seen to be able to get much more info about the terrain from it, than from the top.


  • If you think you will need to navigate by compass, I would want to use them in conjunction with a map, since satellite imagery is distorted. Do you own a GPS capable of displaying a map? I have had a lot of fun creating custom GPS maps for my garmin with Global Mapper 13 (the process is rather involved, but a great learning experience.)
    – DudeOnRock
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 16:09
  • I don't own a GPS, but I have a Smartphone that I used on some shorter hikes (the batteries wouldn't last more than a day hiking with the GPS). In this case I want to learn and pratice to navigate using map and compass, the problem is I can't find any good or updated maps of my area. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can. I have managed to trek long up to a week with a set of satellite images. For that, I needed some skill in orientation, tracing down a trail and then setting the position in accordance with the satellite image. It does require skills in Navigation because, in most of the cases where people complain about Satellite Images not being good enough, you would find that People did make mistakes in Navigation/Orientation.

Having said this, its true to every bit that Following the exact direction with just a satellite image is not something that you can completely rely on (Depend on Person to Person, of course), but practicing it in the area which is more familiar to you is a good idea to develop the necessary skills for Navigation and Map reading. And, it's fun.

I would recommend you to carry a set of Satellite Contour Images along with the actual satellite images wherein you can see for the traces of thick forest, rivers, lakes, so that you don't end up getting yourself stuck at some slope which is a little hard to descend, or end up at a base of an ascend which is not safer to climb. I have encountered such issues in my early days with just Satellite Images where I had such places in thick forests, where we don't have an option to see through. Then I started carrying Contours of the same, and decide to take up some route which takes me from one point on the map to other.

  • Thanks, how did you print it out? Did you worry about scale or end up using whatever the screen shows you? What are Satellite Contour Images and where can I find then? Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 11:30
  • Choosing a map is really opinion based thing. I choose wikimapia over anything else. Rather I started with it and still use it. So never looked for an alternative as such. Yeah, about scale you have to be very precise. I simply open the satellite map on wikimapia in one tab of the browser, and the contour on the other tab. Pick a landmark , center it on both screens using co-ordinates, and print. About the scale and mainly the zoom level, is really a trick of the brain and very crucial. But once you manage it, its done! I'll see if I can find any source wherein I can find such maps.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 12:00
  • I would strongly recommend you to use this technique in the regions which you are familiar with, so that If you make any mistake in adjusting the scales, you don't get into much trouble.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 12:02
  • And, yeah, this indeed is a non-conventional weird way of using Satellite Images. I am good with it, that is why I do it, You may find people with better and precise techniques.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 12:04
  • Wikimapia is VERY nice, all that extra info is user generated? What about contour maps? Where can I find those? Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 12:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.