10 Great Gifts for Map Lovers and Travelers

Check out our list of unique maps sure to please your geographically inclined friends and family.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift for someone who loves maps—or someone who loves to travel, or loves where they live, or drinks beer, or went to college—you’ve come to the right place. We love all those things too, so we’ve made a wish list of cool, mappy stuff that we’d be thrilled to see under the tree this year.

With prices ranging from $13 to a thousand dollars, there’s bound to be something for everyone. You might even find a gift for that one person who’s always so hard to cross off your list.

The $289 Dymaxion quilt from Haptic Lab will impress any map geek you give it to.

If you really want to make an impression, though, take a few minutes before you present this gift to read up on the Dymaxion map—Buckminster Fuller’s world projection that makes Earth’s landmass appear as a single island in one ocean. You could casually mention that Fuller called his map a “satisfactory deck plan of the six and one half sextillion tons Spaceship Earth.”

(And if you think the Dymaxion projection is cool but your budget is small, get this nifty little Dymaxion folding globe for just $15.)

Haptic Lab has lots of other great map quilts of cities, coasts, and constellations, including quilts for babies and DIY quilt kits for your crafty, mappy friends that cost just $38 (fabric not included).

The waterproof, dot-gridded pages of the Expedition notebook from Field Notes are super-practical for sketching maps out in the real world. But it’s the added touch of a topographic map of Antarctica—subtly printed into the varnish on the front and back cover—that makes these little notebooks supercool. Measuring 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches, they retail for $12.95 a three pack—the perfect stocking stuffer.

Field Notes makes another fun series of notebooks for geography nerds. Each of the 50 states (and Washington, D.C.) gets its own version of the County Fair edition, filled with state facts, figures, and weird trivia. Did you know, for instance, that California’s official state insect is the California dogface butterfly?

We all have people on our list who seem to already have everything—and who also seem to come up with thoughtful gifts for you every time. The pressure’s always on to reciprocate in kind.

Fortunately, if this person likes maps—or puzzles, or where they live—you’re in luck. They almost certainly don’t have a custom-made National Geographic puzzle—made from a U.S. Geological Survey topographic map—of their hometown. But now you can buy one, on sale, for $70. How thoughtful of you!

The map lovers in your life probably have several atlases and coffee-table books full of historically important maps. But they probably don’t have the brand-new Atlas of Design—and they’re sure to love it. It’s a collection of beautiful, modern maps made by working cartographers, hand-selected by members of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS).

You can read more about it—and see a few more of the 32 maps inside—in my previous post. Featuring great cartography, this lovely book has a sleek, black, minimalist cover. It costs $35, and you’ll need to order it directly from NACIS. (You can also get a print of the map above directly from the cartographer Stephen Smith.)

I wouldn’t wait too long, though. Last I checked, they had just 42 copies left.

Citee Fashion was born out of a Kickstarter campaign that earned 10 times its funding goal. Today, the British company makes T-shirts printed with black-and-white road maps of cities all over the world. There are 174 to choose from, so you’re bound to find one you like. I think the maps of New Orleans and Helsinki are particularly nice.

These maps are made using data from OpenStreetMap. The shirts, from American Apparel, are 100 percent polyester and will run you £28 ($35). Shipping to the United States is a little extra, but if you order soon, you might still be able to sneak one of these shirts under the tree.

If you have serious map lovers on your list this year, they’ll undoubtedly appreciate a donation in their names to save an actual, historical map in desperate need of restoration and conservation. The Boston Public Library’s wonderful Norman B. Leventhal Map Center has hundreds of maps—like the 1775 nautical chart above—that are torn or stained or otherwise need help.

You can choose to save a specific map or atlas for anywhere from $75 to $24,000. Or you can give a gift of any amount that will go to the map in greatest need at the moment. Once a map is saved, it will be digitized and put online for anyone to enjoy.

Know anyone who likes beer and went to college? If so, that’s a friend worth keeping. Shell out $28 for pair of pint glasses wrapped in street maps from the home base of your friend’s alma mater.

You can choose from dozens of major college towns in the U.S., including Cambridge, Massachusetts; Madison, Wisconsin; and Berkeley, California. And if the beer drinker on your list went to a less well known school, you can get a custom-etched glass with a map of Orem, Utah, or Conway, Arkansas, for just a few dollars more.

The Uncommon Green has a bunch of other mappy glasses and gifts as well.

You’ll obviously need some coasters for those map glasses you bought, and UncommonGoods has several options. My favorite is the acrylic coaster set, which illustrates how different cities grew over time. Boston (shown above) is a great example because so much of it is on man-made land; you can see how the city expanded into the harbor as it grew. Los Angeles is another neat one. Other options include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Austin, Texas.

Until December 13, you can get a customized set of four map coasters for $65. If you miss the deadline, you can print out a card with a photo of the coasters, then put that under the tree. I think the best thing about these coasters is that they actually include a scale bar! Another option from UncommonGoods is a neat set of wooden coasters with a map of neighborhoods from select U.S. cities, including Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon.

A three-dimensional relief map of a beautiful landscape like Canyonlands (above) or the Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains will surprise map geeks, travelers, and hikers alike. Made by digital cartographer Ian Grasshoff, who makes 3-D printed models as well, these maps are based on open-source data and software.

Grasshoff has already created plenty of models of places like Lake Tahoe, Mount Hood, and Hawaii, with prices ranging from $56 to $470. But you can also ask him to make a model of any place you like. A custom map might not arrive in time for the holidays, but it will surely be worth the wait.

If a 3-D mountainscape isn’t your taste, how about a 3-D map of an iconic city, like Rome (above)? You can also choose from Venice, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, New York, or Chicago, with prices ranging from $215 to $965.

Chisel & Mouse makes models of individual buildings as well. If you’ve got a little more time and a lot more money, they’ll make a map of any cityscape you like.

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