The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Whether you're looking for a unique and artsy gift (and this is the PERFECT ONE) or for something for yourself to remind you of your favorite places, I have a GREAT recommendation for you! 

We absolutely LOVE the creativity and art in the extraordinary hand-drawn products from Xplorer Maps. 

The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

Why are these maps so cool? They are pure storytelling through cartography - and they bring such warm feelings.

Xplorer Maps was started by two brothers—a talented globe-trotting artist and an entrepreneurial Montana geography buff—who wanted to take their vision to help convey the message about the importance of bringing together art, history, culture, education, and conservation. It is through these beautifully illustrated story maps that Xplorer Maps hopes to provide people with unique memories of wherever their journeys have taken them (and/or where they hope to go) and help raise awareness for the special places in which we all live or visit.

The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

Having lived in Canada, Kenya, China, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and Qatar over the past 25 years, Chris has gained a deep understanding and appreciation for other cultures, landscapes, and people.

During the same time period living in Montana, Greg has developed a passion for geography, history, cultural education, and America’s public lands.

Tie these two together into a business that shares one of the most unique and interesting travel ideas I've seen: geographic story maps.

The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

I was lucky enough to review a Michigan-focused canvas tote, and let me tell you why I love it so. 

The art
The map is so BEAUTIFUL! When I gaze at this map of my beloved home state, I'm in awe.

So many of our extraordinary landmarks are represented (the tulips in Holland, Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks, lighthouses, the Mighty Mac bridge), as well as animals, fruit (those Traverse City cherries!), and notable Michiganders. Every time I look, I find something new. 

I also love old maps, and the art style is so joyful to me.

The bag
The canvas tote is quite large. It fit quite a lot of my Thanksgiving feast shopping at Meijers (including 10# of potatoes, as well as a gallon of milk to make ricotta for the Thanksgiving lasagna). I've already recommended it for holiday gifts (to you, too!).

The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

We all have favorite places in this world. Whether they are where we live, or where we travel, having a mug, puzzle, tote, or blanket can surround us with both place and the love we feel for it. And, we can take our beloved maps with us.

Highly recommended!

We were lucky enough to talk with Xplorer Maps to learn the backstory, creating the maps, and more. Here's what they had to say...

Please tell us about Xplorer Maps…
Xplorer Maps is a Montana-based family business started by brothers Chris and Greg Robitaille. The pair strive to bring together art, history, culture, education and conservation through their hand-drawn maps.

What are story maps?
Story maps are one-of-a-kind Antiquarian style maps that tell unique stories with detailed depictions of the places illustrated. The maps are featured on puzzles, blankets and tote bags and make the perfect gift for the nature lovers in your life. 

The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

What are the joys and challenges of researching and creating these gorgeous maps?
The maps are researched extensively for accuracy and then drawn by renowned Canadian artist, Chris Robitaille. Each line, letter and image is intricately rendered by hand, using pen and ink with multiple layers of watercolor washes for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Each map can take five to eight weeks to complete due to the level of intricacy and detail that goes into the art process.

What might people be surprised to learn about all of the places you've illustrated?
Months of meticulous research form the foundation of our map creation process. With unwavering dedication, we ensure precision, crafting maps that represent the true scale of the terrain.

Every river and mountain finds its rightful place, meticulously positioned to offer an authentic and accurate cartographic experience, while bringing the story of that place to life.

The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

You've got a store! How can people find your work? 

Come visit us at our store in Missoula, MT!

Xplorer Maps can be found online at:

and on Amazon, Etsy and over 750 specialty retailers across the U.S., including 22 different national parks. 

What's up next for you?
Looking forward, our upcoming maps will spotlight Southeastern states and travel destinations. Simultaneously, we're forging collaborative partnerships, which inspires us to craft the next map.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Xplorer Maps goes beyond educating and conservation efforts for the locations they feature. The company is a proud member of 1% for the Planet and has donated over $125,000 to nearly 40 different organizations.

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The Best, Most Unique Gifts: Xplorer Maps

Our lovely Michigan map tote here in Kalamazoo, Michigan!