With spring and summer heading our way March is a great time to spend a few hours indoors planning trips. Electronic maps and GPS receivers are amazingly useful tools, but I like to have paper maps to start my trip planning process. They are a nice way to avoid even more computer time. You can use them with a friend to share the planning experience and on a trip if your GPS dies it’s ideal to have a battery-free back up for navigation.
Paper maps require some old school skills like reading elevation profiles and they don’t tell you route distances automatically, but you can get by with some string! Eventually I’ll program the route into my electronics mapping software and download a route to my GPS.
On the bike following the GPS is easier than pulling out a map frequently. On the other hand when the planned route turns out to be impossible a paper map is convenient to work out a detour rather than trying to assess the situation on a small GPS screen.
If you made me choose between GPS or paper maps I’d take the paper maps every time, but I’m glad I don’t have to leave either one at home.