Real Map VS Electronic Map

TOPO map and GPSWhich do you prefer, a real map or a electronic map? Call me old school, call me old fashioned, call me out of date, or even not keeping up with the times – but give me a real map over an electronic map any day. Heck, I’ll even take a hand drawn map over an electronic map.

Ok, so why the hatred for electronic maps? Its not that I “hate” electronic maps, there are just too many points of failure.

Electronic Maps

Lets take a GPS and has a built in map feature:

  • Require to batteries.
  • May not work well without clear view of the sky.
  • GPS satellites are under government control, and can be turned off at anytime.

I dont know about you, but sometimes I go hiking / camping in places that have a dense tree canopy, which can block the GPS signal. My GPS is a Garmin Etrex. Its a fairly inexpensive model, and a fairly old model – but it gets the job done (most of the time.)

If the GPS gets water in it, its dropped, or stops working, I should be left stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Real Maps

  • Do not require batteries, probably because it does not need batteries.
  • Do not require a clear view of the sky.
  • Are drop proof – they are out of paper.
  • Do not stop working for unknown reasons.

When I am on a hiking trip, I like to bring 3 things for navigation – GPS, map compass and TOPO map.  The GPS is used to verify my location, and its double checked on the TOPO map.  The GPS also gives my bearing, which is also double checked with the map.  If one or the other does not match, I go with the map.

In my opinion, navigation skills are falling to the wayside in favor of easier ways.  Such as using a smart phone and Google Earth.

From time to time I see articles or reviews of a GPS – and rarely do I see the person doing the review using a TOPO map to verify the GPS.

A couple of years ago there was a lady who followed her GPS, which took her to the middle of the desert.

Electronic maps and GPSs are nice, but their no replacement for map skills.