Journal: Do You Still Use Paper Maps?

Do You Still Use Paper Maps?

By Michael Banovsky
June 26, 2015

It’s something I’ve long wondered, especially after recently taking a long road trip where a dash-mounted iPhone and Google Maps were my only guide. Car enthusiasts must be among the last holdouts to use paper maps, right?

I imagine that we’d be the most nostalgic for days past, where man and map could venture off and explore the great unknown. I still have one map book that I’ve kept, a Harley-Davidson Ride Atlas from the time when I was starting to think about getting a motorcycle that never quite materialized…

It’s been some time since I’ve flipped through a road atlas, and a recent trip to a bookstore confirmed that they’re pretty handy and very useful—but they won’t automatically re-route you around construction jams, display your car in a bird’s eye view, or gently remind you that you’re exceeding the posted speed limit.

I think this will be an interesting discussion: Do you still use maps? Why or why not? Or, perhaps just as valid: do you feel guilty, in a sense, for using GPS?

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Luc Bonachera
Luc Bonachera(@lubo)
6 years ago

Yes, I do.

Stephen Coy
Stephen Coy(@crewperson)
6 years ago

I have ALWAYS used paper maps, don’t really know why, it’s just something that I’ve always done & will continue to do. In fact I just bought an updated Rand Mcnally atlas for my up coming trip in September. 🙂

dave povenski
dave povenski(@dcpfjr)
6 years ago

I will [b]never [/b]use GPS. Back when I was driving the big rigs for a living, I was coming up to a red light in the right lane of a 4 lane highway. There was a car stopped at the light and when the light turned green and the car didn’t start moving, I changed lanes to go around it. I’m moving around 25 mph as I approached the car when it turned left directly in front of me. I smashed into the left rear corner of the car spinning it around 180º. I drove about 100 yards down the road to where I could pull off. My truck had a small dent in the front bumper and a piece of fiberglass above the bumper was cracked. No other damage. By the time a walked back to the intersection 2 ambulances and a cop car were already there, all of which just happened to be driving by. A woman, who was traveling in the opposite direction and waiting to make a left turn, walks up to me and hands me a business card and says, “I saw the whole thing. Call me if you need a witness”. I finally get to the wrecked car, and the driver, a women, was sitting in the back seat on the driver’s side having a bleeding ear attended to by one of the EMTs. The rear window of her small SUV was destroyed, that left rear corner was crushed and all of the driver’s side windows were gone. One of the other EMTs comes up to me and says, “She said her GPS said to turn left. She never saw what hit her”.

Another time, I’m sitting in my truck waiting for a trailer to be loaded, when another truck driver pulls into the lot. He sees me, gets out of his truck, and comes over to me. “I’m supposed to deliver this load to (a specific address) in Hanover, PA, but when I get there it’s just a residential street. I just followed my GPS” I get out my map, look in the index, find Hanover, get the map coordinates, find it on the map, point to it and say, “Here is where you want to be. You’re only about 130 miles off. You’re in Hanover Township.”

Another time, a friend and I were taking a motorcycle trip to Colorado. He’s from Massachusetts, so we met along I-81 around noon and got to Washington, PA, before getting off I-70 for the night. The next morning he’s playing around with all his electronic gear (radar detector, GPS, etc.) for about 10 minutes before he’s ready to go, while I’m waiting for him. He’s leading and we get to the I-70 on ramps where he takes the [i]eastbound [/i]on ramp. I wait at the entrance to the ramp and he eventually turns around, returns and says, “Why didn’t you follow me?”. I said, “Because I want to go to Colorado” as I pointed to the sign for the westbound on-ramp and drove off.

Later on the same trip, we had stopped for the night somewhere in Illinois. In the morning, we decided to head up to I-80, instead of continuing on I-70. I looked at my map to get an idea what highways we needed to take to get to I-80’s crossing of the Mississippi River. And of course, Inspector Gadget makes a wrong turn. I get him to pull over, and he says, “Now what?”. I tell him he’s going the wrong way. He protests that his GPS says to go the way we’re going. I tell him that I don’t care what his GPS says. It’s wrong and I’m turning around and going the right way. You can follow if you want. He followed me the rest of the trip.

I don’t need no stinkin’ GPS!! 🙂

Steve Lewis
Steve Lewis(@fb_10205697713634255)
6 years ago

When we’re planning a fun road trip, we use paper maps when planning out the initial route. Seems like when a map is spread out on a table, it’s easier to see different possibilities… as in routes that don’t rely on major interstates. Then we write down the highway numbers, hop in the car and fire up the GPS. I don’t punch in the route, I only watch the map; mostly because the Garmin we use tells us where we are and what landmarks and roadside attractions are coming up. We usually wind up altering the route along the way (yes, we bring the paper map along), but seems like we always find the coolest places that aren’t packed with interstate weary roadtrippers.

Steve Barratt
Steve Barratt(@fb_893210410)
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Lewis

Yes, I still use paper maps, I find them easier to plan the complete daily route when touring, and they have helped me get back on course when I just can’ t understand what my friends GPS are telling me.

Alex Doubleday
Alex Doubleday(@diadobro)
6 years ago

On road trips, the big book road atlas in the trunk comes out. When flying and using a rental, I sometimes have to resort to GPS. Using the turn-by-turn feature on Google Maps is the safest option, keeps me from looking at my phone, and most rental cars have at least an auxiliary input so I can hear the directions. That option comes with a heavy side of guilt for me. Last time I was in Northern New Jersey, I ashamedly had no directional orientation for most of the time. Paper maps certainly help with that.

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson(@dandydoug)
6 years ago

We bought a cheap version of a GPS a few years ago and have never bothered to update the info it contains. When we travel SWMBO absolutely has to have a paper map ( preferably more than one) and can at any point in time tell me where we are, and what the next turning point is. ( usually faster and more accurate than Carmen the Garmin )
The GPS sits on the dash and chatters away, sometimes the information is helpful and we do use it to find the closest / cheapest overnight motels and we like it when she warns us of impending traffic snafu’s.
But our large print atlas and smaller more detailed maps are our preferred mode .

Simon Potter
Simon Potter(@its-rusty)
6 years ago

you won’t find those twisty ‘B’ roads using a gps and the freedom of the automobile, follow your nose, to adventure it goes!

6 years ago

I haven’t driven on a long road trip in a while (aside from LA to Vegas, which I know by heart anyway). However, I do have my trusty Thomas Guide maps in the truck. LA/Orange County, San Diego and Riverside/San Bernadino. I like to have a general feel for the direction I’m going rather than just blindly following “turn left, turn right, merge left.” If I can see it on paper, I get my bearings. So the next time I don’t need the map. It’s in my head.

6 years ago

You study the map, memorize what you need to do, then tuck the map away again … and CONCENTRATE. An elegant solution and good for the brain. Maps are very satisfying creations, even artworks in some cases. “Cartographer” has a romantic sound to it … “software developer”, not so much! 😉

6 years ago
Reply to  carbuncle

Right on the money! That’s exactly my point of view too, especially the “good for the brain”. I think we have too many comforts these days, particularly in the car related arena (self parking car? “hill-assist”?, blind spot assist?, etc etc…), which will render us too lazy or dumb should they not be there all of a sudden. Even reading a map will soon become “difficult” for the new generations if they only use sat-navs and iPhones.

On my last road trip through France I went out and bought a nice paper map.

Matt woodward
Matt woodward(@black93gt)
6 years ago
Reply to  carbuncle

Anymore, I feel like the google street view car driver is the new cartographer. If someone working the register at the adult store is referred to as a relationship intimacy advisor, then why not.

Admittedly I don’t use a map as often as I used to, even though I carry a Delorm map. Traveling in foreign countries is a different story. You figure nearly everyone has a fancy car or phone with gps maps at their fingertips. It’s almost hard to get away from it now. It’s humorous to see how blindly the sheep follow the directions, arrive at a destination yet are completely lost. Those types are easy to spot by the dumb blank looks. Thankfully the technology keeps them on major roads and highways while I happily enjoy the backroads.

Olem Podlap
Olem Podlap(@podlap)
6 years ago

GPS is the better way to go from A to B: that’s very convenient, efficient, pragmatic , functional…
Exactly nothing that corresponds to the idea of ??driving a classic car !

You can travel with a purpose, a precise destination, but where is the fun of driving if you forget the freedom to make mistakes or to turn where the path seems more exciting ? Ok, it’s also possible with technology, but there is not this little taste of lightness and adventure.

A good old paper map (up to date !), a compass, and let’s get lost deliberately, there is always time to adjust later.
(Anyway everyone has a smartphone in his pocket in case of real troubles, so…)

Niko PetrHead
Niko PetrHead(@fb_100008979769173)
6 years ago

Paper maps? I got plenty at home (being a cartographer doesn’t help to get rid of them), but… No, I don’t use them anymore.
That said, and as many other have pointed, I still use topographic maps to choose a more scenic or curvy route over the one offered by the GPS.
After a few hits and many misses from other products, I’ve come to recommend Waze for efficient routing (from what I heard, GoogleMaps uses the same data and similar algorithms), but there are times where I prefer the fun to the efficiency.

6 years ago

Satnav is useful, no doubt, but it also makes you a little orientation-dumb over the years. You tend to focus on the directions and loose connection to where you actually are. Thus – as mentioned before – for utility purposes it is useful but it’s good to try a map (and memory!) once in a while. Two or three times a year I take the time to go through the Black Forest (SW-Germany) via the direct most squiggly route. I love to sit down the evening before and write directions on a piece of paper based on what I see on the map (or screen) and what I recall from my last trip. The next morning I follow my notes and my memory and throughly enjoy the route. I could program my satnav accordingly but i wouldn’t be the same.

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford(@quixotic)
6 years ago

After a couple of idiotic directions given by the GPS, I’ve gone back to paper exclusively. But my wife still uses the GPS to find the nearest Tim Hortons, etc.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay(@christophergay)
6 years ago

I don’t have a smart phone or a vehicle that has that supports that kind of technology.

If I don’t have a paper map, or haven’t done my homework ahead of time, I often find it is easiest to just ask somebody who does know. 😉

Wayne Mattson
Wayne Mattson(@wemattson)
6 years ago

When my wife and I travel for fun we use maps exclusively but when I’m on the road for work I plan out my route on a map first but use GPS for the actual trip. I think that depending only on GPS leads to trouble.

Fausto Gonçalves
Fausto Gonçalves(@fb_1497942197)
6 years ago

I actually use paper maps any time I travel on vacations. Usually, when I’m going somewhere I already know, I use the GPS to pin-point me exactly where I’m supposed to be. Other than that, and taking trips as an example, I use the paper maps from Michelin and take note from all the tips they have before setting of. They allow you to choose the scenic road over the highway.
Then, during the trip, I can use the GPS inside busy cities (it helps when you don’t know where to go, and it’s safer when you get to a junction or whatsoever) but, outside the cities, everything is done with the map. It’s a great way to discover little wonders 😉

Jeremy DeConcini
Jeremy DeConcini(@ymeabay)
6 years ago

No GPS that I have found can really compete with a good road atlas for road trips. GPS is great around town finding specific addresses, but I don’t go anywhere without some sort of paper map if I can help it.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

YES ! Most definitely . Having seen and experienced first hand just how inaccurate and out of date 99.9 \% of all GPS’s are our dependency on Digital Navigation is all but non-existent , be it on the road , water or air . Simply stated unless we have to …. we don’t . Ever ! Use digital that is

Edward Levin
Edward Levin(@edl)
6 years ago

A GPS will point you toward the most direct route, which makes it incredibly useful in many circumstances, particularly for dealing with unforeseen circumstances on the fly. But as Jack B suggests, visual maps–whether paper or online–allow for visualization of the entire route, rather than simply reacting to the next disembodied verbal direction. So for a road trip, a visual map will allow you to seek far more interesting alternatives than a GPS is likely to provide.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago
Reply to  Edward Levin

Actually nine times out of ten GPS will take you down the most ‘used’/popular/well traveled routes not the most direct . All GPS’s being oriented and biased towards the major roads which nine times out of ten are never the most direct routes .

Edward Levin
Edward Levin(@edl)
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

OK, fine–not the “most direct” routes, but “major roads”, which are rarely the most interesting

Manuel Figueiredo
Manuel Figueiredo(@mafig)
6 years ago

I use mostly satnav, or gps, from Nokia now Microsoft Lumia because it almost always takes me where I want to go with no fuss. When in road trip I usually stay in a hotel just one night so everyday I have to find the way to another hotel and that in cities I don’t know and many times I don’t speak the local language – here europe have more than 20 languages – so satnav is a must.
…but I carry a europe paper map so before starting the journey I first check the paper map the roads I will be going, and the names of the cities I will find in road signs!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

The key phrase you need to be paying attention to in your comment is ;

” almost always “

Viktor Koot
Viktor Koot(@kotomoto)
6 years ago

Leaving shortly for a roadtrip, traveling through France and Italy for a month. We planned the trip using paper maps and will use them on route. We have a gps and made the route digital, But only as a backup. My kids have their own maps and have to assist us in navigation. Only a fool relies only on gps in my opinion. In my daily work I don’t fully rely on the gps either, wich saved me a dozen of times working as a professional EMS driver.

Jack B
Jack B(@jack-the-lad)
6 years ago

My wife and I use paper maps almost exclusively. They give a sense of perspective and progress that electronic systems do not. And frankly we don’t care where the nearest Starbuck’s is, nor do we need a lot of the other information that GPS systems offer.