Features > Tech > Do You Need A Physical Map Anymore?

Do You Need A Physical Map Anymore?


So now we have bigger and better GPS units, laptops and cell phones with navigation on them. What do you use as you travel? I use them all for different times and reasons. But even with all that, I still find it great, if not necessary, to have a real old fashioned map with me for whatever state I am in. I'm referring to the big book kind, not just a fold out state map. I use and love Benchmark Maps but they are only covering the western United States so far. DeLorme atlases are okay but they have sent me looking for roads that don't exist a few too many times. One time it was a road that was once planned by the city but never actually made. It was on their map as a real road. Yeah, if I was a bird. So they are my second choice.


Hand held GPS devices are great for hiking. You can load maps with trails, elevation and terrain onto them. But they aren't very good for driving.

Cell phones are handy but also still a bit small for regular use on frequent travels. It's also harder on the batteries in them. For any real trip, I'd rather have a device designed to travel in the car.

Large touch screen GPS units , especially the 7 inch Garmin models, are great for real travel like in a RV. The screens are big and clear and although you shouldn't do it all while in motion, you can actually touch a button or two a bit more safely. (If you have an RV, spend the extra money and get a bigger touch screen. You'll love the difference.)

I like having a laptop on road trips because of the bigger screen and real functionality. You can look up locations for various things much easier and see overall views with Google maps. It works on a laptop pretty well but you don't always have a laptop with you or the internet connection to power it.

I was driving around Albuquerque the other day, going from one Sprint store to another. The person at the first store told me how to get to the other store. They are a local resident and I am not. They told me the only way they knew was to drive down this one road that had construction and traffic back ups on it, get on I-25, take it as it heads southwest to I-40 and then head east to a certain exit and then head north from there. If you follow the directional indicators there, you know it is taking you out of the way. That was about 19 miles and included several backed up construction areas. I also new the Friday afternoon traffic would make it a tension filled thrill ride. I began to think I'd rather drive by restaurants and stores with a few traffic lights than sit and stare at bumpers in 96 degree heat.

You can play with the GPS settings on the above devices but they are not always smart. They send you the fastest way but you sit in traffic because everyone else is there with you. They send you shortest way but you are going through private neighborhoods and braking for speed bumps. You need a map to show the major surface streets.

By the time you zoom out enough to see an overall view of a city like Albuquerque, you can't see the roads on most little devices. I pull out my New Mexico Benchmark Map and look at the Albuquerque pages. I see that I can take this road and that road and this road to make the trip in 13 miles. It was slower by MPH but taking the miles and traffic into consideration, I think I did it much faster than I would have on the interstates. It was easy and I saw more of the city.

The other benefit of maps is that I can sit down with it, maybe outside in the sunshine and plan my next day. I feel that I can relax with a paper map much more so than focusing on a small screen and fiddling with buttons.

What do you use the most and why as you travel?


Adam | Aug 6, 2009 | Category: Tech

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