Here's why you should learn to navigate using a paper map on your next adventure

5 Reasons To Choose Paper Maps Over Digital On Your Next Hike

When it comes to navigation on your adventures, there are a tonne of electronic options that have upended the market in the last few decades. Whether you’re rocking a dedicated handheld GPS, a car Satnav, or using Google Maps on your phone, gadgets are totally transforming the way we get from A to B.

Although this is mostly a good thing – I for one wouldn’t want to part with my smartphone – today we’re going to look at reasons you should ditch the electronics on your next adventure, and learn to navigate with paper maps instead. Lets take a look:

#1 – Power and internets not required

Although we think of mobile data coverage as ubiquitous these days, it’s not actually the case everywhere. There are still plenty of spots off the beaten track where reception for your gadgets may be patchy at best.

Imagine you’re slogging through the rain or sleet (which definitely wasn’t forecast), trying to get to wherever you’re making camp for the night, only for the computer to say ‘no’. Not fun. With paper maps, you can kiss goodbye to your worries over the two most dreaded notifications on your smartphone – ‘no signal’ and ‘1% battery remaining’.

Why you should learn to navigate using a paper map on your next adventure
Wonder if he gets good phone coverage up there…

#2 – Learn a whole new way to navigate

While gadgets have made day to day life a lot easier, there is an argument that they’re spoiling us just a little bit. Certain survival skills, like how to navigate by the sun, the stars or using a compass, could one day be lost forever if we keep delegating everything to Google.

So why not buck the trend and learn (or practice, if you already know) the skills that your adventuring ancestors would have taken for granted? At the very least, you will have taught yourself something not a lot of people know – and it might just save your bacon one day.

This compass navigation guide from REI – along with the Youtube video below – has some very useful information in it for anyone wanting to learn how to navigate with a compass.

#3 – Rain? Hah!

Okay, so some electronic gadgets come with hardy waterproofing or cases that can withstand a beating from the elements. Others, not so much. Personally, I would rather keep my smartphone inside a dry bag if it’s monsoon-ing around me. And if that happens to be the exact time that I need to check a map, then going offline comes up trumps again.

There are tonnes of easy and innovative ways to keep your paper maps waterproof. My personal favourite is the Youtube tutorial below on how to transfer your paper maps to plastic.

#4 – Unplug and unwind

One of the reasons people go hiking is to get away from it all and get back to nature. In which case, constantly checking your gadgets kind of negates the point. I’m not saying don’t take a phone with you – it’s a totally sensible thing to do in case of emergency. But if your goal when hiking is to reconnect with nature, then it makes sense to only reach for your gadgets when you absolutely need to.

Using paper maps negates one of the biggest reasons to grab your smartphone out on the trail – navigation. So relax, unplug and enjoy getting around the way people used to before technology took over our lives.

#5 – Paper maps are just cool

Okay, so this is a personal reason rather than an objective one! But I just think paper maps look and feel awesome. Maybe I read too much Lord Of The Rings as a kid, but I’ve always been a bit of a cartography nerd. There’s nothing quite like holding a paper map that someone has taken the time to add their own detail and imagination to.

Sure, Google can show you the quickest way to the ATM – but for me, it doesn’t quite capture the spirit of exploration and adventure that maps are supposed to represent. Check out the Tumblr account ‘Beautiful Maps’ for a whole bunch of examples that are case in point.

Map of Tolkien's middle earth
Is this why I’m a cartography nerd!?

Ready to hit the trail?

So remember folks, the next time you’re about to hit the trail, why not consider dusting off that old paper map of yours? It’s a reliable, off grid option that lets you practice a hugely important skill – and it’s fun!

That’s it for this week, but don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog for more tips, tricks and gear reviews from the trail. Until next time

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