GPS or map and compass?

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GPS or map and compass?

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Mar 4, 2008, 10:56am

I'm a map and compass person, I've not played extensively with GPS, but such as I have I wasn't impressed. I found them useful to a point, but if I had to choose one or the other I'd certainly take the map and compass.

over here JPB disagrees with me.

What do you think / use ?

Mar 4, 2008, 11:15am

In terms of reliability I think that JPB is in the USA which might make a difference. - we don't have WAAS coverage.

However it doesn't have to be an either or, I think both complement each other. However I don't have a GPS unit yet but I am thinking of one. Battery life is the biggest issue I think.

Mar 4, 2008, 11:23am

If you're out in the wilds where navigation is a life-and-death thing, you need the real map and compass, of course.

A map-based GPS receiver is nice to have (especially if you can load it up with good topo-maps) if you're following a prepared route through an unfamiliar-but-civilized area. Saves a lot of arguments about whether it's this junction of paths where you are meant to turn left, or the next one. But might be less fun than trying to decide whether that is a waymark or a bit of random paint on that tree...

If you're making route choices as you go along, you might still find that you need a real map as well, because the screen only shows such a small area at once.

Mar 4, 2008, 11:36am

I think you can get the most by using both. Though my experience with GPS's are fairly limited, I did find them useful. It was faster to see if I was on track when I 'mostly' knew where I was going.

Mar 4, 2008, 11:49am

Hello. This may be my first post in the group since being invited. I've played with a GPS device once or twice- it's neat. I never mastered the map and compass (as a combined tool). I can use either by themselves, though. I can navigate by the Sun, Moon, or stars, in a pinch.

I must admit my fondness for aimless wandering.

Edited: Mar 4, 2008, 12:33pm

I will reiterate my most important point: Nobody should EVER go on anything but the most POPULATED, WELL-USED and MAINTAINED trails, or for more than a day, without having a map and compass and being skilled in them.

Having said that, if you have a top-end GPSr, with good TOPO maps, and know how to really use it (to the level you know how to use map and compass to cross unmarked terrain) - if you meet those conditions, you will rarely, if ever, need to pull out that map or compass.

In my mind, the only Garmin receivers that meet this requirement are the GPSMAP 76CSx, GPSMAP 60CSx, and their new Colorado Series 400t.

I don't know Magellans enough to say.

This is similar to how more and more pilots are using GPS for 'reckoning' their location instead of the hassle of all the ground-based Nav aids - although all pilots still need to know how to use them

Mar 4, 2008, 12:43pm

Thirty or so years ago, I bought a Silva "Expedition 4" compass. It still works, it's never needed a new battery or a firmware upgrade, and what's more, Silva are still making the same model (they've rounded the corners off a bit more at the top end, but otherwise it seems to be identical in the pictures). Judging by prices on eBay, I should think my compass has pretty much kept up with inflation. I wish I could say the same thing for GPS receivers bought four or five years ago!

Edited: Mar 4, 2008, 4:25pm

I like having a GPS reciever, but equally would never go *anywhere* without a map and compass. (Actually, that's a lie. I once went for a run round some random fields in Cambridge with a GPS. But that's cos they're almost impossible to get lost in, and as a proof of concept.) It's certainly quicker to "check" where you are than triangulating, which can be a bonus if you're fairly sure what's going on. (And it also makes me a bit less scared about getting caught in horrible visibility with an indistinct path. But only a bit. I'm a wuss sometimes.) But I mostly like them for route tracking. It means I can go out for a walk that isn't on mapped paths and then find the exact same ones again, although I've never *actually* done that cos I'm usually too busy going "ooh look! another way we could go!". But mostly it means I can PLOT things, and make GRAPHS! With time, and distance, and speed, and altitude, and ooooooh it's so much FUN!

Plus I can plot our trek in Nepal on google earth :-D

That hasn't stopped me buying several maps of where we went in Nepal though. I love love love maps. I will happily spend hours and hours poring over them. Give me a map and compass over a GPS any day. But if I can have both, I very happily will ;-)

Mar 4, 2008, 5:03pm

Map and compass. Period. A friend of mine has tried desperately to get me to venture over to the Dark Side, but I've resisted ... so far.

I like to go into the mountains to get away from technology, not to depend on it. If I'm camping for a few days, I might bring my iPod or a small radio, beyond that, I'm tech-free when hiking/camping.

And as thorold so eloquently put it, compasses never become outdated technology which need replacing. I can understand the appeal of a GPS, but it's not for me.

Mar 18, 2008, 10:00pm

Map and compass for actual travelling, GPS and cellphone for emergencies (both usually turned off for battery life, if it's THAT dire of an emergency that you needed them already on, neither will help much.)

I'm ok with technology, and I like the concept of a nifty gadget that can tell me later exactly where I was and what I did, but I'd rather keep up my map and compass skills for when my nifty gadget doesn't work.

Jul 6, 2010, 3:59pm

I love maps and compasses. I don't always trust the GPS

Jul 7, 2010, 4:32am

Thanks for resurrecting this thread. I'd forgotton about it.

I do now own a GPS - SatMap's Active10 which allows you to load proper maps, full OS 1:25000 details. Having taken this on a few walks, I now completely see the benefits.

Although I think i'd always carry a map and compass just in case, I don't think I'd look at them. Battery life lasted for a full three day expedition, navigation was trivial everywhere. And best of all, you don't need to spend all day concentrating on the map, making sure you haven't missed a feature, because the GPS always knows where you are.

Jul 7, 2010, 9:42am

>12 reading_fox:
I agree - after about a year's use (NL, GB & CH) I'd say that the Satmap is the first GPS I've had that is really useful in practice as well as being a nice gadget. Doesn't take away the need for a fallback system if you're somewhere where navigation is safety-critical, of course, but so far it's been reliable enough for me to trust it as main navigation tool on walks in less remote areas.