Relying on Paper Maps, Vehicle GPS, and Natural Instincts

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Contributor II

98
Olympia, WA, USA
First Name
Bjorn
Last Name
Odinsson
Service Branch
US Army
I do not have any high tech GPS equipment and so far I have been okay relying mostly on paper maps, and directional instincts. I know this could get me in trouble down the road.
What is a beginner level GPS device I should look into? I am not very tech savvy, and do not even have a smart phone; so very basic is what I would need.

Thank you ~ SotN
Land Viking Adventures
 
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I do not have any high tech GPS equipment and so far I have been okay relying mostly on paper maps, and directional instincts. I know this could get me in trouble down the road.
What is a beginner level GPS device I should look into? I am not very tech savvy, and do not even have a smart phone; so very basic is what I would need.

Thank you ~ SotN
Land Viking Adventures
.
Honestly?

You don't need most of the high tech GPS devices that are out there to stay out of trouble, especially if already used to paper maps and your own directional instincts. I've been going on solo adventures all over the place for decades; way the hell back-country and off-pavement for weeks and months at a time and use my atlases, expanded Nat Geo maps, Delorme Atlas & Gazetteers, local topo maps, and hand out maps from parks and forest services.

Since you already know how to use paper maps and have a good directional sense, and if you possess even rudimentary skills with a compass, the rest can be just so much fluff. Nice to have, fun to use, and looks cool in your rig, to be sure, but not absolutely necessary.

I'm convinced that's why a lot of folks--certainly not all--get into larger GPS screens, complicated looking comms, and intricate mounting systems for it all; they want their dash to look more like a cockpit, and also see that everyone else is doing it, so think they need to, too. I did too, for a long time, then realized I was never using most of it.

For long distance and highway routing, I still use my old Garmin NUVI 760 dash mount GPS from fourteen years ago. Still works perfectly and has all my fav waypoints around No America. Surprisingly, if you keep these units updated, they have an astonishing amount of detail in regards to dirt and gravel roads.

For years I've tested myself while out adventuring. I'll start in the morning and check a Rand McNally or Delorme Atlas to set a basic end point; somewhere I want to end up that evening, and see which degree from north, or west, etc it is. Then I'll head out driving, using only the sky, sun, cloud movements and distant landmarks to keep me headed in the general direction.

All this said, however, because I am alone on almost all of my back country adventures, I do have a Garmin Inreach for emergency satellite communication. I've had it for four years, and though I have never used it once, it's there should I get in a real bind without my van, eBike, or canoe to help me get out, or if I'm badly hurt and can't drive.

Here are two other posts about maps and such, both of which are part of much longer threads:

Which Paper Maps Are Best? - Delorme, Backroad Map Books, etc
Orienteering By Hand: Compass and Book info

and my own blog post about maps:

Good luck out here, and don't hesitate to go adventuring just because you don't have hi-tech gear.

.
 

Contributor II

98
Olympia, WA, USA
First Name
Bjorn
Last Name
Odinsson
Service Branch
US Army
.
Honestly?

You don't need most of the high tech GPS devices that are out there to stay out of trouble, especially if already used to paper maps and your own directional instincts. I've been going on solo adventures all over the place for decades; way the hell back-country and off-pavement for weeks and months at a time and use my atlases, expanded Nat Geo maps, Delorme Atlas & Gazetteers, local topo maps, and hand out maps from parks and forest services.

Since you already know how to use paper maps and have a good directional sense, and if you possess even rudimentary skills with a compass, the rest can be just so much fluff. Nice to have, fun to use, and looks cool in your rig, to be sure, but not absolutely necessary.

I'm convinced that's why a lot of folks--certainly not all--get into larger GPS screens, complicated looking comms, and intricate mounting systems for it all; they want their dash to look more like a cockpit, and also see that everyone else is doing it, so think they need to, too. I did too, for a long time, then realized I was never using most of it.

For long distance and highway routing, I still use my old Garmin NUVI 760 dash mount GPS from fourteen years ago. Still works perfectly and has all my fav waypoints around No America. Surprisingly, if you keep these units updated, they have an astonishing amount of detail in regards to dirt and gravel roads.

For years I've tested myself while out adventuring. I'll start in the morning and check a Rand McNally or Delorme Atlas to set a basic end point; somewhere I want to end up that evening, and see which degree from north, or west, etc it is. Then I'll head out driving, using only the sky, sun, cloud movements and distant landmarks to keep me headed in the general direction.

All this said, however, because I am alone on almost all of my back country adventures, I do have a Garmin Inreach for emergency satellite communication. I've had it for four years, and though I have never used it once, it's there should I get in a real bind without my van, eBike, or canoe to help me get out, or if I'm badly hurt and can't drive.

Here are two other posts about maps and such, both of which are part of much longer threads:

Which Paper Maps Are Best? - Delorme, Backroad Map Books, etc
Orienteering By Hand: Compass and Book info

and my own blog post about maps:

Good luck out here, and don't hesitate to go adventuring just because you don't have hi-tech gear.

.

Thank you so much! That makes me feel a lot better. My truck has a 12 inch screen, with supposedly updated 2021 GPS, and almost every single time I go off road it looks like I am driving in the "un marked green nowhere", or in the middle of a "blue lake". I usually rely on the time, sun, & sense to determine my location from my start point, but I do use the GPS for directions to get to my starting point. I will definitely look into the Garmin Inreach, because I know once I get too cocky, I will surely get lost.

Skol Brother ~ SotN
Land Viking Adventures
 
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Contributor II

98
Olympia, WA, USA
First Name
Bjorn
Last Name
Odinsson
Service Branch
US Army
I'm happy with my Garmin.


Got my DRW through weeks of Chicago without incident. That's impossible with paper maps, unless your passenger is navigating.

Sounds like I need to check out this "Garmin Fellow", must have lots of great products! Thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it!

Skol ~ SotN
Land Viking Adventures
 
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Not into ranks, titles or points.
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Advocate III

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On the road in North America
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Road
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Thank you so much! That makes me feel a lot better. My truck has a 12 inch screen, with supposedly updated 2021 GPS, and almost every single time I go off road it looks like I am driving in the "un marked green nowhere", or in the middle of a "blue lake". I usually rely on the time, sun, & sense to determine my location from my start point, but I do use the GPS for directions to get to my starting point. I will definitely look into the Garmin Inreach, because I know once I get too cocky, I will surely get lost.

Skol Brother ~ SotN
Land Viking Adventures
.
Depends on where they are pulling their data from and how often it is updated. Garmin does a great job, in my experience, updating waypoints, local info (restaurants, vendors, new roads, etc) more consistently than some other map info suppliers.
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ThundahBeagle

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For driving, I have a Garmin (Nuvi?) from about 10 years ago. Had a hard time updating it. Got a new one (Drive 65?) Laat may. I like the old features better but like I said it doesnt update. The rest is Google maps or my Atlas and my collection of Gazetteers.

For hiking, tyvek trail maps from Appalachian Mountain Club
 

MOAK

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Hmmm, a lifetime ago I learned how to use a Thomas Guide to find my way into every little nook & cranny of LA & Orange counties. Now I use paper maps exclusively for navigating back country two tracks, dirt roads, forest roads & non-maintained roads. If you already know how to use a paper map, then why change up? Storage of your map collection might be as big as a trunk or as small as a boot box, your choice. My grandparents got me started, as they were travelers and would come home with maps for me. My collection begins in 1953 - current, yet it is small and very selective. ( 2 boot boxes ) This country was a fascinating place before interstates and the ensuing homogenization of America. Imagine traveling from a farm in Ohio, without interstates, with only paper maps & dead reckoning to guide you.. ( Lions & Tigers & Bears !! )
 

ThundahBeagle

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For driving, I have a Garmin (Nuvi?) from about 10 years ago. Had a hard time updating it. Got a new one (Drive 65?) Laat may. I like the old features better but like I said it doesnt update. The rest is Google maps or my Atlas and my collection of Gazetteers.

For hiking, tyvek trail maps from Appalachian Mountain Club
Sorry. I have an old Garmin Nuvi 265W ( which I havent been able to update for some reason). And that new one
 
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dchurch

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We got along with just map, compass and altimeter for ever. We still rely on them. If you really want to use GPS technology I recommend getting your first smart phone.

A smart phone is a real game changer and has major advantages over a GPS only device. Mapping applications like Google Maps and Gaia GPS are very powerful and simple to use.
 
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old_man

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GPS is cool but a lot of hassle getting the right maps and such. I have had mine crap out multiple times. I try to never go anywhere without GOOD paper maps. Not the best, but Delorme makes the Gazetter series of maps by state.
 

jonald

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I tend to like technology, but I’ve been driving the country and the backcountry since long before gps was available. I always have paper maps.

That said, I have multiple devices and each has a purpose.

I use a Garmin Nuvi for general on-road driving and for fast, direct extraction from the backcountry. This would be my first recommendation. I have been impressed over and over how efficiently it can direct me back to civilization. This is crucial for when things go sideways.

For someone used to paper maps, my next recommendation for navigation is a smart phone and an app called Avenza Maps. The app is free and there are hundreds of free maps for public lands, including MVUM (motor vehicle use maps). Some maps cost money, like the Gazetteer maps, but the advantage is that your phone will show you where you are on the same maps that you have in the book. A nice feature in the woods, when you can’t see landmarks for triangulation. Avenza doesn’t have a route planning option and you have to actively manage the maps. It does do a good job of displaying your location on whatever map you have loaded.

After that, you can play with more apps and figure out what you like. I also have an Android tablet with gps that I bought for less than $100. I can use it with my apps and it’s easy to mount.

I also have the InReach, but that is for communication, not navigation.
 
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old_man

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I tend to like technology, but I’ve been driving the country and the backcountry since long before gps was available. I always have paper maps.

That said, I have multiple devices and each has a purpose.

I use a Garmin Nuvi for general on-road driving and for fast, direct extraction from the backcountry. This would be my first recommendation. I have been impressed over and over how efficiently it can direct me back to civilization. This is crucial for when things go sideways.

For someone used to paper maps, my next recommendation for navigation is a smart phone and an app called Avenza Maps. The app is free and there are hundreds of free maps for public lands, including MVUM (motor vehicle use maps). Some maps cost money, like the Gazetteer maps, but the advantage is that your phone will show you where you are on the same maps that you have in the book. A nice feature in the woods, when you can’t see landmarks for triangulation. Avenza doesn’t have a route planning option and you have to actively manage the maps. It does do a good job of displaying your location on whatever map you have loaded.

After that, you can play with more apps and figure out what you like. I also have an Android tablet with gps that I bought for less than $100. I can use it with my apps and it’s easy to mount.

I also have the InReach, but that is for communication, not navigation.
The lat/ lon is listed down the sides of the Gazetteer maps so just get that from your phone and look it up on the paper maps. I carry a sextant with me for backup.
 

Contributor II

98
Olympia, WA, USA
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Bjorn
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Odinsson
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US Army
Thank you all for so many great recommendations. Financially though, I may have to wait awhile for a new toy. Thank goodness the Sun and Moon are still free. :blush:
 
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ChadHahn

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For driving, I have a Garmin (Nuvi?) from about 10 years ago. Had a hard time updating it. Got a new one (Drive 65?) Laat may. I like the old features better but like I said it doesnt update. The rest is Google maps or my Atlas and my collection of Gazetteers.

For hiking, tyvek trail maps from Appalachian Mountain Club
Do you have Garmin Express on you computer? It tells me when I have an update for my numerous GPS' and I just plug them into the computer. The computer verifies that the GPS is attached and installs the map or updated time zone or what have you. Nothing to it. Almost every Garmin these days has free map updates.
 
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ThundahBeagle

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Do you have Garmin Express on you computer? It tells me when I have an update for my numerous GPS' and I just plug them into the computer. The computer verifies that the GPS is attached and installs the map or updated time zone or what have you. Nothing to it. Almost every Garmin these days has free map updates.
I'm not sure what was the issue but a couple years ago I tried to update, and could not. I dont know if its because I didnt register the Garmin when i got it? Or if it was so far out of date? I'll have to try again soon. Yes i believe i had downloaded and installed Express and tried to work through there.
 
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ChadHahn

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I'm not sure what was the issue but a couple years ago I tried to update, and could not. I dont know if its because I didnt register the Garmin when i got it? Or if it was so far out of date? I'll have to try again soon. Yes i believe i had downloaded and installed Express and tried to work through there.
This thread got me thinking about my GPS' so I opened Express my various units. The oldest one I have in Express is from 2014. I bought it a year or so ago from a thrift store and was able to plug it in and have it update. It took a while for the GPS to be seen by Express but it downloaded and updated the maps with no problem.
 
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MWallace

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Thank you all for so many great recommendations. Financially though, I may have to wait awhile for a new toy. Thank goodness the Sun and Moon are still free. :blush:
Everybody keeps mentioning Garmin, but assuming you have a phone, Gaia, even the free version, allows you to upload GPX files and record where you have been. I think you can use it on android auto now as well.
 

jonald

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Thank you all for so many great recommendations. Financially though, I may have to wait awhile for a new toy. Thank goodness the Sun and Moon are still free. :blush:
Everybody keeps mentioning Garmin, but assuming you have a phone, Gaia, even the free version, allows you to upload GPX files and record where you have been. I think you can use it on android auto now as well.
I use Gaia for routing and tracking. That’s not what I use the Garmin for. The Garmin absolutely sucks for backcountry routing and general navigation. It excels in getting me from BFE to Napa when my Optima takes a dump. That’s why I recommend it as an intro for someone that is already adept at navigating with paper maps. Gaia needs cellular service to create a route out of the backcountry and even then, it’s not as good as the Garmin.

I consider Gaia or similar as another level up. That’s when my dashboard starts looking like a cockpit.
 

MWallace

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I use Gaia for routing and tracking. That’s not what I use the Garmin for. The Garmin absolutely sucks for backcountry routing and general navigation. It excels in getting me from BFE to Napa when my Optima takes a dump. That’s why I recommend it as an intro for someone that is already adept at navigating with paper maps. Gaia needs cellular service to create a route out of the backcountry and even then, it’s not as good as the Garmin.

I consider Gaia or similar as another level up. That’s when my dashboard starts looking like a cockpit.
[/QUOTE]
You are right, using gaia to get to the auto parts store is not practical, I was strickly going for cost/value in the offroad setting. Although, I would love the Garmin Overlander, I just don't want to part with the $700 for it just yet.