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navigating without a gps?

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navigating without a gps?

Old 02-16-09, 02:45 PM
  #1  
chllngevrythng
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navigating without a gps?

Hi
I will be riding the great rivers trail down the mississippi river. I ordered the Adventure Cycling Association map which looks pretty detailed. I think i ll do fine without a gps, but then again i m new to touring. So i m curious if anyone has had any problems navigating without a gps or is it absolutely crucial?
Bottom line: Am i gonna be able to follow my route with just a map and maybe a compass?
I dont wanna keep missing important turning points or campgrounds..

Thanks in advance for the advices
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Old 02-16-09, 02:54 PM
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Do your cycling campgrounds show up on a GPS?
The map sounds like it's pretty good. GPSs seem to be pretty gimmicky to me.

But I'm old school.
Most of the riding I do is done sans map.
For this reason I'm often lost.
And loving it.
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Old 02-16-09, 02:56 PM
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ACA maps are very good. You shouldn't have too many problems.

They aren't very detailed though, so I'd bring something to supplement - GPS, a cell phone that can get maps, or paper maps.

GPS's are great, although you should use whatever method works best for you.
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Old 02-16-09, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by chllngevrythng View Post
Bottom line: Am i gonna be able to follow my route with just a map and maybe a compass?
GPSs have only been around for a few years, but people have been touring by bicycle for over 100 years ... how do you think they managed?

I have never used a GPS in my life. I have always used paper maps and a compass. Paper maps don't require batteries. Drop in at the various Tourist Information centres you come across along the way and pick up detailed paper maps and you'll be fine.
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Old 02-16-09, 03:33 PM
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At this point in time, if I get time off for a longer tour, I'd get a GPS enabled cell phone (if they work out in the middle of nowhere). A whole unit is overkill, but I think being able to know where you are can be invaluable if you don't have lots of time to get lost. I know I'll be carrying a cell phone regardless, might as well have one extra feature that'll tell you where you are.
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Old 02-16-09, 03:36 PM
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There's a definite learning curve when you first start using maps, but by no means should this hold you back. I still make mistakes readings maps but that is part of the fun, the trials of travels and discovering areas I wouldn't have otherwise seen, I don't want to switch to GPS for that reason alone. And from what I've heard ACA maps are pretty complete and self-explanatory, which should help considerably.

I would say do whatever makes you feel more comfortable, GPS prices have been coming down and if it helps with your piece of mind go for it. But before you spurge and purchase one get a good map, pick a destination and ride to it. Then take a new route home. If you can manage that, your tour shouldn't be too big of a problem.
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Old 02-16-09, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Jerseysbest View Post
At this point in time, if I get time off for a longer tour, I'd get a GPS enabled cell phone (if they work out in the middle of nowhere). A whole unit is overkill, but I think being able to know where you are can be invaluable if you don't have lots of time to get lost. I know I'll be carrying a cell phone regardless, might as well have one extra feature that'll tell you where you are.
Cell phones do not work everywhere ... just a hop, skip, and a jump west of where I live, cell phone coverage dies, and then there's quite a large area (the Rocky Mountains) where you won't get cell phone coverage at all, or only occasional coverage.
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Old 02-16-09, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Thisisit View Post
There's a definite learning curve when you first start using maps, but by no means should this hold you back. I still make mistakes readings maps but that is part of the fun, the trials of travels and discovering areas I wouldn't have otherwise seen
A question ... do they not teach map reading in school anymore? You're not the first one to indicate that reading maps is/was foreign to you. I could swear it was on the curriculum. Yes, actually, I just checked and students (in Alberta anyway) start learning to read maps in Grade One. I started learning to read maps when I was about 6 or 7 years old.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:01 PM
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There are two kinds of people in the world: map users and GPS users. Figure out which you are and stick with that.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
A question ... do they not teach map reading in school anymore? You're not the first one to indicate that reading maps is/was foreign to you. I could swear it was on the curriculum. Yes, actually, I just checked and students (in Alberta anyway) start learning to read maps in Grade One. I started learning to read maps when I was about 6 or 7 years old.
I learned about world/geographical maps in school, but never navigation. I went to elementary school in Hong Kong and primary school in California so maybe I just missed out. All is well, cycling (more than driving) has helped me learn.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:27 PM
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Mark the distances from your starting point for the day on the map. With a trip mileage reading on your bike computer, you will then know when to watch for a turning.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:30 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by chllngevrythng View Post
So i m curious if anyone has had any problems navigating without a gps or is it absolutely crucial?
This story is from the late 70's, I'm sure that it would be slightly different now.

Three generations of women, a young married woman, her mother, and her grandmother, were asked what kitchen convenience they felt was most important.

The young married woman said that it was her microwave oven.

Her mother said it was the refrigerator with the extra large freezer.

The grandmother was stunned at the foolishness of her daughter and grand daughter. "Well, I don't know what I'd do without running water!"

Generations of tourists have toured without GPS. Probably relatively few people use GPS now. As the units get lighter and cheaper and more efficient (mine burns through batteries pretty quick!) They will be used more, but a GPS is nothing like absolutely crucial.

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Old 02-16-09, 05:06 PM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Cell phones do not work everywhere ... just a hop, skip, and a jump west of where I live, cell phone coverage dies, and then there's quite a large area (the Rocky Mountains) where you won't get cell phone coverage at all, or only occasional coverage.
A true GPS receiver determines your location using satellites, so not having cell coverage isn't an issue. The advantage of having coverage is being able to dynamically download maps as you need them. Without coverage you can still get your latitude and longitude and find your location on a map.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:13 PM
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Depending on your route, a GPS may or may not help you. I've been very, very lost riding bike trails in Germany. There were a lot of trails and they were poorly marked, if at all. The map wasn't really helpful either.

A friend of mine traveled the same tangle of trails last year with a top shelf GPS--- and got just as lost! If you're traveling service roads, logging roads, bike trails or cow paths, (and honestly, these are the BEST places to ride IMHO), you're off the grid. Take the best map you can find, ask locals for help and count on getting lost somewhere along the way. It's nothing to worry about, after all.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:20 PM
  #15  
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Well, I'm also one of the people who have managed without a GPS quite nicely -they really aren't essential. But I can't say I've managed without a GPS quite happily -there have been times where I've been lost and spent some frustrating amount of time trying to find my way with bad maps and even worse road signage.

But hang on.... I know some people will say that half the fun of touring is getting lost? The problem here is that I think that only really holds true if you are on a longer tour and/or have the time to do a bit of impromptu exploring (even then, I think if it was getting late at night, I would want to find that campsite or forest!). If I didn't have any time limits -ever -I don't think I'd consider a GPS -but unfortunately I do.

I would like one eventually as I do see the use in them. But again, I've managed to tour successfully without one (e.g. not having a GPS has never stopped me!). Another aspect that appeals to me is that a GPS sounds like it would enable you to concentrate more on cycling. Though I'm a bit of a map nerd, there are times when enough is enough and you just want to keep your head up, enjoy the scenery and pedal.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:21 PM
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Needs to get better.
Compass has no batteries.

Asking locals is better. Prepare yourself to get lost.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Nigeyy View Post
But hang on.... I know some people will say that half the fun of touring is getting lost? The problem here is that I think that only really holds true if you are on a longer tour and/or have the time to do a bit of impromptu exploring (even then, I think if it was getting late at night, I would want to find that campsite or forest!).
But the thing is, I have toured in places like the UK, France and Belgium where there is a mess of little roads everywhere, and Australia where my sense of direction was completely messed up for some reason ... and still managed to find my way around and not get significantly lost using the following things ...

- a general map (not too detailed)
- a compass for confirmation of my hunches
- the location of the sun
- observation and paying attention ... looking for landmarks like church steeples, mountains with unique features about them, etc.
- and occasionally stopping to ask for directions ... and taking the opportunity to chat with the locals.

I think I'd feel constricted and hampered if I had an electronic device telling me what to do and where to go.
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Old 02-16-09, 06:57 PM
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In defense of the GPS..

Long story short: You turn it on, you know exactly where you are. You don't have to carry around tons of maps. GPS's are pretty cheap now, and the better units allow you to pre-load routes and have topo maps.

I've also toured in the US and Europe, and even with a detailed map it's pretty easy to get lost; e.g. roads in rural Ireland are poorly marked. Some folks might like getting lost, but I'd rather not show up at my destination 3 hours late because the road I'm on isn't marked.

I don't think a GPS cell phone is the way to go, though, as it may not have maps pre-loaded. I.e. no service, no maps. A standard GPS will have the maps pre-loaded, so as soon as you acquire a signal, you're all set.

I wouldn't use it as my primary navigation method (batteries drain too fast), but it's an excellent tool if you get lost.


Originally Posted by machka
I think I'd feel constricted and hampered if I had an electronic device telling me what to do and where to go.
So I take it you never read cue sheets?
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Old 02-16-09, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
So I take it you never read cue sheets?
Rarely ... I greatly prefer maps to cue sheets. I find it annoying when I have to depend heavily on a cue sheet.

And even when I create cue sheets for the brevets I run, I will include landmarks and things so it isn't just a list of instructions ... so that people can look for something to help them along.
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Old 02-16-09, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
In defense of the GPS..

Long story short: You turn it on, you know exactly where you are. You don't have to carry around tons of maps. GPS's are pretty cheap now, and the better units allow you to pre-load routes and have topo maps.

I've also toured in the US and Europe, and even with a detailed map it's pretty easy to get lost; e.g. roads in rural Ireland are poorly marked. Some folks might like getting lost, but I'd rather not show up at my destination 3 hours late because the road I'm on isn't marked.

I don't think a GPS cell phone is the way to go, though, as it may not have maps pre-loaded. I.e. no service, no maps. A standard GPS will have the maps pre-loaded, so as soon as you acquire a signal, you're all set.

I wouldn't use it as my primary navigation method (batteries drain too fast), but it's an excellent tool if you get lost.



All excellent points with the last point being the most important. You should never rely on an electronic device for you primary means of navigation. I sail and one of the hardest things to do is to keep your dead reckoning skills in practice. The GPS is just way to easy to use.



Originally Posted by Machka View Post
GPSs have only been around for a few years, but people have been touring by bicycle for over 100 years ... how do you think they managed?
And people sailed the oceans for hundreds of years before the invention of the compass and around a couple thousand of years without a sextant. You can certainly sail without them but most people would never consider it. The GPS is not nearly irreplaceable as a sextant or a compass but it is a very useful tool.

Sure you don't need a GPS for navigating as Machka suggests but it sure makes the job easier and gives you piece of mind.

The two features I like the best is getting a constant feedback of the distance to your next destination. This can be very useful while on tour. Another feature I like is being able to relive your tour. I like to download the tracks to Google Earth and just get a birds eys view of the places I have been. Sometimes I am able to see better routes in case I visit the area again.
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Old 02-16-09, 07:33 PM
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Order some State maps online from the State DOT(IA DOT, MN DOT, etc, they're free) that you are traveling through with those maps you should be able to make it with one eye closed.
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Old 02-16-09, 07:33 PM
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I've got a nice GPS that I bought several years ago and never really learned to use in an effective manner. A GPS unit is a tool, but not the only one.

Whether you use maps, compass, GPS, or whatever, familiarity with how it works is as important as the thing itself. Use it a bunch before you set off for the unknown.

I've noticed that my wife doesn't like to drive in strange places for fear of getting lost. I get lost too, only I've done it so much it doesn't bother me anymore. So part of it's just mental.
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Old 02-16-09, 10:29 PM
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get a compass, maps, and watch (clock)

learn to use them!

enjoy natches-trace and katy trail!!!

Last edited by tomg; 02-16-09 at 10:33 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 02-16-09, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
A question ... do they not teach map reading in school anymore? You're not the first one to indicate that reading maps is/was foreign to you. I could swear it was on the curriculum. Yes, actually, I just checked and students (in Alberta anyway) start learning to read maps in Grade One. I started learning to read maps when I was about 6 or 7 years old.
Yes, reading maps is very important:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

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Old 02-16-09, 11:07 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
In defense of the GPS..

Long story short: You turn it on, you know exactly where you are.
+1
I carry a map, (usually a printout from Google), to navigate and see where I *want* *to* *go*.
But the GPS tells me instantly, where I *am*.
And that is *very* useful when I am on roads I have never traveled before, and I have missed a turn.
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