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Maps---Paper vs. Digital

Old 03-22-14, 03:42 PM
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Maps---Paper vs. Digital

I知 planning a >1500 miles, >2 month self-contained tour that値l involve roaming all over Ireland, N. Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. The start point, end point and several way points are fixed but everything else is indeterminate and flexible.

One problem is that paper maps will likely represent prohibitive space and weight. Vision issues make using a 1.5肺3 screen for navigation problematic, so I知 not wild about limiting myself to a small digital device.

So---the question... Would I be best advised to stick with paper maps (maybe purchased locally as I travel and then mailed home when I知 done with them), make do with a small device or go with an iPad or ~10 netbook?

I致e never done any international touring before and I知 really in the dark on this one. Any knowledge/experience with this type of quandary would be appreciated.
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Old 03-22-14, 03:52 PM
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I use electronic for planning and paper for traveling... usually.

I like paper maps, you can make notes on them, spill coffee, show them to locals and make more notes on them. Plus they provide a written history of your trip. I would typically get a new map every time I crossed into a new state or locale, the old ones would usually get sent home, though on occasion I would give them to someone heading the other way as a gift.

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Old 03-22-14, 04:18 PM
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Get the maps, maybe free from tourist bureaus. Plot the route, then cut and tape the relevant sections together to make a small, folding, continuous map. Back it up with a gps.
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Old 03-22-14, 05:07 PM
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The Automobile Association in the UK produces a wire-bound road atlas of the entire UK (I'm not sure Northern Ireland is included) that is a bit heavy but not prohibitively so. I used it when I tour in the UK (I've done about 4). The ones I like are 3 miles to the inch. They are no good for urban areas but show every road in the countryside. For urban areas, either get a local tourist map or plot a route through before hand and create a turn-by-turn cue sheet. It is best to avoid the big urban areas, anyway.

I usually rip out the pages I'm not going to use, which includes a lot of blurb useful to those driving only.
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Old 03-22-14, 05:08 PM
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My favorite tours were before everyone had to bring a lot of electronic things with them ..

now people cannot leave them home .

so it becomes how old are you? and how attached to those things are you ?..

I have a big box full of paper maps from previous bike tours , marked the roads I took with a Highlighter pen ..

make good souvenirs ..now .. I lent the 4 OS maps of Ireland to a friend, when in Scotland,

she mailed them back when she got home to Japan.


seems the whole electronics thing is popular .. with most of you..

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Old 03-22-14, 05:08 PM
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Both have their pluses and minuses. What about a compromise? Get a tablet PC. That is what I have been experimenting lately.
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Old 03-22-14, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Lacumo
...Vision issues make using a 1.5肺3 screen for navigation problematic, so I知 not wild about limiting myself to a small digital device...make do with a small device or go with an iPad or ~10 netbook?
I can't use little smartphone screens myself, details are too small for my vision too. There are a number of 7" tablets available and about a dozen or so GPS mapping/navigation apps available for cheap or free - I've found these work well, plus make a fairly useful size/weight/battery life for a tour-compatible computing device. I think a 10" tablet or small laptop is probably more than you really need, but still feasible if you don't mind the size+weight.
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Old 03-22-14, 08:32 PM
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We have always relied on paper maps as you get the wider view for route planning each day. You can also have them in a map bag on your handlebar bag for instant reference with no fear the batteries will run out. We now have a large heap of maps of Europe and have used some again when returning. We carry up to 4 maps of the Michellin series and post any used ones home as we finish with them. I don't know if this series is available for your country but these folded maps are less bulky than a wire bound book.
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Old 03-22-14, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Lacumo
Vision issues make using a 1.5”x3” screen for navigation problematic, so I’m not wild about limiting myself to a small digital device.
Can you see the picture of the street map below? I would think it would be real easy but that's just me. Regardless, I tend to not use the map but the "Arrow Picture" listed below.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
Garmin Street View.jpg (14.2 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg
Garmin Arrow Picture.jpg (10.9 KB, 4 views)
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Old 03-23-14, 12:02 PM
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Be flexible and use both. Buy some maps and fill in with electronic.

Take a look at Sustrans Shop :: Welcome to Sustrans' online shop

Riding with sustrans can turn into a bit of a love-hate relationship. Some routes are very interesting others have a total obsession with climbing every hill and turning 3 miles into 7 just to avoid a small section of major road.

7 in tablet for skype, maps and light journaling +1
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Old 03-23-14, 12:19 PM
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even having the map has a memory attached to it .. one I have is a Map of PL
published before the Warsaw Pact Broke up..
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Old 03-23-14, 12:29 PM
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If you could detail your route, at least partially, or in segments, then I would say paper. Use something like google maps and print off the sections detailing the route. If you can only detail sections at a time - plan the next section as you go then print off along the way, if you can access a facility that does/has printing capabilities.

Of course, use a plastic map cover to protect the paper.

If trying to detail the route, even sectioned, is out of the question then I would say an electronic map of some kind would be the way to go. With internet capability on a tablet you can have the same route planning as a computer. There are probably apps out there that will help too, but google maps can do a lot.

The other concern with a tablet is charging. Are you going to be able to keep it charged as you go? Solar charger of some kind maybe?

As to the weight I would say you are going to be on the lighter side with a paper map set than a tablet, mount, cover/case, & power source/charger. Just a thought.
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Old 03-23-14, 02:50 PM
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There's plenty of free offline map applications for Tablets--Maps with Me and OsmAnd come to mind--that will show various business, libraries, parks, etc. when you zoom in enough, plus they allow flexiblity if you decide to change your route. I also use my tablet to preview the video from my helmet cam (no LCD on it), watch other movies on a microSD, and have hundreds of ebooks on it.
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Old 03-24-14, 04:22 AM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser
There's plenty of free offline map applications for Tablets--Maps with Me and OsmAnd come to mind--that will show various business, libraries, parks, etc. when you zoom in enough, plus they allow flexiblity if you decide to change your route. I also use my tablet to preview the video from my helmet cam (no LCD on it), watch other movies on a microSD, and have hundreds of ebooks on it.
Another good app for tablets is MapFactor you only download the maps you need. I don't normally use an electronic device for on bike routing, but it came in handy the other day when a bridge was out and the posted detour was over 12 miles, pulled the tablet out of the seat bag and found a shorter route through a neighborhood that the detour was avoiding.

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Old 03-24-14, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Lacumo
So---the question... Would I be best advised to stick with paper maps (maybe purchased locally as I travel and then mailed home when I知 done with them), make do with a small device or go with an iPad or ~10 netbook?

I致e never done any international touring before and I知 really in the dark on this one. Any knowledge/experience with this type of quandary would be appreciated.
We use paper maps acquired free or for a nominal fee from tourist information centres. In fact, I can tell you exactly where the tourist information centre in Edinburgh is.

You may want to consider picking up some National Cycle Network maps for the area you're considering going.
National Cycle Network | Sustrans

And I have mailed home paper maps when I'm finished with them.

We also carry small netbooks with us now ... just recently started doing that. When we have an internet connection we will look up the route on Google to get a general idea of distance.
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Old 03-24-14, 06:26 AM
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For me it seems paper maps, especially free ones, don't always include some of the back-country roads. They have primary and secondary, but may omit the tertiary roads. Electronic maps, on the other hand, include all roads plus many bike paths and trails. I still carry and use paper, but more and more it's only use is backup. I'm almost ready to ditch paper entirely.

BTW: I use GPS & iPhone. I'm also hoping to eliminate the dedicated GPS in near future too.
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Old 03-24-14, 06:50 AM
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I carry maps and a GPS and use both. I can't stand using the GPS on my Iphone.

That said, my primary navigation tool is hand written notes. These notes comprise a cue sheet with turn by turn directions. The notes are comprised through a number of internet sources and all done pre trip on a leg by leg (day by day) basis. The day's route is in a clear plastic holder on the bars or the map holder on the bar bag. The only time a map comes out or the gps is turned on is when what i'm seeing doesn't match up with what i've written. As well, if i decide to detour for whatever reason i've got the ability to just wonder off to where ever. This entails a lot of pre trip planning. It's old school, but has always worked for me. And if it ain't broke...
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Old 03-24-14, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by tom cotter
I carry maps and a GPS and use both. I can't stand using the GPS on my Iphone.

That said, my primary navigation tool is hand written notes. These notes comprise a cue sheet with turn by turn directions. The notes are comprised through a number of internet sources and all done pre trip on a leg by leg (day by day) basis. The day's route is in a clear plastic holder on the bars or the map holder on the bar bag. The only time a map comes out or the gps is turned on is when what i'm seeing doesn't match up with what i've written. As well, if i decide to detour for whatever reason i've got the ability to just wonder off to where ever. This entails a lot of pre trip planning. It's old school, but has always worked for me. And if it ain't broke...
Have you used that method travelling through the UK?

Having cycled in various parts of the UK, I'm thinking your day's route would be an encyclopedia. There are so many little lanes and roads that twist and turn and snake their way all over the countryside (I'm not even sure if half of them would appear on internet sources, they're that small ... paved, but very small ...) but they're the best routes for cycling because of the low traffic levels ... and they're beautiful.

I did a tour with a very experienced cycletourist and randonneur, born and raised in the UK, and he had trouble finding his way in places, even using detailed ordnance maps. He found that a compass was a very useful tool ... as long as we were generally going the right direction, we'd get there in the end.

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Old 03-24-14, 07:15 AM
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I don't know how well Google Maps works in UK & Ireland, but around here it's... not too good. I might use it for the big picture of the route, but never for detailed route planning. I use GPS as a bike computer (distance and speed) and a backup if I get lost. I do all the actual navigating on paper maps. (Then again I'm still considering joining this new-fangled Facebook thing I hear people talk about).

Maybe narrow it down with Google / GPS, then get paper maps as you go for details? As suggested, mail them home once you're finished that particular section. If you carry a couple of paper maps with you, you'll be able to plan ahead plenty.

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Old 03-24-14, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Juha
I don't know how well Google Maps works in UK & Ireland, but around here it's... not too good.
We didn't find Google Maps to be particularly brilliant when we've travelled through the UK. It'll show the main roads, but gets a bit sketchy as the roads get smaller.
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Old 03-24-14, 07:24 AM
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That's the problem we have here as well... small roads not shown, or nearly non-existing private paths shown as passable roads. Street view and cross checking with other sources helps, but in all it's too much of a hassle right now for detailed planning.
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Old 03-24-14, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Juha
That's the problem we have here as well... small roads not shown, or nearly non-existing private paths shown as passable roads. Street view and cross checking with other sources helps, but in all it's too much of a hassle right now for detailed planning.
By the time you've "street viewed" everything, you might as well have just ridden it.

Plus, if it's anything like it is here in Australia ... the last time Google came through to photograph things for street view was in 2007. Things have changed since then!

We (my UK cycling partner and I, and also Rowan and I) found that the paper maps had more detail and were more convenient to use ... you could pull out the map (again) at yet another intersection and with it and a compass we could figure out where we needed to go.
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Old 03-24-14, 10:28 AM
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I've only traveled in US where Google Maps may be at their best. Even then I've run into snags. But I'm not sure paper would have been any better. Except in one case, where Google gave me bad directions (tried to route me through some fishery or something where they really didn't take kindly to people just wandering through). I had to go pretty far out of my way to get back on track using public roads, and it resulted in my going "off the map." I had downloaded maps all along my planned route, but when my planned route changed by more than a few miles, I ran out of map and was not in an area where my phone could get a signal. I was also in an area where there was basically only one road to take, so it's not like I was going to get lost, but I don't like traveling completely without a map. That could have been solved with a paper map as a backup, but also with just the foresight to download a larger section of maps.

In spite of some glitches, I like digital. My problem with paper is that it either covers too much area, and therefore lacks detail; it covers a smaller area (like a county map) and ceases to be useful in a short amount of time; or it covers a wide area in good detail and is therefore huge. There's still something very satisfying about spreading a large map out on a table and planning out your whole route, but on the whole, I've found that I'm very happy with the versatility of digital maps. On my last multi-day trip, I planned on picking up county maps as I passed through the counties, but, traveling back roads, I failed to find the county maps I wanted until I was about an hour from being beyond the county. I did my trip using digital maps, and I was fine with that.

However, unless you plan on letting Google navigate, I find that digital works best when I plan my route out at home and then follow it. Changing plans en route is easier when it's pencil on paper. Doing it digitally means having some very specific tools on your device.

I've traveled with a full-sized iPad, and I like that for sitting at camp and looking over my upcoming route. For checking progress on the road, and just for packing, it's a little unwieldy. I got a phone with a large screen, thinking that could be my navigation tool, and it may work out great for following my route throughout the day, but even though it's one of the larger screen phones, it's not ideal for looking at a whole day's route in detail. It probably won't convince me to leave my iPad at home. I think the best compromise may be a 7" tablet.

Whatever digital device holds your maps, the one feature I love is the GPS. I have too many memories of staring at cross road sign and trying to find it on my map, wondering if I was even looking in the right place, or if the map had the same names for the roads as the signposts did. And if I started to doubt that I was on the right route and there were no crossroads to be seen, I had no choice but to keep on going until I found a crossroad with signs. Now I pull up my map and look for the dot that represents me. Maybe that takes some of the adventure out of it, but I haven't found my trips lacking in adventure just because I get lost less frequently.
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Old 03-24-14, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
Have you used that method travelling through the UK?

Having cycled in various parts of the UK, I'm thinking your day's route would be an encyclopedia. There are so many little lanes and roads that twist and turn and snake their way all over the countryside (I'm not even sure if half of them would appear on internet sources, they're that small ... paved, but very small ...) but they're the best routes for cycling because of the low traffic levels ... and they're beautiful.

I did a tour with a very experienced cycletourist and randonneur, born and raised in the UK, and he had trouble finding his way in places, even using detailed ordnance maps. He found that a compass was a very useful tool ... as long as we were generally going the right direction, we'd get there in the end.
No, I've never toured the UK and truthfully have no plans to go there.

I have used my methods to tour the U.S. including Alaska, as well as Canada.

In the U.S. I use an atlas known as Gazetteer. Gazetteers are state by state and show not only all the detail but also the topography. These worked well when I was with a motorcycling association that had competitive Easter egg hunt type competitions. So many bonus locations were located on the most obscure back roads, that GPS was useless. For example, even though going over the mountains of west Virginia is faster than going around them, not so much on a 1100 pound motorcycle on mud cow paths the GPS shows as legal roads. Nor would those paths work for a loaded touring bike.

GPS and mapping programs are as likely to route you over an impassable roads. Programming the route to campgrounds less than 50 miles from my house both try to route me onto 15 miles of deep sugar sand roads thru the National Reserve just to my east. I know those roads aren't going to work, but the bike tourist from Michigan doesn't.

For this reason i use all the technology available to us all, combined with old school mapping skills, along with take it as it comes.

Again, if it ain't broke... Works for me.

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Old 03-24-14, 11:19 AM
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I did some map based planning at the University Map Library , the Geography departments would have one.
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