April 3, 2008

Why buy street and road maps?

Sales of road and street maps and atlases have been shrinking for some years, at least in the U.S. Most in the industry attribute this first to MapQuest and other free online map sites, and more recently to the growth of in-car GPS systems (also called SatNav).

It occurs to me that in the outdoor recreation world, we always tell people to bring a map with them on the trail, even if they use a handheld GPS receiver, so why wouldn't the same logic apply to road navigation?

For GPS users: Printed maps provide an overview not possible on a small screen. And electronic devices can fail or lose reception.

For online users: What happens if your plans change or there's a detour? The map you printed online may not serve you well.


Anonymous said...

"... why wouldn't the same logic apply to road navigation?"

Because being lost on the trail can be a safety issue, while being lost on roads is usually a convenience issue.

I am willing to pay for maps that may not be necessary for the sake of safety. I do not consider being lost on the road a big enough inconvenience to pay for maps.

Anonymous said...

Lost on the road is not a safety issue? What about the guy in CA who died trying to hike out after getting lost & stuck? What if you run out of gas, wander into a less-than-desirable neighborhood, etc. Technology has its limitations, a back up is always a good idea.

Anonymous said...

I chose my words carefully, noting that being lost on roads is usually a convenience issue. Driving through the mountains on Forest Service roads in bad weather is obviously dangerous and should be treated as such. Running out of gas is usually due to inattention or poor choices made earlier. I know of no map publisher that shows the location of "less-than-desirable" neighborhoods, do you?

If the intent of the original post was "in the outdoor recreation world, people should have paper maps for road navigation", then I wholeheartedly agree if your outdoor recreation takes you outside of "civilization". If the intent was "in general people should have paper maps for road navigation," and the thinking was the free state highway map is not "good enough," then I disagree.