Inland Crossing

Low Tech Navigation – The Road Atlas

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IMG_0834aIn a world of high-tech navigation options at one’s disposal, it’s often easy to overlook the need for a backup means of finding one’s way around. GPS in purpose-built devices, as well as in phones, tablets, and computers only go so far in reliability and showing the whole picture.

One concern of course, is what to do when a device fails – either from a component perspective, loss of power, or from a loss of signal. Another real concern is the susceptibility of the device to theft while left in a vehicle or elsewhere. If someone breaks into a vehicle and takes the GPS, chances are they’re really not lost and are apt to ignore the road atlas on the back floorboard.

While I’ve become heavily dependent on my GPS, I’ve found that a plain old map or road atlas is much better for seeing the big picture. I can open a map on the hood of the Jeep and see the whole state in a single view. Zooming out a GPS for the same perspective obliterates all but the major interstates and largest cities. Zooming in to show detail entails repeated scrolling in what is believed to be the right direction, since the objective or the outcome of a route isn’t readily apparent when only a tiny sliver of the overall map is shown. A single view of the map shows me my best route to where I want to go, which can then be handed off to the GPS for determining the best path to get there.

For additional detail, I’ll also carry around a Gazetteer that shows forestry roads, unmaintained roads, and sometimes trails. Used together with a GPS, a road atlas or map is a required reference for any road trip or expedition.

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