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deepwater
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05/15/2024 12:10PM  
Hello all!

This post is meant to stir up some friendly conversation around navigation in the BWCA.

Do you always bring a map and a compass into the BWCA and follow it? Do you bring anything else for navigation?

I've been on 25+ trips with about half being solo. I stopped taking a map about 5 years ago and solely rely on mapping software on my cell phone.

You can see your precise location and all of the portages/campsites.

I made the switch when I realized that I spend 5+ days in the mountains elk hunting with only my cell phone maps.

How do navigate and why?
 
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05/15/2024 12:22PM  
Just paper maps here.
 
05/15/2024 12:28PM  
I use both a GPS device and paper maps with a compass.

I like maps because of the larger perspective that I get with just one glance. They also work without batteries and won't fail because of electronic issues (my GPS unit failed in the middle of my last trip). My problem is that I get careless using maps: I forget to take compass bearings for the next leg of the course; I try to navigate by comparing the map features to the terrain & I'm significantly less than 100% successful doing that.

I do prefer using a GPS unit because it always shows me where I am. I don't like it because the small scale makes it inconvenient for route planning and review.
 
05/15/2024 12:39PM  
I navigate by paper map.

I also have maps on my phone using Gaia GPS. I have topos, satellite imagery, campsites, and portages available. I start tracking when we begin our travel and turn it off when we get to our campsite at the night. Otherwise, I don't look at it unless I am unsure about our location on the paper map and want to be certain. This happens rarely.

I wouldn't want to only have my phone, even though it is a very powerful tool. Just like I wouldn't want to have only one copy of a map. Too easy for a phone to end up a the bottom of the lake or a map to blow away in the wind.
 
05/15/2024 12:40PM  
Map & compass, bow & stern.

TZ
 
schweady
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05/15/2024 01:18PM  
Map and compass always. Mostly used for good campsites marked. GPS running to record and save tracks for trip diary. Referred to occasionally, mostly for fishing spots. Navigation mostly by memory on familiar repeat trips. Otherwise, refer to map, then possibly GPS, for quickest route questions.
 
05/15/2024 01:32PM  
Memory and map. Not sure if I've ever used a compass though I always have one with me.
 
05/15/2024 01:33PM  
Always paper maps with compass. Used my phone for GPS one time for the first time last year. Considering using GPS for primary navigation this year. I have a Garmin 65s - anyone used this for BWCA navigation? I also have an inReach Mini 2, maybe it's just better to use that with Garmin Explore app on phone instead of the 65s? Very timely thread for me!
 
05/15/2024 01:48PM  
I always have a map and compass as a backup, and know how to use them, but I only actually use the map for campsite ratings or route overviews with the group. All navigation is done with my Garmin 66i with the Boundary Waters maps. Save for a few moved portages or decom'd campsites, they're accurate for 99% of navigational use. I love having the 66i mounted on the thwart/gunwale, and as a bonus it tracks my trip as well. I'll never not have a map, though, in case of electronic failure (whether it breaks or I lose it).
 
MikeinMpls
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05/15/2024 02:16PM  
Nothing but paper maps for me. I tried a GPS once and didn't like it. I also tried using mapping software another time. I found it interesting and could see where it would be very helpful. That said, I learned to navigate when I was young and have over 40 trips using nothing but a map and compass. I prefer it at this later stage of my tripping life.

Like Ausable said, I fear batteries going dead or me dropping the unit into a lake. If I ever took a GPS, I would certainly have a paper map as a backup.

I always take two different map sets: usually a Voyageur and a Fisher. Occasionally, the terrain for portages or campsites don't match one map but they do the other. I also like to have a map that covers the territory adjacent to my trip in case I have to take a different route back.

My navigation is almost exclusively based on terrain association. I have my compass affixed to my thwart in front of me, secured with velcro, and I usually have it open just to ensure that I am generally going the right direction. I can shoot an azimuth of I need to, but I seldom find it necessary.

And, like schweady, I mark my maps with campsite ratings and other notes prior to the trip.

Mike
 
05/15/2024 02:39PM  
Maps float when you drop them overboard and don't break when you drop them on a rock. Maybe I just need to stop being clumsy ;)
 
05/15/2024 02:43PM  
Always did and always will. But I do carry a GPS unit also.
 
05/15/2024 02:56PM  
I use paper maps only. I do have GPS on my phone and I'm pretty sure we have a compass on us at all times, but I only actually use the maps and mainly to figure out where the campsites are. Sometimes it helps with locating a portage as well, but for the most part I always know where to go due to studying the maps and satellite images ahead of time.

One time when I was turkey hunting off trail, I forgot my phone and didn't have any navigation. It was a little unnerving at first because I was counting on that being my map and compass, but it was actually nice to rely on landmarks and memory alone to get to where I needed to be. When you have your GPS up all the time and know exactly where you're at, I feel like you lose a bit of that spatial awareness and internal mapping.
 
gravelroad
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05/15/2024 04:11PM  
TrailZen: "Map & compass, bow & stern.


TZ"


Reminds me of the time we hunted repeatedly for the inlet leading to the Silver Falls portage on the west side of Cache Bay. I vowed that the next inlet had to be the right one or I would forego supper. Fortunately my sternman didn’t hold me to that. Last time I was that sloppy with navigation. :-)

Still map and compass, 52 years later. Once you’ve drowned an iPhone or watched it crap out in cold temperatures, you will have learned a vital lesson …
 
Savage Voyageur
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05/15/2024 04:48PM  
Yes, I bring a map or two. Yes, I bring a compass. They normally stay in the bottom of my pack. I navigate with my Garmin Montana GPS. Nothing beats a moving map when out on the water. Just point the GPS and the map rotates to the pointed direction.
 
moosedoggie
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05/15/2024 04:55PM  
Map and compass is my primary navigation with GPS as a backup and fishing spot marker.
 
EddyTurn
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05/15/2024 07:00PM  
Savage Voyageur: "I navigate with my Garmin Montana GPS. Nothing beats a moving map when out on the water. Just point the GPS and the map rotates to the pointed direction. "

GPS is perfect to show the current location, but not to aim at a distant point. I might be missing some important skills, but I find it really difficult to aim at something few klicks away using a tiny GPS screen, especially in bright sunlight.
 
OCDave
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05/15/2024 07:26PM  
I take paper maps and a compass, but really only look at them in camp. I plan a route with the map but travel with the picture of the route I carry in my head.

I only use my phone to listen to a podcast in the hammock when I am tired enough to want sleep but the skies are still looking "daylight-ish" .
 
RetiredDave
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05/15/2024 07:28PM  
I solo all the time now, and I bring two sets of maps and a compass. (I came very, very late to smart phones and am still figuring them out).

One time I was fighting wind and I couldn't really stop to check the map. I pulled ashore to rest, but I didn't know exactly where I was on the map. I looked at it, looked at the horizon on the far shore and had a strong gut feeling that I should head one way, but the compass disagreed. I followed the compass reading, and of course the unbiased compass was right.

Dave
 
woodsandwater
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05/15/2024 07:48PM  
Always Fisher Maps and compass.
 
EmmaMorgan
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05/15/2024 08:08PM  
I also always use paper maps, mostly comparing them to the terrain to keep track of where I am and also using compass bearings as needed. I also carry a backup paper map, packed separately from my map case in case I lose the map case. Last year I added the full set of Voyageur Maps digital edition to the Avenza app on my phone, which is also available as a backup, or to be used if I had to reroute and didn’t have a paper map for the area. I sometimes use the app to confirm my location if I get confused, but not for navigation. I would never rely solely on my phone because I don’t trust it not to break. I also don’t want to lose my map and compass skills.
 
05/15/2024 10:01PM  
We Always use 2 different paper maps for navigation. We take a compass but haven’t needed to use it in the last 30 years. Last year we downloaded the Avenza maps. We’ll probably experiment with it next week, but don’t plan on relying on that.
 
bottomtothetap
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05/15/2024 10:16PM  
Banksiana: "Memory and map. Not sure if I've ever used a compass though I always have one with me."


Same here though on occasion I have pulled out the compass I've packed either in foggy weather or to confirm what the I'm discerning from the maps. When in groups I usually have one map per canoe. When In the BWCA I always turn my phone off and leave it back at the vehicle and have never taken it with me into the wilderness.
 
05/15/2024 11:50PM  
moosedoggie: "Map and compass is my primary navigation with GPS as a backup and fishing spot marker."


Same. Love the paper and compass but use my cell and garmin inreach mini for communication/weather and occasional map exporation of sat imagery from the Garmin associated Earthmate app.
 
Dreamer
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05/16/2024 01:58AM  
Only paper. It's part of the nastalgia. I have resorted to Google maps twice to find my exact location. I felt like a failure! I always bring a compass. I have never used a compass.
 
scottiebaldwin
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05/16/2024 03:02AM  
Fisher Maps (always), Mackenzie (better for river routes), iPhone with Gaia for precision, Garmin InReach Mini for safety, and a Nat Geo BWCA East map to peruse while on the pooper. I swear this is the year that I will stash an extra Nat Geo map in a Freezer Ziplock bag and affix it in the bow of the canoe for emergencies.
 
andym
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05/16/2024 03:53AM  
Paper maps because we love maps. One set in the bow and one set in the stern so we don’t fight over them. And so we can discuss where we are. Definitely both have compasses because we are geologists. But have only used them once to take a sighting in the evening to prep for a foggy morning. But it was clear.

We also take a gps because my wife likes navigation devices. But if you are going to rely solely on electronics, add floatation to them. We had a gps go overboard and it sank fast.
 
05/16/2024 04:52AM  
Map and compass are always in my thwart bag and get peeked at occasionally during a large lake crossing to keep myself oriented on the map as a back up.

With that being said I download a GPX route from PP to Garmin connect and literally can look at my watch in map mode to view where I am via the PP track.

Worked excellent on the last 5 day trip I just got back from, my partner was just shaking his head as it was spot on for every track/portage/campsite.
 
05/16/2024 06:07AM  
Map and compass, but I’ve never taken the compass out and used it.

I only use my phone for the camera.
 
tumblehome
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05/16/2024 07:35AM  
paper maps only for me.

I have a compass and have used it quite a bit actually. I was turned around on a large Quetico lake in heavy overcast. My gut told me to go one way and I got turned around. My compass told me otherwise. I used the compass to get back on track.

I also have done a fair amount of bushwhacking between lakes and a compass is compulsory for travel in the woods without a portage trail.

I think many people don't use a compass because they are unfamiliar with using them. A good place to start is to go to an open field, football, baseball, whatever. Walk in a big square using paces and your compass turning 90' each time. See how close you can return to your starting point.
Tom
 
TreeBear
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05/16/2024 09:38AM  
Paper map and compass only. Usually Voyageur first and McKenzie second for me. If I am doing a PMA trip, I print and laminate air photos (usually sourced from the county gis maps) and have found it absolutely a dream to navigate by. The best of our "normal" paper maps leave me guessing at best at shoreline shapes or water levels once I'm off the main routes.
 
bottomtothetap
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05/16/2024 09:59AM  
If we have multiple canoes and a map in each canoe, I like doing a mix of Fisher, Voyageur and McKenzie. Each of them give a slightly varied "look" from the others and sometimes show perhaps a campsite or island that is not seen on all of those different maps.
 
YardstickAngler
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05/16/2024 10:33AM  
Another vote for map and compass, my phone is only for photos, reading, maybe a podcast. I’ve been lost three times in two years (all on the water, not in the woods), and consider the unplugged aspect of map and compass navigation to be part of the BWCA experience.
 
JimmyJustice
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05/16/2024 10:46AM  
ducks: "Map and compass, but I’ve never taken the compass out and used it.
I only use my phone for the camera. "


+1...but someday I should practice my compass skills to see if I remember how to use it for something other than general direction.
 
Stumpy
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05/16/2024 11:29AM  
Is there something other than a paper map ?
 
gravelroad
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05/16/2024 11:58AM  
Stumpy: "Is there something other than a paper map ?"


I couldn’t resist. ;-)

True North Map Co. cloth maps
 
05/16/2024 12:04PM  
I'm with Yardstick, I use a map & compass and I do use the compass to home in on portages, get across lakes with a lot of islands and bays etc. I never would bring a cellphone at all except it is the best way to take pics these days. I've never had a GPS or anything of that sort, and I am sure not staring into my cell phone during a sojourn across a lake.

Stupid question perhaps, what happens when you fumble and drop your phone in the lake or a puddle in the bottom of your boat, aren't you dead in the water so to speak. I wouldn't take the chance of that, and I like having a map I can make notes on, good fishing spot, campsite... I embrace technology as much as I can hack, the cellphones are amazing and all, but something that I like to get away from on a canoe trip, not have it pinned to my hip all the time like is necessary in regular life.
 
chessie
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05/16/2024 01:15PM  
TrailZen: "Map & compass, bow & stern.


TZ"

Ditto that!
 
IndyCanoe
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05/16/2024 01:43PM  
l use a a combination on the paper map and my phone as a GPS unit. I would say that i mostly rely on my phone for the navigation. I do keep the map for the day in a map case accessible to view while paddling. I like that overview look as we move from lake to lake. Like you i have considered leaving the paper maps behind. I do find that i enjoy looking at the map as we paddle and identify landmarks but also pulling them out in the evening to plan the the next day.

 
cmanimal
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05/16/2024 02:22PM  
Yes, almost exclusively. The only time I recall using GPS on my phone was to see where we were at on the grand portage.

I've used the map with a compass a few times, mostly on large lakes to plot a course to avoid paddling in the ditch to cross the lake.
 
05/16/2024 02:54PM  
Map and compass for me. I like the simplicity and traditionalness of it.
 
05/16/2024 03:53PM  
Map and compass for me. I like the big picture of a map and not worrying about battery issues. For backup I pack my handy sextant.
 
Z4K
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05/16/2024 07:46PM  
Fisher Maps. I also like Mckenzie and True North. I keep a compass on my pfd but rarely look at it. GPS/Camera is always within reach but I try to not use it for anything but photos. I do, however, really enjoy that it tags my photos with gps coordinates.

Cordless drills recently became popular for running ice augers and they were quickly banned from the BWCA. Drones were also quickly banned. Modern forward-facing sonars were quickly banned from some competitions but remain legal in the BWCA. Laptops, ice fishing flashers and other small electronics have electronic motors in them but the USFS looks the other way. The line is only clear when it relates to making observable mass spin. GPS and satellite communications units wouldn't ever be banned for safety reasons, but should there ever be another line drawn? I am not aware of any weight- or type-restrictions on batteries. How many years before that becomes an issue? What about solar panels? I'd hate to be paddling across Knife Lake and run into 100 square feet of solar panels staring south across the lake because someone is John Galt-ing their work-from-home job for the summer. What if they capsize on the way out with 300# of batteries and various electronics that are not fully recovered? We are currently on that trajectory.
 
Savage Voyageur
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05/16/2024 08:34PM  
EddyTurn: "
Savage Voyageur: "I navigate with my Garmin Montana GPS. Nothing beats a moving map when out on the water. Just point the GPS and the map rotates to the pointed direction. "

GPS is perfect to show the current location, but not to aim at a distant point. I might be missing some important skills, but I find it really difficult to aim at something few klicks away using a tiny GPS screen, especially in bright sunlight. "


Well my GPS I talked about above has a large touchscreen, 4” diagonal screen so it’s pretty easy to read. It has a crystal clear enhanced colors and is Sunlight readable. If you calibrate your compass your maps will read accurate to where you are pointing it. It also has a point and shoot feature. You just point it at a distant point you want to paddle to and hit a button and it will draw a line to the point you are heading to. When you reach that point and need another distant point you just shoot another point. The map you are following will show you if you deviate off the line. The Montana 700 model has a 5” diagonal screen.
 
05/17/2024 08:32AM  
Savage Voyageur: "
EddyTurn: "
Savage Voyageur: "I navigate with my Garmin Montana GPS. Nothing beats a moving map when out on the water. Just point the GPS and the map rotates to the pointed direction. "

GPS is perfect to show the current location, but not to aim at a distant point. I might be missing some important skills, but I find it really difficult to aim at something few klicks away using a tiny GPS screen, especially in bright sunlight. "


Well my GPS I talked about above has a large touchscreen, 4” diagonal screen so it’s pretty easy to read. It has a crystal clear enhanced colors and is Sunlight readable. If you calibrate your compass your maps will read accurate to where you are pointing it. It also has a point and shoot feature. You just point it at a distant point you want to paddle to and hit a button and it will draw a line to the point you are heading to. When you reach that point and need another distant point you just shoot another point. The map you are following will show you if you deviate off the line. The Montana 700 model has a 5” diagonal screen. "


I feel like this is useful but at the same time we are losing something with this level of guidance. I like it when my phone loses signal and I can no longer download maps for my GPS. Don't get me wrong, I download maps for offline viewing, but not zoomed in to any level of detail. Pretty much just so I can tell if I'm on the wrong lake, which only happened one time!

There's just something about getting around with only waxed paper to tell you where you are going.
 
ockycamper
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05/17/2024 09:08AM  
I take the map for the area our teams go, and have that area blown up and laminated for each canoe. Then we mark them for the best camp sites and fishing spots.

However, the maps are mainly used in camp to decide where to paddle to each morning. Everyone uses GPS

I am amazed that the majority on this thread are still using just paper maps. . . .and yet used GPS vs paper map to drive to the BWCA. Just a thought!
 
straighthairedcurly
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05/17/2024 09:21AM  
For the BWCA, I only use paper maps with a compass just for general verification. While GPS is great for confirming exact location, I get frustrated with the perspective on the map itself. It doesn't give me the view that my brain needs. In addition, every GPS unit I have ever seen for sale has a disclaimer that you should still have a map and compass for back up. Electronics fail. They can get lost (yes so can a map, but I always have a spare in the bottom of a pack).

I remember going for a hike in a TX state park one time. We had a paper map for the hike. About 15 minutes from the trail head we came across a panicked group of 20 somethings. "Do you know where the trailhead is?" First of all, there were about 5-6 trailheads, but I took a stab and said "Which one? The one that has a maroon Jeep parked at it?" "YES! How do we get there? Our phone died that we were using to navigate."

After we set them off with written directions and a hand drawn map, I turned to my son and said, "I hope you're never that stupid." He assured me he isn't and would always at least have a paper map as back up.

Electronics are good until they aren't and having only a single way to navigate is a good way to end up in trouble some day. Best IMO is to have both GPS and a map.
 
Minnesotian
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05/17/2024 10:09AM  

Yep, still use paper maps and pretty exclusively only paper maps. There is something about setting a compass reading in the early morning when the lake is so socked in with fog you can't see the far shore, let alone not being able to see 10 feet ahead, and knowing you will get there because of that compass and map setting.

For some places I'll take a backup map, like Quetico. There I bring in the Fisher Maps, but have the Chrismar map as well, mostly for the portage locations, but if in a pinch could navigate with that one too.

I do bring in a GPS as well, mostly for a backup to the backup, but also if I am bushwhacking. Stuck in those thickets of trees and not seeing 5' in any direction, and it is a cloudy day, it's nice to have the GPS along for verification of location.

However, bringing only one way of navigation and no other navigational aid is a recipe for disaster. I have seen my fair share of cameras, phones, sunglasses, etc. go over the side of the boat, including paper maps caught by the wind. In my pack of 10 essentials, of which navigation is one of them, I try to have a backup to each one, depending on the trip.
 
MikeinMpls
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05/17/2024 10:21AM  
Dreamer: "Only paper. It's part of the nastalgia. I have resorted to Google maps twice to find my exact location. I felt like a failure! I always bring a compass. I have never used a compass."


Love this. Same for me. Completely agree

Mike
 
papalambeau
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05/17/2024 10:25AM  
MikeinMpls: "
Dreamer: "Only paper. It's part of the nastalgia. I have resorted to Google maps twice to find my exact location. I felt like a failure! I always bring a compass. I have never used a compass."



Love this. Same for me. Completely agree


Mike"


Same for our crew. Paper maps in all three canoes - 3 different brands.
 
Jefflynn06
member (39)member
  
05/17/2024 10:38AM  
Only maps - one for bow, one for stern. Always have a compass but haven't used it. Don't own a GPS (or have one downloaded) and only use phone for photos when I'm out there.

To me, there is a skill (and pleasure) in being able to look at a map to define geographical structures/information and then identify it on land or water. Even when maps have the portage or campsite slightly off, it comes down to being able to coordinate map information with what nature is showing us.

Use clock coordinating language to communicate (small island at two o'clock, portage should be at about ten o'clock as we pass the point, etc.) while on the water.
 
05/17/2024 11:28AM  
I always use maps when I'm up there and teaching my kids to do the same. Only been a little off track once, and got that figured out pretty quickly. I do have a GPS on my phone as a backup, but don't recall having used it.
 
Stumpy
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05/17/2024 01:10PM  
gravelroad: "
Stumpy: "Is there something other than a paper map ?"



I couldn’t resist. ;-)

True North Map Co. cloth maps "


Nice !
 
HowardSprague
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05/17/2024 11:09PM  
I use a McKenzie map. As a backup, i have a Fisher map. And also maybe a Voyageur map. And maybe a QuietWild map. I also bring a compass but rarely use it.
I’ve never needed to keep my maps charged.
 
05/17/2024 11:19PM  
I still use maps. Reasons are to save phone battery for emergencies, avoid dropping my phone in the water, and because when I'm out there maps just seem more appropriate. It's kind of like how some people prefer wood gunwales or cooking over a campfire.

But I will say that as I get older and more reliant on GPS for most travels, I find maps less intuitive than I used to.

Last year I also used my Garmin watch just to look at my track and stats after I got home.
 
WapsiBanks00
member (23)member
  
05/18/2024 08:04AM  
I love maps. Not sure I can explain it - if my phone wasn't my only camera I wouldn't bring it. We've gotten off track a few times, but as someone also noted, I think it was part of the experience. Always have a compass, but rarely use it - more or less just to make sure I do know how to use it. The old salts that got me started, to whom I owe so much, started using GPS units in the early 2000's but switched back to Fisher and McKenzie maps. I think largely because it wasn't much fun sitting around the camp looking at a GPS screen. I need my maps to get me through the winter - where to next year?
 
TylerMN
  
05/18/2024 08:21AM  
Can’t imagine not having maps. Less cumbersome when you’re sitting in a canoe. I have the map propped up so I can check as I paddle anytime I want. Whipping out a phone makes you stop. I use onx for literally everything other than canoe trips. Once in awhile on the more overgrown/less used portages I have taken out the phone and checked onx which does come in handy for sure. Other than that, maps all the way. I always keep a compass for quick checks on landmarks but typically don’t need it
 
05/18/2024 08:36AM  
One of my cherished possessions is a small suitcase full of maps with notes and other markings. I always take and use a compass as well. I remember the first time I went to Lake One decades ago, I am not sure I would have found Lake One from the put in without trusting the compass!
 
JohnGalt
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05/18/2024 11:59AM  
I carry maps & a GPS (since I’ve been traveling solo). Usually I just rely on the maps & topographical features though the GPS is a good backup especially in low light (I like traveling long paddles at night). Speaking of…I’m not sure where my GPS went over the winter haha
 
OldGuide2
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05/18/2024 12:04PM  
My go to maps are an old set of US government geological survey maps from the 1950s that I have marked up. I like them because they are extremely accurate (the scale is different) and they have a lot of old information (old cabins, resorts, etc.) that are not on newer maps. They also are topographical. Years ago I was told the original Fisher maps were made from copies of the government maps. Because some of these older Fisher maps were not very accurate we used to joke that the Fisher mapmakers had grabbed an ink pen and shaken it to indicate islands. I do not really use my maps to get to most places as i know them, instead they are a reminder of history. In the Canadian bush I have used Canadian maps and, of course, a compass. GPS has made much of this obsolete and is helpful in marking fishing spots on big lakes, but I find it amusing that folks are wailing about cell phones in the BWCA while using GPS devices or cell phones to navigate. It does raise an interesting question for BWCA purists about whether using GPS is in keeping with a "true wilderness experience."
 
RodPortage
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05/18/2024 04:07PM  
I'm surprised to see how many people don't use maps. Looking at the map is one of my favorite parts of the trip. But I'm also surprised by the number of people who use maps but not compasses. Maybe it's because I do a lot of big water, or because I like to take something close to the shortest path, but I can't imagine how I would have navigated LLC, or parts of Crooked, or Little Sag, or lots of others without my compass. I keep the map case BDB'd to a thwart, with a compass tied to the map case, and I look at them a lot.
 
JohnGalt
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05/18/2024 11:04PM  
RodPortage: "I'm surprised to see how many people don't use maps. Looking at the map is one of my favorite parts of the trip. But I'm also surprised by the number of people who use maps but not compasses. Maybe it's because I do a lot of big water, or because I like to take something close to the shortest path, but I can't imagine how I would have navigated LLC, or parts of Crooked, or Little Sag, or lots of others without my compass. I keep the map case BDB'd to a thwart, with a compass tied to the map case, and I look at them a lot. "


I too enjoy looking at the physical maps, something nostalgic about it. Usually the compass stays in the thwart map case though it has saved my bacon a few times with heavy early morning fog.
 
jsmithxc
member (46)member
  
05/19/2024 04:22AM  
I use maps and compass exclusively. Having said that it has been so many years since I needed a compass that I am not sure how to use it anymore. I always have my map in front of me in the canoe and am always checking my whereabouts. I am a firm believer in "staying found", I like to know where I am at all times.I do have quite a few years of experience and "read" the landscape pretty well. People make fun of my map obsession but they also want me to navigate as well.
 
fun4dad2
member (37)member
  
05/19/2024 06:26PM  
Great discussion! It got me to thinking.... (Anyone smell smoke?)
This is long and bit philosophical, so good luck, or just scroll down to the next post.

The big question is Map or GPS? Or some combination.
Let's look at some pros and cons of each.

Maps: Never need recharging. Assuming they are waterproof, they are pretty much indestructible unless you get careless with your campfire or stove, and hopefully anyone reading this is not that... ahem, stupid. Or clumsy.
They are great for looking at the "big picture" of where you are and where you want to head to next.
Cons for maps are that you have to be able to read one. If you have no idea what that blue area is, or why there are red lines with "112 rd" it will be useless. Now, if you can't handle that, you probably would not be able to use a GPS device effectively anyway.
You also have to keep track of where you are. The map does not have the handy "you are here" on it.

GPS: Normally pretty accurate for determining right where you are. I will say, I had a Garmin from.... 20 years ago?... and it was consistently off by anywhere from 50 to 150 meters. It had me up on land when I was on a boat. But, it would have been close enough that I could tell I was on Cirrus and not Quetico as an example.
If you have a reasonably modern device it can give you the track of your trip for looking at again in the dark days of winter - on a map! LOL That is a nice feature, and probably fun.
Cons for GPS: You have to charge them. Batteries die. Electronics break. Most models - I think - would sink pretty rapidly. Some are hard to read in bright sunlight, but I don't know about every device.

We can all probably go on and on about the pros and cons. I have listed a few. But what about esthetics?
Several people have brought up the idea of "the wilderness experience." One of the many reasons I go to canoe country is to get away from modern life. Oh, sure, I own a jetboil stove, and good tent, but is that too modern? Not for me. I want to be able to make my cup of coffee in the morning even if it is raining, and also not risk burning down my beautiful campsite.
I personally use a map. I have always loved maps. I learned how to use one in the Boy Scouts, and was again "reminded" many times in the military. I look at paper maps, or online on a "real" computer (as in, a screen large enough for these old eyes to see!) whenever I need to see where something is or how to get that. I do use my GPS on my phone while driving - but I am not having a wilderness experience while driving. I am good with that. Once I put my butt on the canoe seat, I want to leave behind all the noise and hullabaloo of city living.

"But I am not good with a map." Or, "I am worried, or just nervous about getting lost." I get it. Some people are just not comfortable trusting themselves to stay aware of their location on a map. My wife - who unfortunately does not accompany me on my trips - wants to know I am safe, and when I started taking our son along, she insisted I get something like a Garmin inreach. I use that. Once a day I hit the "here I am and all is good" button (no, not that simple, stop quibbling!). It sends her the message, along with GPS coordinates. I include my self in those, and also the contact person for anyone else going along with us. I use those coordinates to look at on my PAPER! maps when I get home, and relive some of the trip, and also mark up ideas for future trips. It can do two-way communications, but I don't use that. It is my safety device in case of emergency, but I don't use it for anything else.

Cell phones have really good cameras these days, and I do use mine for that purpose. It stays on airplane mode the whole trip, and is turned off at night to save battery. I have NO interest in what is going on "in the real world" while I am out there. Nothing I can do to help anyone else anyway. I try to stay focused on the here and now, and don't worry about my taxes, or which clown will be elected next, or the stock price of IBM. None of that matters - to me - while I am paddling, and fishing, and doing my camp chores.

So what do YOU use? Depends on you. I like my paper maps and they work for me. You mileage will vary.
 
05/19/2024 06:52PM  
ockycamper: "...I am amazed that the majority on this thread are still using just paper maps. . . .and yet used GPS vs paper map to drive to the BWCA. Just a thought!"

I am map/compass guy. Even in the car I don't have gps. Once I stopped near Cleveland at my sister's place en route to D.C. Before we left I took out my atlas and checked my route. My sis laughed out loud! She said "You use paper maps?!?" I told her I never had a paper map die on me.
 
05/19/2024 07:46PM  
I use GPS for most car navigation but still carry paper maps for larger overview. Having used car GPS extensively for medical deliveries to locations off - and sometimes way off - main roads, I can assure you they are not infallible. So it amazes me that some people only use GPS in the BW and don't carry maps.
 
MinnesotaJenny
member (27)member
  
05/20/2024 09:27AM  
Hi to all the people who bring their phones and gps and use them during the trip, how do you keep it charged? Thanks
 
Bromel
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05/20/2024 01:33PM  
With all due respect, I think it is a little foolish to rely only on one electronic device for navigating. Too much can go wrong. You can soak it in the lake, batteries could die, software could glitch.... We always bring two sets of maps.
 
05/20/2024 02:56PM  
Banksiana: "Memory and map. Not sure if I've ever used a compass though I always have one with me."

+1

I love maps in general and miss my Rand McNally atlas that used to be in every car I owned. I have made the switch to cell phone navigation on roads, but not anything else yet.
 
05/20/2024 03:18PM  
Paper map and AllTrails GPS. I mostly just use the paper map and only use the phone if I am lost, perhaps in a bay looking for the portage.

I like recording my trips and find them helpful on long days to see how quickly we are moving. Helps determine estimated time to get to our destination. And it's fun to look back at saved routes - to see how straight we paddled, things like that.

I love sitting in my hammock at camp looking at the paper map after a long day. 'You are here'.
 
EmmaMorgan
senior member (64)senior membersenior member
  
05/20/2024 05:39PM  
MinnesotaJenny: "Hi to all the people who bring their phones and gps and use them during the trip, how do you keep it charged? Thanks "
I think most bring a small power bank, like those made by Anker, Nitecore or Goal Zero. I use a Nitecore NB10000 on my trips.
 
05/20/2024 08:06PM  
EmmaMorgan: "
MinnesotaJenny: "Hi to all the people who bring their phones and gps and use them during the trip, how do you keep it charged? Thanks "
I think most bring a small power bank, like those made by Anker, Nitecore or Goal Zero. I use a Nitecore NB10000 on my trips. "


You can also reduce the power a phone uses by using airplane mode and turning off many things.
 
MississippiDan
member (48)member
  
05/20/2024 10:13PM  
I take paper maps that I used for planning along with a compass. These show potential campsites, points of interest, and general route. They are handy around camp for discussing plans.
I use a GPS from the stern with a custom made map. On a lake I set the navigation to the next portage. I can stay on course or paddle around just to see different scenery then easily get back on course. Saved time finding the portage on one very foggy morning.
I carry extra lithium batter and a small power bank for backup power.
 
MidwestMan
distinguished member (261)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/21/2024 10:12AM  
Now this is a thread where age is absolutely relevant.
 
hairtux
member (9)member
  
05/21/2024 02:49PM  
boonie: "
EmmaMorgan: "
MinnesotaJenny: "Hi to all the people who bring their phones and gps and use them during the trip, how do you keep it charged? Thanks "
I think most bring a small power bank, like those made by Anker, Nitecore or Goal Zero. I use a Nitecore NB10000 on my trips. "



You can also reduce the power a phone uses by using airplane mode and turning off many things. "


I have a phone that has an extreme battery saver mode which gets me through all trips without needing to recharge. But still mostly rely on cloth maps from True North and use Gaia on the phone when I'm unsure about something.
 
05/23/2024 06:22PM  
I bring map and compass. I don’t generally bring my phone, I leave it in my glove box, turned off, ready for use on the drive home. I bring a small digital camera, a fitness tracker, and an e reader, and can keep them all charged for 14 days with one stick bank. I also have an inreach, but I only turn it on briefly for nightly check ins. Our trips are long, and I like paper maps. If anything went truly pear shaped a physical map seems much better! Lately I’ve been thinking two sets of maps would be better…..

The compass generally stays in the first aid kit. I almost never need it.
 
MinnesotaJenny
member (27)member
  
05/23/2024 06:40PM  
Wow thanks, what a great point because things look so different as the light changes and the weather but as you said with the next portage programmed, it is less likely one would get disoriented
 
05/25/2024 12:38PM  
I'm a bit surprised at the number of people carrying a paper map but who have their compass stashed. My map and compass reside in a map case on the bottom of the canoe. The map is folded so that most, if not all, the day's travel appears in the window of the map case. My compass is positioned so that the baseplate is aligned with map North. I rotate the map case so that my intended direction of travel on the map is aligned with the keel of the canoe, and we paddle in a path that keeps the North end of the compass needle aligned with map north ("red in the shed", for us older map aficionados). If we go around a shoreline point, I rotate the map case so that, again, my direction of travel on the map is aligned with the keel.

My wife usually carries an older map that is marked up with campsites, portage comments, etc. Her compass is also in her map case.

TZ
 
schweady
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05/25/2024 01:55PM  
My paper maps are in the map case, strapped to the thwart in front of me for quick reference. My compass is strung around my neck, but it seems that it mostly acts as some sort of talisman. Mostly brought out for reassurance while traveling or to check bearings from a campsite. My trademark sunburned neck bears a white line from the thin cord after every trip.
 
andym
distinguished member(5360)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
  
05/26/2024 01:25AM  
TZ, that’s a very clear method for using your compass. I just haven’t found that to be needed in the BW. There are generally enough landmarks to keep track of where we are. I would do something like that if we were crossing a large lake far from shore but we don’t tend to do that. Even then, I think I would shoot an azimuth and pick a landmark to aim at. If there are no clear landmarks, which can be an issue in areas of low topography such as parts of the BW, then I would keep checking the azimuth. There are just a number of ways to navigate.
 
TuscaroraBorealis
Moderator
distinguished member(5708)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
  
05/26/2024 06:31AM  
cowdoc: "Maps float when you drop them overboard and don't break when you drop them on a rock. Maybe I just need to stop being clumsy ;)"


Not trying to be argumentative or speak against paper maps but, I actually had my map sink once on Wagosh Lake.

The wind took it just after I had opened it up & set it down. It certainly didn't sink like a stone but by the time we'd paddled over it was too far underwater to retrieve. Still, I always have a paper map & backup along.
 
DougG3
  
05/26/2024 12:28PM  
I still use maps in a map case, attached to my canoe or pack. Great for a larger perspective and campsite notes. I also use Navionics/boating app on my iPad for marking fishing locations. This could also be used for route navigation if necessary, but I still prefer the maps.
 
05/26/2024 02:22PM  
I love maps! Always have, always will. Just like I love books; I have a Kindle, but I hate it-and only use it in the BW/Quetico.
 
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