Paper maps. Are they still good?

Paper maps. Are they still good?

18 May 2017

We have to admit it: who, amongst us, still carries paper maps in their bag or in their car? More than 75% of Canadians own a smart phone. In no time, you can find an address and follow one of the many given directions. Turn left, turn right. Boom you’re there.

Paper maps are dead, long live paper maps!


Are Google Maps and GPS better than paper maps?

Digital mapping enthusiasts may have announced the death of paper maps too quickly.

“Aux Quatre Points Cardinaux? They still sell paper maps? It still exists?

My digital maps offer way more utility. I can zoom in as close as I want and I can instantly see where I am, wherever I am in on this planet! When I have my device with me, I can walk freely and explore unknown places without caring about where I’m going. If I’m looking for a restaurant, a convenient store or a gas station, all I need is a couple of seconds and I’ll find plenty of places and their exact location. And public transit? Do you have the bus schedules on your paper map? On top of that, my maps are always up-to-date. No need to drag an old, yellowed and wrinkled map with me that’s missing a lot of roads.”

Yes. We could argue that this is partly true. Digital maps do offer a lot of functionalities that you will never find with paper maps.

But first of all, Aux Quatre Points Cardinaux is not a paper purist. We also sell digital maps. We are an official Garmin dealer, the biggest GPS company in the world. That’s because we believe in the power of maps, whether paper or digital.


digital maps are not more up-to-date than paper maps

We have to straight things up a little. Digital maps are not being updated in real time and in that way, they are not more reliable than paper maps. Big companies like Google receive their data from the same place as paper maps companies, which is usually the local Transportation Ministry. If you update annually your paper maps (because you frequently drive in new neighbourhoods), you shouldn’t have any problems finding new roads.

So … why would you buy a paper map over a digital map?


your GPS device or your smart phone can stop functioning anytime

At the store, we frequently hear stories from our clients who had technical difficulties with their electronic devices while they were on a trip. Signal loss, unstable or low cellular reception, the need to charge your batteries in the middle of the day, in a coffee shop or restaurant, technical bugs, robbery…

Once, I even had to give technical assistance by phone to a client who was already in France with a GPS device that wasn’t working. He didn’t have any paper maps and all his addresses were recorded inside his device. His vacations were falling apart.

Hopefully, you can always rely on a paper map.

The worst that can happen to your map is getting wet. Even then, it will still be readable. Moreover, most recent tourist maps are sold laminated or are simply printed on plastic fibre materials that are waterproof and tear proof.


with a paper map, I can create my own itineraries

When you’re travelling, you don’t necessarily want to take the highways. That small country road that follows the sea? Missed it. Your GPS or smart phone directed you otherwise.

And why is that? Your electronic devices give you directions according to algorithms that find the fastest routes between point A and point B. With a paper map, we have the freedom to choose the scenic roads because we see the whole territory and all the roads that cross it, in only one eye movement.

On the small screen of your electronic device, the view is centred on your position. You can zoom out, but doing so hides the smaller roads because it would otherwise obstruct the screen by saturation of information. Yes, you can navigate through the zoomed in maps with your finger, following the roads to know where they lead, but it’s just way too long and frustrating.

And never forget that you can write on your paper maps. Before you leave, you can draw your own itineraries, circle the points of interest that you want to visit and note, while you’re on the move, new addresses that the locals will suggest you.


your paper maps will draw attention

And it’s not a bad thing per se. In a coffee shop, a bar, a small restaurant or on the corner of two roads, opening your map is like sending an invitation to the locals, saying please come and talk to me about your city or your region.

Because yes, there are generous people out there that want you to have to best of times while you live their city to its fullest. Just like they do. Comments and suggestions: better, smaller and less popular addresses, vibrant and less touristic neighbourhoods, free and unusual activities…


paper maps help decrease your travel expanses

How much does a paper map costs? Generally between $6 and $15. If you want to use your smart phone outside its regular zone, roaming data rate plans can be very expensive. A navigation app can also be very data hungry.

As for GPS devices, maps of regions outside North America, like Europe or Asia, cost more than $130. And that does not include the price of the device.


how to remember your trip

To travel is to set sail into an adventure, a great exploration of the unknown. We do it to live new experiences.

What remains of the trip you took last year? Or your first travel a couple of years ago? Nothing but memories … and maybe a t-shirt or a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty that will probably end up in a church basement flea market.

Our memory needs artefacts to bring back what we lived while we were travelling. Road maps are an essential part of travelling. It’s the basis of your movements, your first exploration tool.

Your map will preserve all the pen strokes that you added, the sauce stains that dropped on it or the salt of your sweat that sprayed it while you were running more than 10 minutes to catch your bus.

To open a map is to open a gate to another world. Even decades after your trip.

What are you going to do with your digital maps after your trip?


travel with your GPS, your favourite app and your paper maps

Nothing is black or white. It’s not because you prefer paper maps that digital systems are bad. It’s not because you are now accustomed to use Google Maps or your Garmin GPS that paper maps belong in museums.

Both systems complete each other and in the best of all worlds, every traveller should bring at least a paper map … and then, his favourite electronic device.

You are caught unprepared and you must find a place to sleep for tonight? Mobile app. You have to show the place you are going to a taxi driver? Paper map. Your device is malfunctioning or your batteries are dead? Paper.

GPS or paper maps both take very little space in your baggage.

If you want to use paper maps as a backup for your electronic device, you shouldn’t wait to be abroad to buy them. You never know where your device will stop working. It could be in the middle of nowhere… Besides, it can be hard to find a store that sells paper maps when you’re visiting countries outside of North America and Europe.

So don’t hesitate a moment more. Buy your maps before going on a trip. You’ll definitely find a map for your needs in our online store or in our Montreal shop. We have in stock one of the biggest selection of roads map in Canada.

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