Paper Maps – Pleasure and Purpose

Recently, a friend gave me several paper maps of one of my favorite places, Lake of the Woods.

Nice waterproof maps for LOTW

I find something quite pleasurable and almost magical about looking at paper maps and wondering what it would be like to explore over here or over there and how would I get there. Plus there is a fascination with the markings, symbols, legends and colours. I find paper maps a pleasure to look at and explore.

The rich detail and expansive view of a paper map, in this case a Lake of the Woods chart showing our cottage and surrounding areas.

Now I have nothing against digital maps and the wonders of GPS navigation. I use them in the car, on my phone and yes, it the boat on Lake of the Woods. Digital maps are great at point to point navigation. On the water the digital maps are super nice to avoid all the shallow water and hidden rocks that can so easily “bite” you on the lake.

However, digital maps are not so good for exploring and getting a sense of where things are in relation to the bigger picture. Oh sure you can zoom out and then try if figure out what’s going but the tiny screen real estate makes that pretty hard. Not to mention if the tech breaks or the digital map is a little sketchy in a remote area, that can be a problem if you don’t have a paper map or you don’t know how to use one.

A recent podcast on CBC Spark had a great description of the value of paper maps and I whole heartedly agree with author Meredith Broussard that paper maps tend to support deeper knowledge rather than surface knowledge. Give it a read/listen and see what you think.

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