I can understand the argument for people that want to use more traditional ways of navigating, such as by compass or paper maps. However, there are so many more advantages of having a GPS. In this blog I will explore the pros and cons of getting such a device.
The GPS that I have is from a company called Garmin, and the model is an “Etrex 30”. Pictured above. They are £173.95 on Amazon.
Before I had a GPS, I used paper maps and did embark on many long distance tours. E.g. London to Wales, London to Margate – both of these being with my father and brother. Also, I cycled solo with paper maps to Brighton, Milton Keynes, Southend on Sea, Oxford and many local routes. However, a lot more planning needed to go into these routes and it was a lot easier to get lost. Plus, the routes had to be straight forward. You can get away with cycling on all these random public paths / bridleways with a GPS miles from your home, that you would not be able to do very easily with paper maps on a bicycle.
Certain GPS’s only allow “breadcrumb” maps, these aren’t the best and should be avoided. They are normally noticable due to being significantly cheaper. The Garmin Etrex 30 (which I believe is the best all around GPS from my research) is very affordable, long battery life, detailed maps can be overlayed onto it (with all world cycle routes) and it only requires 2 AA batteries – AA batteries can be found at most supermarkets, hardware stores etc all across the world.
Other advantages include being able to search and get directions to; campsites, hostels, hotels, supermarkets, fast food places, restaurants local attractions, and train stations. It is awesome. If you’re hungry you can search for the nearest Supermarket or place providing food. If it’s getting late and you haven’t made it to your planned accommodation, you can search for the nearest campsite / hotel / hostel etc.
Also, trying to make your way across big cities – especially late at night,with paper maps is a complete nightmare. This is another strong reason for having a GPS while bicycle touring. Especially in capitals like Paris & Berlin, which sprawl out for miles and miles. There are not many signs indicating where the cycle routes are, and there are too many roads for a touring scale map. Easy to get confused.
You can store many routes on the GPS (100’s I believe), mine currently has over 80. You can get maps for free for the GPS from this Website.
There are also people out there that use a mobile phone, or something similar for navigation. This is also sensible however the main factor against this is the battery life. I read most phones, if you’re using the GPS location feature on google maps – you can maybe get 1 hour max of battery life. With two lithium double A batteries – it can last up to two days on the gps. A lot more than one hour. I believe it’s also more convenient, they are more durable than phones if fall on the floor. They have more satellite technology (Garmin uses: GLONASS – the Russian satellites). I read there are 24 satellites in total, where four at anyone time can be found on your Garmin GPS. With mobiles you also have to consider the cost of roaming data, especially in non EU nations that have high roaming charges. I believe you can get away with using a mobile if necessary, but if you want all the listed benefits then I would strongly recommend buying the mentioned GPS [With all it’s advantages I would probably spend up to £500 on the device, not £175].
Note: If I’m cycling multi-day tours, then I will also print some paper maps of the route. As well as sometimes print screening the route on my phone at different stages of the journey… just in case any problem occurs with the GPS. I don’t think it’s good to be too reliant on an electronical device when you’re in another nation. However I have not had any problems since the GPS was purchased in 2014.