To prepare for the Seattle Star Course, I’ve been playing with topo maps, Google Maps, and Road Warrior, feeding them different scenarios, and here’s what I’ve concluded:
1) Plan with Road Warrior, but don’t walk with it. As far as I can tell, Road Warrior is really designed for delivery drivers. It’s great for driving on errands in the most efficient order. But when you choose this path or that path to walk to your next point, you’re stretching Road Warrior outside of what it’s designed for. Despite its “walking” mode, it thinks you’re a very slow car and cares nothing about elevation. I fed it scenarios in Seattle and it always dictates the straightest possible line, even up steep slopes, and even when a flatter alternative exists. (Example: In one scenario, instead of a 2.4-mile route with only 100 ft of climb, it chose the more direct 2.3-mile path that climbs almost 400 feet!)
2) Walk with Google Maps on CYCLING mode: Cyclists terrify me on the winding rural highways near my home, where once a year I whizz around a turn at 55mph and suddenly have a near-death encounter with a slow-moving peloton. But DAMN they get things done in Silicon Valley! Because even though Google Maps shows decent awareness of elevation when you ask for directions in walking mode, it rocks at avoiding climbs in cycling mode. Here’s an example: It suggests three routes: 2.2 miles and a 285-ft climb; 2.3 miles and a 108-ft climb; or 2.7 miles and a 49-ft climb. And no traffic either.
In a side bar they provide a graph comparing the climbs:
You still need Road Warrior (or a comparable app) because Google Maps can’t handle your “hit list” of a dozen-plus waypoints. But I’d say that after you order the points in the optimal sequence, you can pretty much leave Road Warrior alone and just glance at it occasionally to reacquaint yourself with the bigger picture. But speaking of the bigger picture…
3) Paper maps. I’m going to use my paper map(s) more. When I’m tired or busy, I want to look at something bigger than my index card-sized phone screen, and whose scale doesn’t zoom in and out to the point of disorientation. And if I have time during halts, I’ll pencil in our macro-level route plan so we’ll have a tangible depiction of our progress through the course.
Ah, map and compass! One of my favourite topics!
I love paper maps, and if I were to use them, I’d probably use a topographical UTM or MGRS map at a 1:25,000 scale, which would give you enough detail, and provide for usually 1km “big” grid squares.
Then there is the art of map-tacking, i.e. using a highlighter to accentuate the important lines on the map, and using a sharpie to write in the grid square numbers on the map, so that they’re not just at the edges of the map, and then penultimately, laminating at home with a roll of roll-on laminate along with a sock to prevent bubbles, and then finally, folding.
However, if you want to go digital, then I’d say, do check out OpenStreetMaps (OSM)–I’ll let you navigate that rabbit hole. As for navigation with a GPS, in general, I prefer a Garmin GPS, although Suunto is great, too. I recently got a Garmin Tactix Charlie watch, having gotten some ear money from the army–it has its flaws, and I’m not sure that I recommend it, but you could pre load it with waypoints etc, and it will last longer than your phone for sure. Additionally, theoretically, you can load things into it from your phone.
When your post goes live on FB, I’ll repost this there for discussion.