I’ve been using ViewRanger for over a year now and absolutely love it. Naturally, as part of this, I find myself talking about it quite a lot and recommending it to my friends. Through this I noticed the same question coming up time and time again – “but it’s not as reliable as a paper map is it!’. Bearing in mind I have some bias given my existing links with ViewRanger; I took it upon myself to do a fair bit of pondering (from both sides) before addressing the matter. So here are my views on the subject:
They are different things:
First off, and most importantly, I don’t think the two should be compared side by side directly. Yes, they serve a similar purpose concerning helping you navigate, but ViewRanger is so much more than just that. For me, one of its primary uses is for finding new routes and following them. I love that I can download a quick route over my lunch break to follow later, or go for a weekend away and know that I don’t need to invest in an entire guide book. As well as being a guide it also gives me all the statistics of my journey as they happen. All of this should not underestimate the value of a similar paper map – it’s just different, which leads me nicely to my next point.
Use common sense:
If I know I am going to be out for more than 8 hours, of course, I carry a paper map as well as using ViewRanger on my phone. I know that batteries die, and screens smash but similarly, bad weather can cause a paper map to disintegrate or blow away – it’s all about careful planning and thinking things through. In the same way, you should pack an extra layer just in case of emergency, if you are heading out somewhere remote you should also have that same backup regarding navigation – in my mind, it is common sense.
Map reading skills:
Looking at this as someone who has been brought up with maps and learnt about map reading in school, it’s easy to see the value of a paper map. However, these skills just aren’t taught nowadays – which is a real shame. For people who are new to outdoor recreation whose navigation skills are limited, ViewRanger provides a great introductory platform to learn about and familiarise yourself with maps. Getting used to following a route on the app with your location shown and tools like the direction arrow allows people to get accustomed to seeing the various symbols and signs. It must also be noted that for these individuals being stuck in the hills with just a paper map (which they can’t locate themselves on) is potentially more dangerous than using a smartphone.
Making the outdoors more accessible:
Finally, I believe one of the wonderful things about ViewRanger is it makes the outdoors more accessible. Smartphones are now a significant part of most people’s lives and, while I’m not advocating we stayed glued to them, apps like ViewRanger introduce the outdoors to a new tech-savvy group that maybe would have not previously headed out exploring.
So for those of you who asked me this question, I hope this has given you a bit more clarity. None of this is meant to knock the value of a paper map or place ViewRanger alongside it for direct comparison. My main point still stands – ViewRanger is a fantastic tool for adventure, it facilities so much and when used with common sense and good judgement, can open new doors for lots of different people.