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Do You Turn The Map ?


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When you navigate using a map do you leave the map north up or do you turn the map each time you face a new direction ?


How about the map screen of your GPS ? Do you set it for north up ?


Based on my limited database of personal observation, I have formulated a theory linking gender, map rotation and frequency of getting lost. What are your ideas on the topic ?

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I'll bite...with paper maps I turn them to match the direction I'm going. With a gps unit I have north always "up".


Gender - Male

Frequency of getting lost - (a) in the woods-seldom to never

(:huh: in urban settings (towns over 500 ;) ) often

© malls - every stinkin' time

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My GPS is always set to north up. With maps, I'll usually look at them north up to get the big perspective, but if I'm on a smaller scale, such as looking at a city map, I'll sometimes turn it.


With regards to the gender theory, I saw an article a while back that looked at just such a thing. I'll keep the results under wraps for now.




[edit] Wow, I didn't realize I have almost the same habits as nincehelser.

Edited by Jamie Z
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Wow, I didn't realize I have almost the same habits as nincehelser.

Well, you know what they say about great minds... ;)


What I think is more telling about a person is which concept they learned first in childhood....N/S/E/W or Left-Right.


Personally, I think boys learn N/S/E/W first...I'm not sure why, but it's always seemed to me that they understand maps quicker.


Girls learn Left-Right first, but that's probably because they're more concerned about their shoes :huh:



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I keep my GPS set on "track up". It works better for the rectangular screens on most GPS units. You have more area in front of your location arrow. Maps are oriented "track up" or north up when I need to confirm north, which is seldom.


On a side note. There has been studies done as to why women are more landmark oriented and why men are more spatially oriented, but I won't jump into that frying pan. :huh:

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I was never happier than the day I discovered I could turn the map on my GPS.


I was navigating around a lake and couldn't find my way back to the main road. That's when I noticed the option. Being able to drive and see my track as it pointed in the direction I was heading was a big plus.


Sometimes I switch it back to North up, if the map is turned in a direction that doesn't allow me to see what I want to see, but that's rare.



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Based on my limited database of personal observation, I have formulated a theory linking gender, map rotation and frequency of getting lost. What are your ideas on the topic ?


Well this is interesting. I suppose you need some female responses.


I generally always keep a paper map with north up. My GPS does not have mapping, but I assume I would do the same thing. Turning maps tends to bug me. I will say that I have a good sense of direction and tend to memorize maps before I set out. That is part of why turning the map could mess with me. If I suddenly decide that I need to look at the map, I want it to be in the orientation that I studied. With that said, once or twice when I had a complicated map, and felt that I was losing my sense of direction, I tried turning the map. I can't say that it made a huge difference.

Edited by carleenp
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Track up while driving gets really confusing for me. First I think I moved to Croatia as nothing looks familiar. Second, the map keeps jerking from left to right as the arrow tries to stay straight up.


This is not too bad following a track back to your car in the woods since there's no roads, but it confuses me while driving. You might as well switch to Navigation and follow the arrow on that page skipping the maps altogether.

Edited by Alan2
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Oh, one thing that helps on the Vista map page is that you can have a little bearing arrow at the bottom that shows the direction to the waypoint. So even if the arow is facing west, let's say, if the waypoint is east, the bearing arrow points to the right help to orient you to the directionyou really want to go.

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North is always up. GPSr, paper, plastic, whatever.



Now this guy, I'm not sure about. His direction changes constantly.

I'm not sure if he even knows what direction he's facing, let alone which is north. :D

I think I must have had it facing north when I meant to go south. Woke up to 8" of snow this morning......no caching this weekend :lol:

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On canoe trips in the BWCA, we had no real choice but to turn the map for the direction of travel. What we would do is orient the map with the compass and then lay it on the bottom of the canoe with the compass on top of it, all inside the protective plastic cover. We then simply kept the needle lined up as we crossed the lake and searched for the next portage.

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I normally lay down under the map and look up. It helps shield the sun and make my nap more enjoyable.


On the GPS, I just lay it on the ground and run in circles until I get dizzy. When I fall down - my left leg is normally oriented north. :lol:


Seriously - north up on both (gps and map) typically for me. I'll orient a map to match landmarks if it's easier in a specific situation and I use 'track up' while riding on the motorcycle to make it easier to make out turns coming up with a quick glance - but most of the time - north up for me.

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I keep my GPSr North up. Paper maps are North up 80 % of time. While Kayaking, hiking or driving in unfamiliar areas I frequently view the overall trip area North up then turn the map in the direction of travel to pinpoint my exact location and/or search for a specific location.

When teaching map skills to others or showing others where we are in reference to the map I find it best to orient the map so North on the map is facing North and rotate the map as we turn looking at landmarks.


I am male and have never been lost.


Happy caching. :lol:


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I've always read paper maps with North up, so when I got my GPS, I set it to North up. I tried it a couple of times with Track up, but it was too confusing. I knew I was going east, but when I looked at the GPS, it always indicated going North! Too confusing to me.


I recently installed Mapsend DirectRoute and I think it's a great piece of software, but ... when you tell it to do a street route, it automatically changes you to track up! It'll do the turn-by-turn in North up, but you have to reset it each time you start a route. Maybe they'll fix that in the next release.

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Male - College degree in Geography

I don't get lost. :D

You ain't lived until you've been truely lost, even if only for a little while.

Well, I got lost in a department store when I was about 6 once. That should count.


I remember being extremely terrified. :lol:

Edited by Webfoot
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I usually don't orient my map to the relative terrain. I'll look at the terain and compare it to the map and make notes (cookie crumbs) as to where I'm at. If unsure I'll triangulate and do a field bearing to a map bearing.


But my students when I teach land navigation have to orient the map and learn how to adjust for declination. We don't use an adjustable compass but do it the old fashioned way we convert in our heads. East is least and the truth is greater, which is the rhyme in CO, those Eastern dudes do it the other way.


In simple terms Santa always stays at the Pole, that is the Truth, but those dadgum Irish Leprechauns with those magnets keep moving from pub to pub.

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