Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Add another vote for maps from Caltopo.com. I technically do carry a GPS (my phone), but I try not to let myself use it. It runs down the battery, and it's not really necessary with good map reading skills anyway. I rarely use a compass either, but I do carry a cheap one, and I have practiced using it just in case. For folks that hike off trail, or on snow, compass skills are more important.
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.
I only use maps. Because I hike in mountains, mostly above timber, I can see landmarks very well, therefore, I quit taking a compass years ago. I take a combination of the original USGS 7.5 minute topos and printed ones using the old TOPO program. I have used maps forever. Trained as a geologist, I am really good at maps and do not need a GPS.
My husband, who really has trouble reading maps, uses a GPS. It has been a real breakthrough for him. He likes gadgets, and now will get out the GPS and use it a lot and has become much more aware of his surroundings. For him, the GPS makes total sense.
We have games; when camped off trails, who can find our way back to camp faster. So far I can beat the GPS. But there have been a few times when I got turned around and his GPS saved us some extra miles. Even when I do get turned around, I eventually find my way.
If I were to backpack in deep forests or lands that have no distinct features, I would use a GPS.
The only celestial navigation I do is pay attention to my shadow so I know which way is north, and at night always find the north star.
Part of navigation is to know how far you go. Therefore, I take a watch and remember how long I walked between rest breaks. I always check where I am on my map at each rest break. With experience, you can get pretty good at estimating travel distance from time.
One reason people get messed up when lost is that they panic, and then the perception of time gets all messed up. You frantically walk thinking it has been an hour and it is only 10 minutes! This points to the best navigation tool you have- your brain. Stay cool and calm when things go bad.
I usually carry a single paper map, a forest service district map that's updated and has contour lines. I also carry a good compass.
Having said that, I only occasionally use the map and rely more on a number of navigation apps on my phone. My favorite is Backcountry Navigator but I also download pdf maps on Avenza for use when offline. Also OSMplus for offline use since most of my trips are out of cell range. These apps provide dozens of detailed maps that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars in paper maps, not to mention the loss of a few trees which I prefer to see standing.
From past experience I've learned that you can lose a gps signal in heavy canopy so its wise to carry at least one paper map for the general area and know how to use a map and compass.
rant on: unless you have a clear visual of where you are going, using map and compass requires staying found. Yes I've written many times about map and compass being naval navigation with full time navigators to keep a ship found. I often head out going cross country and I set a waypoint on my gps where I park. My gps always knows where my truck is. Try being lost on a tree covered mountain side, pull out a map and compass and I defy you to find your location or your vehicle unless you are the road in and out of the area. When you're seriously lost of just turned around, a map cannot help you. Jim
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
People have been getting around in the wilderness eons before there even was GPS. It takes experience and skills, that we lack nowadays. Perhaps you can "get found" faster with a GPS and it allows you to pay less attention as you travel. But to say you cannot find yourself without a GPS is simply not correct.
I am in agreement with Jim. I hike mostly in the regrowth forest here in Michigan. It is seldom that you can see more than 500 ft and there are a lot of two track unknown track which wander every which direction so that when you come up to it it may be headed N/S but in actuality it is generally E/W. It is not marked on any map because it was a trail made by someone getting back to their deer camp. I actually seldom use a GPS but just keep going until I find something recognizable. I do have an app on my phone and occasionally I will turn on my phone to get my bearings again. It is like I think Daniel Boon said "I have never been lost but I have been confused for a couple of days"
Obviously, landmarks and clear skies make navigation a lot easier. Those times when I, like Daniel Boone, have been confused have always been in forests without landmarks...but I have never used a GPS on land (I did when I was sailing) and I am still here, so it is possible to get "unconfused" without a GPS...