Maps are vital! In fact, it is one of the most basic things that any traveler should have, especially in an emergency. Buy the best maps you can get.

While a GPS is probably THE device giving the most value for money of any gadget that exists today, don't put any trust in it if you want to explore remote places. Never, never ever go to remote places without proper paper maps as backup. Buy them, print them out from your Mapsource and file it, but make sure you have it.

Electronics are very reliable, but you are literally stuck when they don't.

When you are planning a trip, the most convenient maps are in  electronic format.

I use the following:

Google Maps

Google Maps is free of charge and have both street maps and satellite images. It can do auto routing, save maps on your Google account and most mobile devices use it.

While these maps can do some nice routing, it primarily covers numbered roads.

To compliment Google maps there is Google Earth. While it cannot do auto routing as Google Maps, it has a lot of other information and is very configurable as to what points of interest the user wants to display on it.

The Google products are indeed great and you can plan a good trip with paper maps printed form these sources.

Garmin Maps

I use the Garmin 2012 SA Topographical & Recreational mapset. In terms of map information, this mapset was probably the pinnacle of all the mapsets released by any GPS manufacturer for civilian use.

It is one of the best map sets I have ever seen on GPS and covers many non-numbered roads. However, Garmin will not issue any more of these maps sets. The latest mapsets have much less info, but more eye candy and what is more, the new GPS devices unfortunately do not support the old topographical mapsets.

I therefore had no choice when my last GPS was stolen, to get myself a used Garmin 760 in order to continue using the topographical maps.

To read the mapsets, one needs to use either Mapsource or Basecamp software. However, printing large maps in fine quality is not possible and one needs to print many small maps for a bit of detail. I usually use Mapsource to print each leg of my trip on an A4 page and have it in the file where all my contact details and reservation correspondence is kept.

Tracks 4 Africa

I bought the full set, but within South Africa I found that the Garmin 2012 maps covers almost all of it. Tracks 4 Africa covers some tracks which are not on any other map, but it must be used with caution as tracks may be on private land and not indicated as such.

Overall, I was not too impressed with the latest set I bought and I will not upgrade my mapset in the future. If you are on a tight budget, this one can be skipped.

Map Studio: Government Maps

Nothing beats the good old topographical maps that was done by our government surveyors. A full set of these maps are now available on a DVD-set and at R 495, you will get excellent value for money with over 1900 maps.

This is the finest detailed maps that money can buy and if you need to print large high quality maps for backup, this is the set to get. The maps are in raster format and is suitable for manipulating with GIS software if you want to do fancy stuff, but image files can be read with any picture viewer.

Slingsby Maps

Slingsby Maps are paper maps and from a tourist perspective they are detailed like no other maps you have seen before. Destinations with contact information are indicated. They do maps for popular destinations like the Cederberg and the Wild Coast, to name but a few. If you do go into an area for which Slingsby have a map, it is highly recommended as a paper backup. Apart from the online stores, they are also stocked by Cape Union Mart.