Sep 29 2009

Review of Rand McNally FabMaps

I first heard of fabMaps a while ago on the site TrustyPony. At the time, I was intrigued, but was hesitant to spend $5.95 plus shipping to try one out. (The photos on the Rand McNally website don’t really describe nor show the maps well.) Then, on a family trip, I came across a map store and thought that was my chance to see one up-close and in-person. The store didn’t have fabMaps, however, so I left disappointed again.

Then, a few weeks ago, I received an e-mail about a fabMap contest, in which the prize is a scooter or a $500 gift card. (They also generously offered to send me one to try out.) I requested the Minneapolis-St. Paul fabMap, and it arrived a few days later.

So, what is a fabMap? It’s a map made from microfiber fabric. The fabMap folks claim it’s soft enough to clean your glasses with. The map is about 8×10 inches, double-sided (two layers stitched together), and printed with surprisingly good detail.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul map included downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul, and the Mall of America. Streets are shown, as well as attractions in the area. I was disappointed that the St. Paul map didn’t go north far enough to include the State Capitol. The Mall of America map had listings for some things I didn’t realize existed. (I need to double-check them to see what I’ve been missing.)

I handed the fabMap to each of my kids and asked them what it was. At first they were confused, but once they caught on, they thought it was pretty neat. So neat, in fact, that my fabMap is currently missing. I suspect it’s in my second-grader’s backpack.

I can see using fabMaps when in an unfamiliar city; instead of having to spread out a big map, you can just pull the fabMap out of a pocket or purse to get your bearings. I’m also considering getting them for my kids on our upcoming trip to Philadelphia; they have a hard time re-folding maps so this would be more convenient.

Rand McNally could improve on a few things: 1) give a better description of the maps on their website so consumers know what they’re getting. The fabMap for Columbus, Ohio, says it’s for OSU and “Short North.” As a visitor, I don’t know what areas that will include. 2) Include more cities/areas. Currently Chicago and San Francisco have two maps each, but the other cities only have one segment represented. It’s a good start, but I hope it expands in the future.

Rand McNally Fabmap / San Francisco / Golden Gate Park / The Haight / California

Rand McNally San Francisco/ Fisherman’s Wharf/ Chinatown Fabric Map

Rand McNally FabMap Washington, D.C. Georgetown

Rand McNally Fabmap Downtown Chicago Illinois

Rand McNally Fabmap / Key West, Florida

Rand McNally Fab Map New Orleans and the French Quarter & Garden District

Rand McNally Fab Map Denver, Colorado: Featuring the 16th Street Mall

Rand McNally fabMap Philadelphia

Rand McNally Fab Map Austin and the University of Texas (Rand McNally fabMap Austin and the University of Texas)

Rand McNally Fab Map San Diego, California: Balboa Park to the Gaslamp Quarter

Rand McNally FabMap Branson, Missouri

Rand McNally FabMap: Ohio State University and the Short North

Rand McNally FabMap Santa Fe, New Mexico

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