Why I use a map and compass

With the rapid growth and use of technology I can’t help but worry about the use of traditional map and compass. There is little doubt that more people are exploring our higher lands armed only with a handheld Gps or some mapping software on their phone. Viewranger seems the most popular at the present time.

The route you wish to take can be downloaded on to the device (phone or gps) and then followed slavishly for the day (a bit like finding your way around any big city using a Sat Nav. It is true you are unlikely to get lost and even when the cloud descends the route can usually be safely followed.

5 Reasons why traditional maps are better than modern technology

  1.  Satellites fail, batteries run out, phones get wet and at times technology fails. It is a fact that many people now lost on the mountain have become lost because their technology has let them down and they simply do not know how to navigate without it.
  2. The screen is too small. Even the largest phone can only represent a very small part of the landscape, to get any idea of scale and perspective you need something bigger (and I am not suggesting everyone comes out armed with an ipad – see point 1!)
  3. Operating on a pre set route gives little option for flexibility when you only use technology. I may decide that I want to extend or shorten the walk, include the next mountain because I am feeling fit or I just fancy a change of route. I find it is easy to see the differing options on a paper map, it is not easy whilst squinting at a phone or other gps device.
  4. Maps give me something to do at stops on the walk, whether picnics, viewing or simply waiting for others a map gives me something entertaining to do.
  5. Maps are more fun and make me look around, become observant and integrate more with the landscape I are walking in. Having a map simply makes you become part of the walk, not somehow divorced from it.
Enjoying views over Derwentwater

Enjoying views over Derwentwater

Problems with traditional Map and Compass use

  • Maps are unwieldy, hard to fold in the wind and get wet. Yes the Ordnance Survey do have waterproof maps but it is a little like taking out a brick it is so unwieldy.
  • Maps have too much detail and can be difficult to read, particularly as age catches up and we become long sighted.
  • You have to be able to read a map and use a compass. There is no point in having them unless one can use them. One of the Mountain Rescue lads I know becomes utterly frustrated by lost walkers proudly announcing they are carrying a map but have no idea how to use it.
  • They are old fashioned and in this age of technology many cannot see beyond technology.

All of these are valid but there are a few simple steps to alleviate them.

Learn a Skill weekend

Learn a Skill weekend

Start using Harvey maps:

Harvey maps are excellent: they are designed for walkers.

  • They only include key navigational features: contours, paths, boundaries
  • There is a mix of 1.25k and 1.40k maps. The 1.40k in particular are useful for those irritated by O/S maps that do not cover the areas they want, Harvey maps are produced to include the most popular walking areas.
  • They use waterproof as standard but slim, robust and lightweight.

Try them, I still teach on O/S 1.25k Explorer maps which I think are excellent and a great way to learn but I must admit to using Harvey maps whilst out on my own.

Harvey Maps

Harvey Maps

Take a Navigational Course:

Many people avoid the mountains because they cannot read a map and use a compass (as a result they graduate to mapping and GPS technology solutions). They feel (correctly if they are on longer and remote walks) that they should not be walking our mountainous areas without the ability to use a map and recover if they become lost.

My suggestion is that they should practice close to home: buy a map of their home territory and go outside and use it! A bit of practice will overcome the fear of the unknown and many people will be competent and comfortable with maps from then

Alternatively book a Navigation Course. I have been holding 1 day Beginner and Intermediate Courses in the Dales for many years. My philosophy has always been to give people the confidence t go further than they have been in the past.

This year we have introduced our Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill weekends.

I love the fells, why shouldn’t everybody?

Enjoy your walking


Navigation Day near Settle

Navigation Day near Settle

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