Improve your navigation skills on National Map Reading Week

Don't rely on online navigation services - get skilled up!


by Trail Running |

Such is our reliance on phone navigation these days, it's fair to conclude that the average person's ability to read a map has reduced.

However, your map-reading skills are vitally important if you are intending to run up remote mountains. You should not rely totally on technological devices whose batteries may run dry or which are not guaranteed to have a signal.

It's also worth bearing in mind that, when it's cold, certain batteries can lose charge much more quickly than you expect. Of course, a cold day is when you'd particularly want to avoid being stranded on a mountain due to the possible health implications.

National Map Reading Week, organised by #Run1000Miles sponsor Ordnance Survey and running from July 5-11, aims to arm more people with the skills to navigation the old-fashioned way.

Mike Park, senior executive officer of Mountain Rescue England & Wales, said: “With the recent restrictions to foreign travel huge number of people have taken to the hills for recreation, many for the first time and without the necessary navigation skills. As a result we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of callouts to people who were simply lost or poorly equipped for the conditions they found themselves in.

“National Map Reading Week will make a massive difference to us as people learn how to engage with mountains and moorland safely and, hopefully, develop a love of the outdoors which will last a lifetime."

OS has also teamed up with Penguin to publish The Ordnance Survey Kids Adventure Book, a new book full to the brim with challenges and map-reading tips for young people to make the most of the outdoors while avoiding getting into difficulty.

OS mapping is relied upon by emergency services, including Mountain Rescue, who respond to around 2500 people in trouble every year. Through OS Maps, responders are better able to plan a route and understand the lay of the land from the terrain to heights, before embarking on rescue missions.

OS have a selection of both beginner and advanced navigation guides available.

Checklist for adventuring outdoors

· Plan ahead. Investigate the route thoroughly and take into account your experience and capabilities and the experience and capabilities of others joining. The Tabletop 3D planning tool in the app OS Maps allows you to visualise routes in fine details from all angles. You can also print out the map to scale with the route overlaid.

· Check weather conditions. Weather can change dramatically over the course of a walk, especially in hilly areas. Have a contingency plan in mind in case the walk needs to be cut short.

· Practise your navigation skills. Make sure you are confident of interpreting a map and using a compass to navigate. Being able to give the emergency services an accurate grid reference for your location can save valuable time and lives.

· Carry and wear the right kit. For the basics, warm and waterproof clothing (multiple thin layers are always better than one thick jumper), walking boots, a map, compass and navigation skills are essential, as are a decent supply of food and water. If you’re heading into the mountains or for longer walks, you really should be thinking about a survival bag, a torch (or head-torch), spare batteries, a whistle, spare clothes, hat and gloves, a first aid kit, spare food and even an ice axe and crampons (but know how to use them properly). We could go on – just make sure you have a good rucksack to carry everything in and that you’re comfortable carrying it.

· Always have a back-up. If you prefer to navigate with a GPS device, do carry a paper map and compass as back-up. The free app OS Locate will give you an accurate grid reference for your location and does not need a phone signal.

· Let people know where you are. Letting someone know where you are going and when you are likely to return is a good idea. Make sure you notify them when you return and agree a timeframe when they should contact the emergency services if you don’t contact them. We’ve put together a handy route card (PDF) for you to print and fill out – give a good description of your planned route, along with any grid references.

If you want to find out more about OS Maps and map reading visit National Map Reading Week, or follow the #NationalMapReadingWeek hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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