I love maps. Ever since my introduction to an Ordnance Survey Map on a school field trip, I read them like a book, pouring over the possibilities of adventure. The British Isles are blessed with such publications, surely the best walking maps in the world. Everywhere I go I can’t resist a purchase and now have a library of OS maps to rival Stanford’s (www.stanfords.co.uk) – the worlds largest map shop in Covent Garden.
More recently I have switched to Harveys for the National Trail walks. They are lighter, waterproof and show the information I need for the trail ahead. I miss the OS clarity, but these strip maps are perfect for well-known trails in the UK.
Current National Trail guides are also wonderful, with OS maps and a detailed description of the whole trail, with useful advice. They vary in written quality but provide useful context and information about the landscape you are walking through.
In 2015 I started using GPS and Navigation Software for my Android Smartphone. I used using Backcountry Navigator PRO (£7.99), which for the price of a single OS map gives you offline access to the OS 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 maps. You can also download the area covering the national trail (for free too!) – test it in Airplane mode before you go.
On the trail, you enable GPS and then the App will show you exactly where you are and how to get back on the trail. Although getting a GPS fix can sometimes take a while the first time you use it (something to do with Assisted GPS mode in zero signal areas) I highly recommend this App in addition to a Harvey Map, Compass and the knowledge of how to use all of these tools. I’m sure iPhone users are catered for, but I am not about to buy one to find out.
More recently I started using Viewranger and purchased the whole of the UK OS 1:50,000 Landranger Maps for £90. Viewranger seems to work better and I know I am carrying the OS Maps offline all of the time, without having to download sections I may need. It has a neater user interface too.
No doubt this technology will develop. I am using Google Maps extensively now for cycling, combined with Google MyMaps for pre-planned routes. It depends on how well a route is signposted to how much I rely on maps.
I still hanker after maps though, as they will take you somewhere new; whereas navigation apps will take you where you planned to go.
I prefer serendipity every time.