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 Stanfords (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.
A recent revelation has been GPS and Navigation Software for my Android Smartphone. I am 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. Just download the area covering the national trail (for free!) and 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.