Yesterday was a privilege and an honour to conduct the first ever Facebook Live session from the Ordnance Survey. We were discussing map reading and getting people of all ages outdoors as part of the Ordnance Survey National Map Reading Week. This initiative was launched in 2016 and has already grown into a major annual event. I am not however, going to talk about map reading as that is admirably covered by many other sources including the OS at getoutside.uk. No today I will talk about why we need to take paper maps with us at all.
One of the questions I was asked yesterday was
“when I have google maps on my smart phone, why do I need a paper map?”
Whenever I am route planning ahead of a big adventure or just a short walk I invariably use OS Maps on my PC to plan the route. This then allows me to download that route onto my Garmin GPS device and to the OS Maps App on my smart phone. You could have similar with a whole host of other route planning software and happily set off with your route confidently secured on your smartphone.
However, recent Mountain Rescue statistics show that there is a growing trend in call-outs for people who have got lost because their batteries have failed, they have dropped and broken/lost their smart phones, they have lost the signal and can’t download the map! The list of reasons is endless.
There is nothing wrong with using smart technology, that is why we have developed it! There is however, a problem with becoming totally reliant on it. When ever I go walking ‘off-piste’ I use my Garmin in conjunction with a print out of the relevant section of the map, backed up with OS Maps (pre-downloaded) on my smart phone. However, I will also ALWAYS have the full map in my rucksack along with the compass.
But the story doesn’t end there! You could easily do exactly as I do and carry a map and compass in your pack. But when you have dropped you smart phone and have to revert to the map and compass, would you know how to use it?
If you have any interest in heading out for a walk off of the beaten track, then learning to map read is an essential skill. In fact I would go so far as to say, it is the most important skill you should learn if you are interested in the great outdoors. The map is a book, it tells you a story of the landscape around you. It tells you where you can, and more importantly, can’t go! In times of need it will help you to get home safely, when you are on the hills it should be your permanent companion.