Which Map?

Of all the things that you can carry in your rucksack, the most important is a map and a compass.  Whether you are planning cross country routes or recognised footpaths, it is always wise to carry a copy of the appropriate map.  The map has been to constant companion for walkers, hikers, runners, cyclists and ramblers for decades.

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However, the most common question asked, is which map do I need?

Maps in the UK are produced by several different companies and organisations.  However, the two most popular are:

  • The Ordnance Survey
  • Harvey Maps

Of there, the most popular and the one we will focus on today is the Ordnance Survey (OS), the UK’s National Mapping Agency.  They produce two main mapping series designed primarily for the walker/cyclist, the Explorer and Landranger.

So, what is the difference, and which one should I use?

Explorer Series – uses a map scale is 1:25 000 which means that every 1 cm on the map is equal to 250 m on the ground. They show a greater level of detail, such as field boundaries, landscape features and powerlines.

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They are designed for all outdoor activities where you need to plan routes and find your exact position.  This makes them perfect for walking and hiking due to their greater accuracy.

Landranger Series – uses a map scale is 1:50 000 which means that every 1 cm on the map is equal to 500 m on the ground.  They cover a larger area than the Explorer Series and show places of interest, tourist information, roads, and landscape features.

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This scale and level of detail makes the Landranger Series ideal for the cyclist and motorist and walkers who are sticking to some of the better waymarked long distant footpaths.



Active Maps – these are waterproof maps available in both the Explorer and Landranger Series.  They will wipe clean with ease, can be written on with washable ink and are a lot tougher than a standard map.

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Digital Mapping – The advent of the GPS navigation system has brought about a revolution in the field of portable electronic navigation.  Driven by companies such as Garmin, the ability to download maps and routes onto a small portable device has seen a change in the industries focus.

The problem encountered by many of these systems is that they require several different packages such as the GPS device and a separate route planning software package.  Another restriction is the fact that the software route planning package is invariably loaded onto a single PC.  A new system was required to provide greater freedom.

OS Map App – This works across all your devices providing seamless synchronisation between desktop, tablet and mobile. Easily plan routes on the web then follow along on the app when you’re on the go.

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The great advantage of this system being web based is that you can plan a route at home, travel to the other end of the country and access the route from someone else’s PC or tablet.  The route and map can be downloaded onto your mobile phone for use when no data is available or printed out like a paper map.

Caution – This is not an alternative to using a paper map. Due to limited battery life and risk of phone failure.  A paper map must always be carried.



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