Even a short, familiar journey off the beaten track can become treacherous in conditions that change the appearance of your route and these can appear quickly out of nowhere, particularly in the mountains. Without a means of keeping tabs on your position, a situation can go from bad to hazardous to life-threatening in minutes.
It’s therefore essential to be able to use your equipment, as well as your common sense, to find your way safely if necessary. In the vast majority of cases, a well-drawn map of your surroundings and a quality compass in experienced hands are perfectly adequate to keep you on the right track. Indeed, all three are always necessary when heading out on the hill. If you don’t yet have sufficient experience to navigate a journey should the weather get tricky, go with someone who does or practise on less serious routes to build up your skills first.
Other navigation tools have their place too though. A GPS system, used correctly, can offer certainty as to your location as well as recording your route, providing a quick grid reference in an emergency and opening up geocaching as a new outdoor challenge. Some go beyond this and offer all sorts of handy functions. Just don’t become too reliant on one, or a smartphone for that matter, since they both run on batteries and don’t bounce too well…
Guidebooks are more than coffee table accessories too – a good pictorial description is a useful check that you’re going the right way in addition to inspiring your next journey. Depending on what you’re doing, it might be better to have a photo or copy of the page in your map case rather than taking the whole book, but we do sell zip-up guidebook covers if needed.
Map-wise, you can’t do better than Ordnance Survey for much of the UK, though the popular areas are also covered by the BMC mountain maps. These are lighter and more durable as well offering a more useful balance scope with detail. Online and computerised mapping offers a super-lightweight option – just print off the area you need – best for areas you’ll be using a lot.
As for compasses, whilst a basic one will suffice for one-off or infrequent use, investing in a more technical compass will give you more useful features once your skills have caught up, so might be a better option for long-term use. Things like extra scales, a magnifier and a clinometer aid use with different maps and more difficult scenarios but can be ignored while not required.
Not only do we have all these and more, but our knowledgeable team are on the end of the phone or email to give you a hand should you need it. All the navigation kit you need to stay on the straight and narrow, or the steep and twisty if you prefer. Keep heading in the right direction by being well-equipped from the start.