Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Navigation and all that

1st September 2006

If you do any sort of walking, sufficiently detailed maps proved invaluable. For hillwalking, they are absolutely essential as is the ability to use them. If you want to advance your hill-craft so that you can cope with the vicissitudes of the weather, having a compass and knowing how to set your map with it is obligatory. Other navigational techniques build on these foundations and the more foul the weather, the more needed the advanced knowledge is. A GPS navigation system is useful but you will not get the best from it without a map and compass.

As for me, I do possess a Silva compass but Ordinance Survey maps suffice most of the time that I am out and about. Landranger 1:50000 maps work fine for cycling, but for walking, I find the Explorer 1:25000 series invaluable. They cover less area than the Landranger ones but the extra detail more than compensates for this perceived weakness. Some swear by Harvey’s SuperWalker series and I have some, but the range is often restricted to popular hillwalking areas and I have been known to head off the beaten track. Nevertheless, given that they are based in Scotland, it should be no surprise for you to learn that their Scottish coverage is far from shabby.

Britain is blessed with good mapping, but Ireland is not so fortunate. In the Republic, the staple from the Ordinance Survey of Ireland is their Discovery 1:50000 series, the same scale as the OS Landranger series. Another thing that you need to watch is the age of the maps: some date from 2001. The Ordinance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer series, at the same scale as the OS Landranger series. Both services do larger scales (1:25000) for specific areas, but these are not many of these. Harvey has done 1:30000 SuperWalker maps of the Wicklow Mountains and Connemara for a while now but they have now brought out a new SuperWalker for the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks at the same scale as the others.

So far, I have restricted my discussion to paper mapping, but mapping software is a growing area. OSI produce their own DVD’s, but the main players in British mapping seem to be Anquet and Memory Map. Integration with GPS receivers and the ability to print off mapping for your walking are very much on offer. Just a few thoughts on the printing bit: laminate your print-out and remember not to cut yourself too tight; regarding the latter point, you may need to change your plans on location.

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