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!

It helps to have good maps…

1st March 2024

While writing trip reports for Tenerife, I was reminded of the travails that I encountered with using the maps that I had in my possession. At the time, I found myself cross-referencing data between different providers for working out where I was going. That was not ideal, but I managed to make it work.

Something similar happened in Canada. When the maps from Natural Resources Canada did not have all the detail that I expected, I resorted to using the base map provided by ViewRanger because it showed trails on there. For my various traipsings, that did suffice, even if there are possible risks like those highlighted in an article on the TGO website.

In the UK or Ireland, it may be that the tracks shown cannot be used by the public, so you need to check how things look on the ground. Then, there are possible errors because many trails are crowdsourced. That is another reason for checking on what surrounds you and applies when using user routes found on various apps and websites. The likes of AllTrails and Outdooractive come to mind here.

It helps to have good maps...

In my case, I ran into no problems in Canada because I was following low-level trails and established tracks much of the time. For off-trail use, mapping from National Resources Canada would have proved as necessary as the use of a compass and awareness of wildlife. Hiking in North America takes one into wilder places after all. Finding paper maps takes a bit more work, as I found, but the added effort pays dividends as long as you watch coverage of where you are planning to go.

In a more recent excursion to California, the Gaia GPS app became invaluable as long as I had downloaded the map data before setting off on hiking trips. Topo Maps+ from Glacier Peak Studios may be another option for users of Apple devices, but I stuck with what I had courtesy of a subscription to Outside+. In any case, Gaia GPS did whatever I needed, and I hardly needed to check any paper maps that I had.

That was just as well, since map scales vary widely for U.S. hiking areas anyway. USGS quads may be standardised, but the same cannot be said for other publishers, with National Geographic being a prominent example. Still, any device has a limited battery lifetime so being proficient with a map and compass remains a necessity, especially in remote areas where mobile signal may be too limited.

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