The do’s and dont’s of navigation

Losing your way in the great outdoors is, at best, a mild inconvenience; at worst, life-threatening. Nigel Crosby points you in the right direction. . . 

DO choose the right map. We’re very lucky in the UK because we have the best mapped countryside in the world. The best map for everyday leisure is the Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25,000. These are loaded with points of interest such as wildlife reserves, leisure facilities, and, most importantly, pubs.

DON’T just grab your map and head for the nearest mountain. Spend time familiarising yourself with the key and symbols on the map. 

Let the compass guide you... | Photo

Let the compass guide you… | Photo

DO take everything into account when planning your route: How long do you have? What time does the sun set? How fit is the rest of your group? If your mate Jonny thinks that a stroll to the local pub counts as a hike, it’s probably best to stick to an easy route. 

DON’T forget to check the weather before you leave this is the UK after all and be prepared to change your route or your plan accordingly.

DO fold the map into a usable size. The last thing you want to do is unfold your map on a windy day – you’ll soon lose it (and the map as well!)

DON’T try and save cash buying a cheap map case. Invest in a good one that will keep your map dry in the wet, but is flexible and won’t crack when the temperature drops.

DO use the compass to orientate the map before starting your walk. It’s easy just to follow the most obvious pathway and an hour later discover you’ve gone the wrong way. Use the leading edge of your compass to line the map up with magnetic north. Take a look at the contours of the map and correlate those with shape of the hills and valleys.

It might be tempting to follow the most obvious path, but you should always orientate your map first. |Photo

It might be tempting to follow the most obvious path, but you should always orientate your map first. |Photo

DON’T stop paying attention to where you are: it’s easy to lose concentration and stray from the path.

DO use waypoints along your route to check your progress. These are points of reference such as sheepfolds, boundary junctions or small hills and can be checked against your map to ensure you’re heading the right way.