Mountain Monday – National Map Reading Week






This week (16th- 22nd October) sees us celebrating National Map Reading Week.

I’m a sucker for a map and am never without one on my outdoor adventures.

In order to make sure you’re as safe as you possibly can be when headed for the hills, you should always have a map & compass with you (plus the knowledge of how to use them) and that’s the aim of this week.

A total beginner? There are guides to help you.
For those who are always keen to learn more? Why not learn something else and improve?!
Nav ninja? There’s bound to be something new for you too! ​(I truly believe everyone is always learning).

​And so in the first of my posts to celebrate this magical map filled week, and as navigation in the mountains is super important, I thought we should cover why you should and how you can learn more!

 Smartphones and GPS systems are slowly starting to take over, meaning that there are a lot of people who have either forgotten how to or simply can’t read a map…

Don’t get me wrong, GPS and apps can be super useful, and I love using my OS Maps app for a variety of things, but I always ALWAYS have a paper map and compass with me too and in all honesty, wouldn’t navigate totally with anything else.

To those solely reliant on technology, I pose the following questions…

  1. What happens if your battery dies/software glitches?
  2. Would you be confident navigating off the mountains in a whiteout or terrible visibility?
  3. Are you able to navigate using the contours of the land around you with no obvious features to pick out?
  4. If (and hopefully it doesn’t) something terrible happens to someone in your group and you’re in the quite literal middle of nowhere (it happens) are you confident that you could give a grid reference to Mountain Rescue?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all of those, then well done you, but I know that we can all be prone to a bit of panic sometimes and skills we know and use regularly can seem a lot more difficult when in a stressful situation.

Obviously the thing to do is be calm and use your knowledge.

But what if you don’t know?

This kind of links back to my post on our duty as Outdoor Bloggers to be responsible.

Somebody I know kindly shared a story with me last week. They decided to follow a route they saw someone post online. They got totally utterly lost in shocking weather, their phone didn’t work and their friend (who decided they didn’t want to go out that day) ended up having to call out Mountain Rescue to go and find them because they weren’t back by the evening.

If this person had known the difficulty of the route, and also had the foresight to take a map and compass (and know how to use it – he admitted he had never even tried to learn and was using Google Maps) then this could have so easily been prevented and he could have got down off the hills safely and under his own speed.


 How confident are you?​

It’s easy for us to say ‘oh well everyone should know to read a map. It’s easy’ but it goes beyond that. The willingness to show and help people and also the willingness to continue our own development!

In snow, I know that my navigation suffers and when the sky and ground are both white, I flap with my nav. This is why I’m booking on to a winter navigation course when the snow comes! (Hurry up, Winter!!)

As I said, I believe we are always learning and there are always tips and skills we can pick up.

I recently ran a poll on Twitter (226 people voted) and I think the results below back this up.


For those who don’t know where you are, I hope you worked it out and managed to get home for a cup of tea!

For those who said they knew the basics, felt mostly happy but that they could improve and also for the nav ninjas, there are so many useful guides on the Ordnance Survey website – here.

This week make sure you take a look at them, share them with your friends and maybe even take them on an adventure & show them in person!

There are a number of Facebook Live events this week with OS GetOutside Champions and OS staff, as well as discounts on navigation courses booked this week, so make sure you head over to the OS website and check it all out!

And if you have any questions at all on OS Maps, navigating with a paper map and compass or adventure planning, feel free to contact me or ask below!

Those of you who regularly use a map and compass, what are your top navigation tips and advice?