Starting using your map outdoors
Now you know what’s what here are some handy hints for getting the most from your map.
ORIENTATING YOUR MAP
Orientate is a fancy word, but basically it’s turning the map around so that the features - roads, buildings, hills, woods, rivers - match up with what’s really there on the ground, and it’s one of the best tools for good navigation. Why? Because it’s easier to work out where you are if what you see on your map exactly reflects what you see before you see on your map exactly reflects what you see before you.
Take a look around and identify some features that might appear on your map, such as hills, buildings, fences, rivers, roads, cliff edges and lakes.
Hold your map out in front of you and find these features. Once found, turn the map (not yourself) around until they match up exactly with the real life features around you. Say you are on a path with a building left and a hill to the right, turn your map round so that it also shows a building on your left and a hill on your right as you look down at it. In this way you can easily see from the map what features you will walk past next.
When you change direction, keep the map orientated by turning it so that the illustrated features always match up with what’s around you. It doesn’t matter if the writing is upside down – being able to read the name of a river or hill is less crucial to navigation than the fact that it is in front, behind or beside you.
USE YOUR COMPASS
Maybe the cloud is low, maybe you’re on a featureless moor, but you can’t always spot a suitable feature to help you orientate your map. Don’t panic – just use your compass! Simply lay it on the map and turn the two together until the north end of the needle is parallel with a grid line and pointing to the top of the map. Map and compass are both now facing north.
THUMB YOUR WAY
Avoid getting lost by mentally ticking off features on the map as you walk past and keep your thumb on your route to keep track of your location.
FOLLOW A HANDRAIL
‘Handrailing’ is using a linear feature – coastline, river, wall, railway – to guide your steps. Find a river, say, that heads the way you want to go, then just follow beside it, using it like a handy handrail.
TIME YOUR STEPS
An average walker takes 15 minutes to walk one kilometre on easy-going terrain, or to cross one grid square on the map. This can be handy when you’re looking for a turning a kilometre away – if you haven’t found it after 15 minutes then chances are you’ve walked past it. For smaller distances, you obviously shorten the time – so 500m would take about seven minutes - but know that uphill, rough terrain, and steep downhill will all slow you down.
Know your compass
It may look like the controls of the Tardis, but it only takes a few moments to know your baseplate from your index line…
An essential bit of any good compass, the long edge helps you line up accurately with the gridlines on the map. The markings along the edge are Romer scales, and help you measure distance on the map, and find grid references precisely.
2 ORIENTING ARROW AND LINES
The lines and red arrow marked within the dial of the compass are rotatable so you can align them with the grid lines on the map when taking a bearing (see below).
3 DIRECTION OF TRAVEL ARROW
The red triangle at the top end of the compass points your in the direction you want to walk when you take a bearing, both on the map and on the ground.
4 INDEX LINE/ARROW
The place where the dial meets the baseplate where you read your bearing.
5 COMPASS NEEDLE
The red, sometimes luminous, end of the needle which always points north.
How to take a bearing in three easy steps
STEP 1: LINE IT UP
Find where you are on the map and then the place you’re trying to get to. Put your compass on the map so one edge of the baseplate makes a line between the two, taking care that the direction of travel arrow is pointing from where you are towards where you want to go (and not the other way round).
TURN THE DIAL
Hold the baseplate steady and rotate the compass dial until the orienting lines are parallel to the north-south gridlines on the map, and the orienting arrow is pointing towards the top of the map (known as grid north). Check the number at the index line: this is your bearing.
FIND YOUR WAY
Lift your compass away from your map, and hold it level in front of you so the needle swings freely. Rotate your whole body until the north end of the compass needle sits exactly over the orienting arrow within the dial. The direction of travel arrow now points towards your target.