Top Ten Map Reading Hints And Tips

Posted on October 18th 2017 by Jason Rawles

As part of #NationalMapReadingWeek I’ve been writing some blogs (and tips) to hopefully inspire you to #GetOutside and map read more. Last Monday I blogged about why I love map reading and yesterday about some ideas to get you on your way.

Today it’s a top ten tips that I’ve learnt along the way and in no particular order….

1. Use OS Maps to plan your route in advance

The better you plan the more successful your map reading session will be. Work out how long you’ll be out for, distance, route information etc. and even flip the screen to 3D so you can see the ground. The data you’ll get is awesome and will absolutely help you on your day out. Get OS Maps HERE.

Tips OS Maps

2. When taking a bearing get down on one knee

You’ll need some stability when getting the direction of travel. It’s also a signal to anyone your with that you need a moment to concentrate. Game on!

Tips knee

3. Keep your skills fresh and up to date

I find that map reading is a degradable skill. If I don’t use the skill my sharpness seems to disappear. I go out often in all kinds of weather to keep things fresh. I’m always on the lookout via pals to pick up tips…kind of like what I’m sharing here!

weather tips

4. Extend out the cord on your compass

When you buy a compass it comes with a little lanyard. The first thing I do is open up the loop so I have double the distance. It then means I can hold it further away from my body and any potential objects that could impact the accuracy of the magnetic needle.

cord tips

5. Put a small karabiner on the end of your compass cord

Really useful as it means I can clip the cord to a rucksack or jacket. This helps in the worst of weathers because I don’t want to drop this critical piece of kit and lose it! Not that I have *nods head*!!!!

tips karabiner

6. Use objects in the distance to walk to

Once you’ve taken a bearing, and if visibility allows, find something in the distance that aligns with your direction of travel. Not a sheep though or something that moves like a tractor! It makes it easier and more accurate rather than stomp around looking at a needle.

objects tips

7. Print off the route on A4 waterproof paper

Saves having to fold, unfold, refold a big OS map. I print what I need off on A4 waterproof paper and then put the bigger map in my rucksack just incase the small, light version blows away in the wind.

a4 tips

8. Make sure you have a pen to hand

If I have to make any changes to a route then I can at least note it down. The example could be a river that’s swollen and I need to head upstream. The notes made will help me stay on track especially if I’m boxing off an obstacle in poor visibility.

pen tips

9. Leave route details with someone trusted

Really key if you’re heading out alone and I suppose this isn’t a tip more of a please do!

route card tips

Credit: Mountain Safety

10. If using OS Maps change the route line

I use OS Maps to plan routes but when printed out the red line obscures some key information needed. I change the colour of the line to blue and the transparency to 25% meaning I can see through it. This really helps me out.

line tips

I hope these have been helpful. Please do share any tips you may have in the comments field below as I’m always looking to learn…

Please do also SHARE this blog in any groups or forums or with friends who may get some value from it. You can also look at my map skills courses for 2018 via my WEBSITE and if you’re a member of The Adventurer Club you’ll get 10% discount.

Cheers all,


Want to do something amazing? Click HERE

2 responses to “Top Ten Map Reading Hints And Tips”

  1. Great bit of advice.
    I certainly agree with keeping skills up to date.
    Went out yesterday on a fairly simple route (22km) but haven’t used the basic skills in a while and was slightly rusty to say the least.

    Great idea with the compass chord! I’m using that

  2. Great advice! You really make me want to go on an adventure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to know more?

Sign up to Jason's newsletter for all the latest events and updates.