I do love a good paper map. On a windy day it makes a great kite, or a sail to help you along. And when it rains you can make some funky papier mâché from it.
So that’s why I went electronic. I’m also not an idiot – phones, tablets, etc can go wrong, batteries can run out, they also don’t like the rain, so I will always have a paper map with me if I’m walking somewhere I haven’t been before.
There are plenty of apps out there to guide you on your walk but my favourite for the UK is the Ordnance Survey Maps App, OS MapFinder.
Most people that head off walking in the UK will instantly recognise the OS Map, and I think it’s easiest to use. The app allows you to purchase small sections called tiles of either the Landranger Maps in 1:50,000 scale or the more detailed Explorer Maps in 1:25,000 scale. National Parks and some other regions covering larger areas are also available to purchase and save money over buying individual tiles.
Using the app is a doddle. You can plan your route – great for seeing just how long that walk that looks ‘about’ 5 miles actually is. Alternatively just hit record and head off – the time, distance and average speed will be displayed. The record function does drain the battery more quickly so it’s worth taking a power bar to recharge your device if needed. After a few miles, scrolling and zooming the map can be a bit painful (that could be my clunky iPhone 5), but if you pause recording whilst you check the map everything works just fine.
The downsides for me are that it doesn’t have an altitude function, so I’ll use another app if I feel the need to know that information. Also, you can soon start eating into your memory if you download larger regions.
What about outside the UK?
I found ViewRanger really useful when walking in La Palma – the island west of Tenerife, not the city!
ViewRanger also has route planning, a record function, graphs and altitude. Do check it out.
I’ve also recently downloaded Maps.me. The real advantage of this app is that it works offline, apparently anywhere in the world!
This will be great for the trip round Europe as I can download different countries as needed and not have to worry about having an internet connection if I’m somewhere rural for a week.
I’ve yet to put it to use, but it comes recommended by many.
Do post a comment if you think there are other apps I should be considering, especially for Europe.