I’ve needed to brush up on my map-reading and compass work in the last couple of weeks, and rather than trawl through the internet looking for ‘how-to’ guides, I’ve turned to this pocket-size book from Cicerone called ‘Navigation – Techniques and skills for walkers‘. And I’m pleased to say that I could have been lost without it. Arf.
The book is plastic covered and roughly double the size of a smartphone, so it’s easy to carry about on the trail, or indeed stash in the loo at home for ‘quality reading time’.
It starts off explaining, in very simple terms, how to read maps of different types, but concentrates on OS Landranger, OS Explorer and Harvey Maps – which pretty much covers the UK’s most popular mapping. It shows you the difference between different types of track, and explains how sometimes you can’t see what is on a map when looking at the ground. It has some great illustrative photos to go with this point.
The section dealing with compass use will demystify all those strange numbers and angles on your typical compass, and teach you which ones are useful and which aren’t needed. I found the explanations of finding a bearing and relating it to the map really easy to follow and quick to pick up.
The mini-guide goes on to talk about tips and tricks to make navigation easier, how to practice it when you’re out walking (and at home), and even which equipment would suit your purpose.
I read through and practiced 50% of the book in an evening, using an OS map of the local area to apply what I was learning. It was enlightening – my map skills were rustier than I’d thought.
I’d be happy to recommend the Navigation mini guide to anyone picking up a map for the first time – Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Scouts, casual walkers or holidaymakers – and also for anyone that needs a refresher.
It does go on to talk about GPS and SatNav, but shows their benefits and drawbacks as a backcountry navigation tool.
The mini guide also comes with a very handy plastic romer (read the book to discover what that is) and scale guide. It does some of the jobs of a good compass and is tough enough to live in your backpack pocket until you need it.
SUMMARY: If you need to either learn, or brush-up your map and compass skills (and even in these days of GPS that can be a lifesaver) then this book is superb. It’s an easy read, very informative, clear to follow and the perfect size for a pocket. At only £8.99 it’s also a bargain.