HandiHikes – Pocket Hiking Route Maps

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Once in a while, something new comes along which makes me seethingly jealous that I hadn’t thought of it before, and HandiHikes is one of those ideas.

Handy indeed!

I’m a bit of a map obsessive. I have an Ordnance Survey plan of my local area on my wall and absolutely love scouring it for interesting pathways and things to go and see. And whenever I go somewhere new I love to get my bearings by peering at a map when I arrive. Alas though, I can’t afford a full set of OS Explorer maps (£8 each or £14 for the waterproof ‘Active’ version).

What HandiHikes have done is re-produce a small section of OS Explorer (25000:1 scale, so you can see footpaths and features really easily) on a waterproof, fold-out map, and they’ve marked on it a selection of 3 or 4 pre-walked routes for you to follow. With very easy to read written instructions for each walk, what you’re getting is a very local, recently researched guidebook for under £4.50. Sounds great, so we put one to the test.

At the recent Keswick Mountain Festival, we found ourselves with a few hours to spare and a HandiHike entitled “Walks from Keswick” in our pocket, so we struck off on one of the routes.

Each route on a HandiHike is graded between Easy, Moderate and Hard, and given an overview along the lines of:

Route 2: … 6.5 miles, 3-4 hours, on good paths which are sometimes steep(ish)

The descriptions are accurate enough that you can be confident of what you’re committing to before you leave base.

I’m able to read a map sufficiently enough to find where I am and follow a path, so we started off by following the well-marked route on the map rather than the written instructions. The 25000:1 scale is really easy to follow and once you’ve got a handle on the scale of the map you can predict what’s coming up on the route really easily. The map printing is excellent and there’s no question of the marked route being vague.

Switching half-way through to the written instructions, these are very well written and informative, but open to some interpretation (“Keep following the path through the woods” – we found multiple paths, so had to reference the map for the correct one) so I found myself referring to the map as well. Not a problem, but it indicates that at least some ability to read a map would be Handi!

The walk was easy to follow and, although we cut it short due to time restraints, we felt that it was accurate in terms of time and effort. And in fact, we were able to cut it short easily because of the full mapping.

On the back of each HandiHike is a quick guide to reading a map, using a compass and how to stay safe in the trail. There’s also a key to the OS map’s features, so if you’ve not seen one before you can tell what you’re looking at. I’d say that would make it excellent for map-skilled tourists, as well as OS-familiar Brits.

HandiHikes currently cover 60 walks in 18 guides across the English Lake District (Cumbria). The guys are working on other areas (The Peak District etc) and I greatly admire that the HandiHikes team have actually walked every single one of their routes in order to write an accurate guide.

For £4.50 per guide, I happen to think that the HandiHikes are excellent value. If you already own an OS map of the Lake District, then perhaps the routes marked could be some inspiration for a walk. And if you’re new to the area, then they’re certainly an excellent idea to get you immersed in the locality.

SUMMARY: HandiHikes guides are really neat. They fold down to fit in a pocket (smartphone size), are waterproof and you get detailed OS mapping for a 25-30 sq.KM area as well as three or four well-researched routes. Some map-reading skills might be useful, but you do get a written guide on using an OS map if you need it. Each guide is simply written, with easy-to-read fonts and sections. A great idea for tourists, those searching for interesting walks or maybe even DoE Award candidates who don’t require a full OS map.

Price: £4.50
From: Amazon

More info: HandiHikes
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Tags and search info for this review: This is a walking guide review. GearWeAre.com tests and reviews hiking guides, maps, guidebooks, outdoor gear and camping equipment.

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  • George Williamson

    I would love to win these. As I am now wheelchair-bound, are these walks wheelchair-friendly? I am compiling a local route that is or at least will be. It is frustrating as I used to even go hiking up local hills and higher & miss these now.
    My Gearweare rating will be


    • Andy from HandiHikes replied:

      Hi George – There are a handful of our walks which would have easy mobility variations. Here’s a few, with a bit of detail:

      Latrigg (Map 4, Route 3) – from the car park which is actualy Point C of the main route up Skiddaw there is an easy access path which takes you right along to the Latrigg summit, for great elevated views down over Keswick, Derwent Water and into Borrowdale.

      Derwent Water (Map 5, Route 3) – if you take the Keswick Launch Ferry from Keswick to Hawse End you can take the path south around the western shore of the lake. Follow the route right round to the Ladore landing stage and get the ferry back. Great views here down Derwent Water from its southern tip, with Skiddaw looming.

      Blea Tarn (Map 12, Route 4) – there is a walk from Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, which heads up to the tarn. But, you can drive up to the National Trust car park near the tarn. There is a clear track which runs down the southern tip of the tarn, with a stunning view across the tarn, with the Langdale Pikes looming in the distance (one of my favourite views in the Lakes).

      Buttermere Lake Walk (Map 18, HandiHint) – the path on the south-west bank of the lake is ideal for wheelchair access and push-chairs. It also gives you that famous view of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, taken from the northern tip of the lake. When you get to Peggy’s Bridge you could either retrace your route or make for Gatesgarth Farm and head back along the road on the other side of the lake.

      Hope this provides a good few options.

      Thanks (and thanks to everyone else for your comments :-))


  • Andy

    HandiHikes have now donated a Full Set of their guides to our Mega-Giveaway. Just add a review or comment to GearWeAre.com before 1st September 2011 to be entered.

  • Danielle from Kent

    Hi Guys,
    Well my husband and I have been holidaying in the lakes for 4 years. Camped b&b and now a cottage from proposal to honeymoon and then bringing the olds ands next year our fist edition to our family.

    I love maps as i love to look back over what we’ve walked and also show people where we have been,(i also have a thing for lovely feeling paper). We are currently still in the lakes on our 3rd day and finding these maps in the new towns we visit has become an obession. They are fantastically clear very neat and most importantly waterproof paper which i just love love love!!!

    It has great instructions on them on how to use a map stay safe and other handi tips. Also the route descriptions tells you what you type of walk your going on and expect to see, so really nice to have an idea of what type of walk it will be. I had decided having these maps will allow us to explore the lakes better as you have a clearer idea of where your going. I would say they are a must have for people that regulary come to the lakes or for people who want a great memento of where they have walked and visited.

    Thanks GearWeAre.com for giving me the oportunity to win these maps and also express how good i feel these maps are. Great website now added to my favourites!!

    • Andy

      Thanks Danielle.
      We have a full set of Handihikes to give away again very soon.

      I’ll pass your kind comments on to the lovely people at Handihikes.

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