Saturday, 31 October 2015

AZ Adventures 1:25000 scale maps for walkers

Only a few minutes before the start of our last First Steps to Map Reading course, Mike walked into the training room with a small package. "You might like this" he said, passing it over to me. On opening I discovered 2 AZ Adventures booklets of 1:25000 Peak District mapping, together with case and lanyard.

Thanks to the wonders of social media, I had been offered these to review.  During this particular course, I talk about the various mapping options available to walkers, and had often mentioned the AZ maps, but never actually bought one.  I included them in the list that morning, and the group of relatively experienced walkers were quite impressed, and I have to say so were we.

1:25000 Ordnance Survey mapping for walkersSo what makes AZ Adventures different?  The most obvious is that in keeping with AZ a pedigree, these are uniquely in a book or atlas format, which means no wrangling with large cumbersome maps, a wonderful bonus when it is blowing a gale out in the hill. This does mean you have to flick over the pages occasionally, but there is a reasonable overlap and the pages to look for are well marked.  There is also a detailed key, again much easier to use than on a big map, which I have to confess I have not looked at in detail for quite a while.  The area covered by each of the booklets is similar to the Ordnance Survey Explorer White and Dark Peak maps, but with a generous 5km overlap, which means that although our village is still only on the White Peak map, Eyam moor, where we visit regularly is on both.

The second unique feature for me is the presence of an index - if you know where you want to go this is a really useful feature - so the somewhat obscure hamlet of Bretton, with just 4 houses, a pub is included, as is the youth hostel and Abney Low, a small hill nearby.  The index includes not only page details, but also a grid reference, just to confirm you have it right; all really useful and easy to use.  Also at the back of the atlas are a couple of pages of safety advice for walkers and off road cyclists.

AZ Adventures Atlas Peak DistrictThe paper and print quality in our copies was really good, making the mapping easier to read than our standard OS Explorer maps.  The booklet fitted really well into the purpose designed map case (perhaps just a little too well, as we struggled to get it out!). The case would I am sure keep the map dry in most conditions, our only quibble really being that when using it with a compass, it wasn't quite 'sticky' enough for the compass not to slide around.

This leads to our only real criticism of the AZ product; the print didn't quite line up between pages, so if you are using a compass to get a bearing or measuring distance on the map, you would find using the the atlas format more difficult and certainly less precise. This is particularly the case if the two points are on different pages, when in certain cases taking a bearing would be impossible.

So in conclusion; we really like the AZ Adventure atlases, and would definitely use them out on the hill, but not in situations where we planned to do some complicated navigation - for that sadly the big cumbersome map sheets, folded precisely to where we want to go, will have to prevail.

Thanks again to AZ for sending us the maps. We were given copies of the Peak District White and Dark Peak atlas, but the comprehensive series covers most of the popular walking areas of the UK and some long distance trails. They can be bought at most outdoor retailers or from AZ themselves price £7.95

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Learning Map Reading and Navigation

Map Reading and Navigation Courses

Being able to navigate accurately through the countryside, moorland and mountains is an essential skill that all walkers should have if they want to stay safe.

Navigation Training on Eyam Moor

Looking at the different maps for walkers
Having the ability to look at a map and plan a route, knowing what the map is telling you about the terrain and having a good idea of how long it will take to walk the route are good map reading skills.  Navigating efficiently around the planned route takes the skills on a stage further.

All of these skills can be self taught through books, videos and practice. However learning from experts can give you added knowledge and the benefit of years of experience and topical advice (i.e. which way to get out of the car park or what to do when the map shows one path but on the ground there are two).

Successfully Using a Compass to Navigate
At Peak NavigationCourses we have a range of courses to help people improve their skills whether starting from scratch (our 1st Steps Course) to those who are already an expert navigator (Navigation Masterclass). With several courses in between.

Our one day “1stSteps to Map Reading and Navigation Course” starts by assuming you know little or nothing!  Through the course of the day we give you an understanding of maps and which maps are most appropriate for walkers.  We show you how to plan a route, knowing how far it is and how long it will take to walk. We teach you how to use a compass and by the end of the day we leave you with the ability to cross open moorland.

After the course, we send you some practice routes so that you can go and practice the skills learnt on the day with an offer from us that should you have forgotten any of the techniques you can come back and spend some revision time with us.

Jane and Mike havebeen running Peak Navigation Courses since 2004. They are both qualified International Mountain Leaders regularly leading walking holidays both in the U.K. and overseas.

1st Steps to Map Reading and Navigation;
Navigation for Mature Walkers;
Moving onto Moorland;
Night (and Poor Visibility) Navigation;
Advanced Moorland Navigation; 
Navigation Masterclass;    and
National Navigation Awards.

Peak Navigation Courses also provide GPS Navigation Training on a 1:1 basis.

Night Navigation Courses

Night Navigation Courses

Being caught out whilst walking either in the dark or in the mist can be a frightening experience unless you have learnt the skills and strategies to cope with such eventualities.

The Joys of Night Navigation Practice

Trig Points make a good map table
Of course being able to map read and navigate using a map and compass are essential skills for safe walking the hills and mountains. It is only a short step from being a competent daytime navigator to being able to cope with navigating in poor visibility.  Also, like with any skill set, it is a good idea to get out and practice occasionally to ensure that you still have the confidence to navigate in the dark or the mist.

Anyway, Night Navigation is fun and certainly a good alternative to staying in and watching t.v.!!

Challenging Moorland on "Big Moor"
With the nights drawing in, Peak Navigation Courses have a programme of short evening courses aimed at teaching the skills to navigate in poor visibility and to give you the confidence to safely navigate at night.  These short courses, 6.30pm till 10pm cover a range of strategies for navigating in poor visibility including various uses of a compass, timing, pacing, various ways of following a bearing, aiming off, etc.

To make the most of this course, it is best if you already have some experience of how to use a compass.

The Night (and PoorVisibility) Course is only one of a set of courses developed by Peak Navigation Courses.  Other courses include:

Peak Navigation Courses also provide GPS Navigation Training on a 1:1 basis.
Practice in the dark will give you confidence when the mist comes down!

Jane and Mike have been running Peak Navigation Courses since 2004. They are both qualified International Mountain Leaders regularly leading walking holidays both in the U.K. and overseas.