I’VE been rather bemused by an ongoing debate that suggests it is irresponsible to use smartphones for mountain navigation purposes.
Oops – I’ve been navigating, almost solely, by downloaded maps on my iPhone for at least three years.
Having said that I also carry the appropriate paper Ordnance Survey amp and a compass as a back-up, but I honestly can’t remember when I last used a traditional map and compass to navigate. Maybe I’ve just been lucky with the weather.
I download maps from a developer called RoadTour and they interface with the GPS facility on my iPhone (currently using an iPhone5), so I can tell, at a glance, where I am at any given time. Now obviously this requires some map-reading skills to correlate where I am on the map with where I am in real time but with 35 plus years of hill navigation experience that’s not a problem.
There’s a tremendous peace of mind when you can look at a map on a smartphone and see exactly where you are.
One of the issues with using a smartphone is battery power and you have to be very careful the battery is topped up. This isn’t ideal if you are on a multi-day backpacking trip but I’ve never had my battery die on me yet on day walks. And using a solitary paper map is not without it’s hazards either. Over the years I’ve lost several maps when the wind has clutched them out my hands and blew them away.
RoadTour splits Scotland, England and Wales into 13 different regions and the Ordnance Survey map to each region costs just over £11. You can use the maps at either 1:50,000 or 1:25,000, and they are ideal for walkers or cyclists.
Would I consider going on the hill armed only with a Smartphone? To be perfectly honest I have done it, frequently, but having the back-up of a traditional paper map and a compass makes common sense, provided you have the skills to use them.
And even with a Smartphone, an inbuilt GPS locator and the appropriate digital map you still need skills to use them. There’s no short-cut I’m afraid, and the best, most useful way to learn, is with traditional map and compass.