How to use a compass with our maps

Using a GPS with our maps

How to use a compass with our maps

Sadly many people view a compass with alarm and think it should only used when they are lost. I have never understood this, it is a valuable navigational tool that is easy to use and should prevent you getting lost. Here's how to use it with our routes. First, buy the Correct Type of Compass. There are many manufacturers producing types similar to that shown below, get one of these. Don't bother with fancy brass ones or anything else.

Set your Course:- On the Route Information page, in the right hand column, there is a table showing the compass bearing to the next Waypoint. Turn the compass rotating ring until the bearing number in the table lines up with the yellow triangle on the base plate of the compass, this sets the compass ready for use. Hold the compass in front of you and turn yourself around until the red end of the compass needle lines up with the red arrow beneath it, you are now facing the direction to walk, it is as simple as that! The picture to the right shows a compass set at 100 degrees. IMPORTANT - Never line up the black end of the compass needle with the red arrow underneath, this will send you in the opposite direction.

Estimate your ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival):- This takes practise because:-

bulletPeople walk at different speeds.
bulletThe type of ground affects speed
bullet.Larger groups often walk slower.

On the route map there is a scale showing distance in miles, use this to estimate the distance to the next Waypoint, let's assume it is half a mile. If the path is average  you will probably walk at 2 miles per hour, this equates to half a mile in 15 minutes. Note the time you expect to arrive at the next Waypoint and start looking for it 5 minutes beforehand. If you see a landmark 7 minutes after starting check to see if you are halfway. With practice you will soon adopt your own estimates. Try using 3 miles per hour (20 minutes per mile) on a road and 1.5 miles per hour (40 minutes per mile) if it is hilly or you are stopping to admire the views.


Using a GPS with our maps

I am often asked if it is worth buying a GPS. Well, it's not an essential item and it cannot replace a compass or map but it does make life much easier. It's main advantage is:- (1) always knowing where you are and (2) knowing the distance and direction to the next waypoint. You can use it in the car and it will find your car or hotel in a strange city. Summing up; I wouldn't be without it but I wouldn't be without my compass and map either.

Make sure you key in the correct waypoint:- This is the most common mistake people make and it will send you miles off course unless you prevent it. Here's how:- After the waypoint is keyed into the GPS get into the habit of of checking each figure again before you press the ENTER button. As a secondary check compare the total GPS route length with the total on our route page. If it is within 0.2 miles everything is OK, if not, check those waypoints again. If you are setting your own waypoints from a map always key in the reference numbers running across the top of the map first. This is important because on some maps the numbers across the top are the same as those down the side, getting them in the wrong order will send you astray. If you want more information on using map references read the descriptive paragraph on the border of any Ordnance Survey map, Using the wrong letters in front of the map reference numbers will also produce an error so it's important to get them right too, here's why. The grid lines on an Ordnance Survey map relate to a square of land 100km (62 miles) wide and adjacent to this is another square that uses exactly the same numbers. The two letters in front of the map reference designate one square from another, if your route is wrong check these letters. Some routes will pass from one square to another so beware!

Practise on a Route You Know Well:- Trying to learn GPS operation on new territory in wind and rain is not a good idea, get totally familiar with it before venturing on unfamiliar ground. If you feel the need to take the instruction book with you on a walk more practise is needed. Most GPS have a wide variety of screens for different applications, once you know which screens suit you best turn the others off to simplify operation.

ETA - (Estimated Time of Arrival at the Next Way point):- Good navigation depends on when to start looking for a Waypoint. The GPS calculates the ETA for you and it's usually accurate so don't overlook this valuable feature. Obviously, if you are stopping to admire the scenery the ETA will change so don't forget to check it again. Don't expect an ETA when you are standing still, the GPS knows you will never get there!

Working on the Move:- You will soon discover the GPS gives a more accurate direction when you are moving. Develop the technique of taking quick glances at the screen while walking just as you would with a compass. As you approach a Waypoint there is a tendency to zoom in close to improve accuracy, get a clear idea of the general direction to the next waypoint before you do this. I set the proximity alarm at 250ft and make this check when it goes off.

Batteries:- GPS units eat battery power at an alarming rate and never seem to last as long the manufacturers claim so always carry spares. Battery life can be extended by turning off the GPS if the route is simple. Turn it on again when a Waypoint is close or the route gets difficult. Use your ETA as a guide. It takes some practise to learn when to turn it on and off but it's worth it. Don't buy cheap batteries, get the most powerful you can, I use Duracel Ultra.

Loss of Signal:- Complete loss of signal is rare but it can be disconcerting when the "poor GPS signal alarm" goes off. This alarm does not mean the unit is not working, it merely indicates that it is only  working on 2 satellites instead of the 3  used for the most accurate coverage. Although you will experience some loss of accuracy learn to accept it, there is little you can do about it, just carry on walking and rely on map and ETA as if you had no GPS, it will soon pick up enough satellites and get back to normal again. Moving away from high buildings, rock or thick tree cover can help.