It’s the 12th day of our 12 Gifts of Christmas.  When I was asked what my absolute MUST HAVE piece of kit was, I have to admit I struggled.  To get it down to one item?  That’s really difficult.  But when I thought about it some more, thought about hiking and kayaking and canoeing and all of the other things I do, well the one piece of kit that they all have in common, that is there at the planning stage, the time outside and sometimes in reviewing too, well it’s got to be the MAP.  And my maps of choice for most regions of the UK are the Ordnance Survey maps.


A blue jacket with a RockRiver Expeditions logo and an AMI logo (Association of Mountain Instructors) with a map and a Silva Expedition 4 compass


I have a GPS unit on the 12 Gifts of Christmas list, it’s on Day 6 if you want to go back and have a read of it.  But in order to use a GPS unit, you still need to have and use maps.  So you can’t discount them just because technology has come along.


Why are maps important to me?


For Planning Routes

Seeing what’s in the area, what might be of interest.  Are there National Trails marked?  Where do the other footpaths lead?  They can inspire you to explore new places and see new things.

Once you’ve decided roughly where you’re going to go, you can use them to measure the distance, the height gain, see the terrain you’ll be walking or cycling over.  You can see if your route will take you near to a village or pub where you can pick up supplies, and where the nearest campsites are located.  You can see how much of it is open access land where you can roam freely or where you need to stick to the footpaths or bridleways.  So you can plan out the day or weekend in more detail once you know this information.


Picturing the route

This is the bit that really annoys Paula.  She can stare at a map for ages and see that a route goes uphill, through woods then opens up towards the top of the ridge…but she has to work at it because she hasn’t done it as often as I have.  I take one look and I can really imagine walking through the valley, climbing up the craggy rocks at the end to reach the ridge and picturing the view when I get there. It comes with practice but the maps really do have all of the information on there.


Naming the Peaks

When you get to the top of the hill, or you’ve canoed to the campsite on the loch and you see the peaks all laid out in front of you or around you, it’s great to get the map out, orient it and see the names of each one.  See where you fit into the landscape that you find yourself in.


Discovering New

And then there’s the heaps of rubble, or mangled metalwork that you sometimes come across.  It might only be marked on the map as ‘ruin’ or as a site of interest, but if you make a note of it on your map, when you get home you can put the grid reference into an internet search engine and most times the stories will pop up telling you all about the farm that used to be on that land, or the aircraft that crashed there in the second World War.


So buying someone a map can open up whole new areas to discover.  Whether they’re a mountain biker, hiker, fell runner or kayaker, they’ll all use it to explore and discover.

Why not buy one for the Adventurer in your life – perhaps of a National Park they haven’t been to yet?  Or one centred on their favourite mountain or river?

You can even get trek towels now with Ordnance Survey maps printed on them.  I’m not sure I’d use it to navigate with, but they could lie on it on the beach and dream of being in the hills…


And if you don’t know how to read a map, or want to build confidence in your skills, consider booking one of our navigation days.  We run them all year around, and advertise dates but if you don’t see a date that suits you just get in touch and we’ll happily add more dates to the calendar.


If you were having a custom map made for you, where would you choose?


Find all of our gift recommendations here;
Day 1 – The Buff
Day 2 – The Lifeventure Thermal Mug
Day 3 – The Silva Expedition 4 Compass
Day 4 – The MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
Day 5 – The Alpkit MytiStax
Day 6 – The Satmap Active 12 GPS
Day 7 – Icebreaker Merino Tshirts
Day 8 – Leki Walking Poles
Day 9 – Alpkit Viper 2 Headtorch
Day 10 – Hats
Day 11 – Mountains
Day 12 – Ordnance Survey Maps

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