We featured the Silva Expedition 4 Compass on Day 3, and we always recommend that you take a map and compass (and know how to use them) when you head into the hills.  That said, we believe there is still room for technology and a good GPS unit is a great addition to our kit.  The Satmap Active 12 is my choice of GPS.  I bought it earlier this year and use it most weeks.


Satmap Active 12 GPS unit


So what features does it have?

A big, bright screen, 3.5″ high res to be precise
Big buttons (useful when you’re wearing gloves, or your hands are just cold)
Easy to use interface
Accurate to within 1 metre
1:25k and 1:50k map scale
Barometric altimeter
Bluetooth connectivity
Rechargeable battery
It weighs just 175g and measures just 3.5cm x 7.5cm x 13cm

What do I use it for?

It’s a great backup to have and it’s great as a teaching tool.

A lot of the time it stays in my bag for the whole day, just logging the route.  Why is that useful?  Well, for a number of reasons.  For one, as a Mountain Leader we have to log a certain number of days/routes on the hill when we take new levels of assessment.  Being able to just upload it to the system saves a whole load of admin, which has to be a good thing, right?

More importantly, I can allow a group to practice their navigation on a hill, get temporarily misplaced (or lost, as you might describe it!) and then whip out the GPS to confirm or otherwise our location in seconds.  So they can get right on with planning the route out.

If you’re on your own, a great way to test your navigation skills is to mark a point on your paper map and navigate to it.  Once there you can take out the GPS and check that you are actually where you think you are.

You can use the GPS to review the route taken and understand where mistakes were made, or where improvements could be made next time.

A view of the Brecon Beacons as a group undergo a navigation test


Why the Satmap Active 12 in particular?

The improvements from the 10 version are definitely worth having – Improved battery life, a clearer screen with better resolution, and the change from black to orange buttons makes it easier to use in low light.

The Satmap also allows you to access lots of different areas through their map cards, so when I go abroad I simply pop the relevant card in and away I go.

Remember, the Satmap Active 12 as good as it is, still won’t do EVERYTHING for you.  You still need to know how to read a map and interpret the symbols.  If you want to learn how to use a map and compass, and see how a GPS can be used alongside them, then book onto one of our Navigation courses.

Buying the Satmap Active 12

The Satmap Active 12 retails at £399 from the Satmap website, but we have found it reduced to £279.99 on the Ordnance Survey website.

Have you used the Satmap Active?  Or maybe a different GPS?  Share your thoughts in the comments, we’d be really interested to read them.

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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