An Introduction to Walking Navigation

1st April 2014

We know that walking is a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Not only that but, being a low impact activity, itís ideal if youíre looking for a bit of light exercise too. From the craggy Welsh hills to the stunning valleys of the Lake District, the UK has a lot to offer walkers of all abilities. However, what puts many people off the idea of going on a new walk is the fear of getting lost!

There are plenty of tools available to help you find your way around but we appreciate that they can be daunting to use. If youíre looking at getting to grips with navigation, weíve come up with some top tips to help you on your way.

What do you need

1.Map and compass

First and foremost youíll need a map and a compass of the area you wish to explore. Given that the British weather is unpredictable to say the least, it would be wise to ensure that you also bring a laminated map or plastic map case in case the weather turns.

ĎA compass is only useful if you know how to use it Ė Britainís national mapping authority Ordnance Survey have some great pointers here.

2. Pen and notebook

Ahead of your trip, why not jot down a few pointers so that you can make sure youíre heading in the right direction e.g. look out for a certain landmark that might help jog your memory and let you know that youíre going in the right direction.

3. A watch

Itís surprising how many people rely on their phone nowadays to keep track of time. To avoid the risk of running out of battery, use a good old-fashioned watch to help keep track of time and distance travelled. Most people average between 3 and 5 kilometres an hour walking so if you travel at 4 km/h you will travel 1 km every 15 minutes Ė although you shouldnít solely rely on this method as various terrain features, such as steep hills, may slow you down.

Navigation Map

Is it worth buying a navigation system?

Buying a GPS is an option but these can be expensive so make sure you weigh up the pros and cons before you commit to purchasing one. Firstly, make an assessment on whether a GPS is necessary Ė if youíre planning on walking routes that are under 5k and youíre sticking to well established paths, then itís unlikely youíll need one.


Great for off-the-beaten track walks

If youíre keen to break out of your walking routine and head on some bigger walks, but want a bit of reassurance that youíre headed in the right direction, then a GPS system can definitely be a great way to try out new places (without getting lost!)


You can add your own routes and check your latest stats including your average speed and distance travelled.

Extra information

Whilst the joy of walking for many is being able to escape technology and get out in the great outdoors, a GPS system can give you access to interesting information that you wouldnít have usually. GPS systems can be as technologically advanced as you like and include features such as weather updates, live webcams from the location and other interactive tools.

Navigation GPS


If you do buy a GPS you should know that there are some problems associated with them.


Whilst technology can be great when it works, itís important to bear in mind that thereís always the risk that it wonít, and thatís the last thing you want when youíre on a walk somewhere youíre not familiar with. Using satellite technology, they can lose signal if weather conditions are poor, if itís very cloudy, or if youíre going through terrain that may physically get in the way of the signal.

Battery power

Being battery powered, itís vital that you keep a spare pair of batteries in case you run out of charge. The decision is up to you. Itís worth mentioning that many avid walkers take a GPS in addition to the traditional map and compass method so that they cover all bases.

The internet can be useful too

Finally, an invaluable resource for helping you get to grips with navigation is online walking forums. These can often help with having up-to-date records of the routes, additionally, many will indicate if maps are no longer accurate or if the landmarks have changed. They often suggest interesting sights to see along the way, give tips on walks to do and where the best places are for rest stops. More often than not, walkers will share their photos online so youíll know what to expect.

Hopefully this will shed some light on getting to grips with navigation. Rather than leaping straight into advanced navigation tools itís worth starting off small and familiarising yourself with more basic methods of navigation. Just remember that weather in spring can be unpredictable so be sure to check forecasts and take a variety of clothing with you. Our wide selection of fleeces and jackets are great layering options that will be perfect for a springtime walk.

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