Managing Your Map
A map is your primary aid to navigation, yet half the time it gets left folded up in the sac - until you really need it! Taking time to prepare it so it is easier to handle will help you enormously when the going gets tough. Here are a few top tips for taming your map....
Uncover Your Map!
Stiff covers on maps make it much harder to fold effectively. On most maps you can carefully remove it without damaging the map. Buying a map without a cardboard cover is an even better option.
Don't Hesitate to Laminate
Many maps can now be bought ready laminated, which is ideal for Britain's soggy climate. If yours is not laminated, you have the choice of using a map case, or laminating it yourself. Laminating it makes it easier to handle and carry than putting it in a big flappy map case. If you want to do it yourself, you can buy rolls of soft laminate from stationers (laminating machines tend to use very stiff laminate so aren't such a good option.) It is easier to laminate smaller sections of map, which brings us to the next tip.
Cut Up Your Map!
It may seem a bit shocking to take the scissors to your map, but remember - you are trying to make it work for you. There is often a lot on the map that you will never use for hill navigation - towns, sea etc. By cutting down your map, you can customise it to cover the area you want - and then make it easier to laminate! Don't forget to incorporate the grid reference numbers, include the map key if it is something you will use, and write the map name in a corner eg Snowdonia 1:25,000.
Fold Away to Find Your Way
At the start of any hill day, decide on the area you are going to, then fold your map as small as possible so just the area you want is visible. With a bit of time taken at the start of the day, you should be able to avoid those comedy moments where you try to refold the full map in a gale force wind on a knife-edge ridge.Having tamed your map, you can then secure it with a couple of rubber bands, or some gaffa tape.
Scribble on Your Map!
Having a permanent OHP pen, or chinagraph pencil in your pocket will allow you to mark a laminated map.
This can be a great help in difficult conditions as you can plot features on the map as you get to them and make relocation easier.
The markings can be removed later with toothpaste (yes toothpaste!)
Handy but Hands-Free
It's important to keep your map handy, but unless you are micro-navigating in tough conditions there's no need to have it in your hands all the time (or round your neck in a map case!) Especially on rocky terrain you want your hands free for grip and balance. So make sure your map is safely stowed in a jacket pocket, side pocket of your rucksack, or tucked under the rucksack waist belt.
Always have a spare map in your rucksack for that unfortunate moment when your beautifully cut-up, laminated, folded and taped map goes sailing over a cliff in the wind.