Mapping and GPS for hiking – I have been using Ordnance Survey’s Memory Map GPS Navigation Software for hiking for over 10 years now. Initially the mapping was loaded on my computer, which I then used to print A4-sized maps of the sections the walks. This meant I could print just the sections I needed, and avoided having to carry a number of heavy maps.
More recently I’ve added Memory Map to my phone. This doesn’t mean the end of carrying paper maps (I still carry them for safety – a phone battery can go flat!) However, it does mean that I no longer have to worry about walking ‘off the map’ that I’m carrying. I can also change my route safely and still have mapping available. This is particularly important when I’m walking with children, as we may have to stop earlier than planned or leave the route completely.
As my knowledge and confidence with technology grew, I started using my phone’s GPS for route finding. A few years ago I was looking for a GPS unit for safety on more remote walks. On my search I came across the waterproof Tough phone Defender Pro which had GPS and a good camera. Then I realised that instead of carrying three different pieces of technology (phone, camera and GPS), I could just take one to do everything. Now when out walking I just take the phone out of my pocket, take a picture or two, check texts and my position all on one unit.
The OS 1:50,000 mapping can be loaded onto my phone. It will work with the GPS independently of the phone signal. If your phone has a large enough memory, you can have the maps for the whole of the UK on your phone. This has saved me days of walking on long distance walks and it’s so much safer to know exactly where I am.
With the location switched on, the mapping will show where you are. You can set it to track you, leaving a line where you’ve been. This can be transferred between devices too, via a cloud if necessary. Really useful when looking back at walks you’ve done, to remember exactly where you went. It’s also especially helpful for writing my blog posts of the walks!
Mapping and GPS for hiking
For years I had trouble with my phone getting damp on long distance camping trips. The Defender Pro solved this and did brilliantly on the Cape Wrath Trail, TGO Challenge and LEJOG. However, I managed to crack the screen and break the battery fixing. It was no longer waterproof, making it useless for hiking.
So I’ve had to look around for another phone. I would have purchased another Defender Pro, but I’m now using the Ulefone Armor rugged smartphone. Which I used on my 1100 mile Dover to Cape Wrath walk. It does the same job but has a longer battery life and was quite a bit cheaper. I have reviewed this phone here. It was easy to load the Memory Map and all the saved routes. The Memory Map pack can be used on up to 5 devices. If you stop using one, you can port the licence to a new device without losing it.
I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t had the Memory Map software and a waterproof GPS phone. I’ve spent over 40 years hiking in the UK and have had many navigational errors over the years, some more dangerous than others. My worst near-misses have been leaving ridges in cloud and thankfully I’ve been lucky, but it could have ended differently. I still can’t count and work out mileage accurately enough to be safe. It’s made life so much easier since I invested in the Memory Map software and a waterproof phone.
For the best mapping and GPS for hiking, I can’t recommend the Memory Map software and these waterproof phones enough. They work really well together. If I hadn’t had them, I don’t think I would have completed a number of the walks I’ve done.
Link to Amazon – Ulefone Armor Rugged Phone for the current price
Wildwalkinguk is a blog run by myself with the help of my family. I pay for its running costs myself. I do have some Amazon affiliate links and adverts on the site. If you click on these adverts or links and buy what you need (it doesn’t have to be the item I’ve linked to) the company will pay a small commission to us. This money goes towards the costs of hosting the blog. I would be extremely grateful if you could consider using our links when you next need to buy something from our advertisers. Alternatively, you can buy me a coffee here. Thank you so much for your support. Mark.
7 Replies to “Mapping and GPS I use when hiking”
Being in a walking group with many other members, I have found it repeatably embarrassing, post walk when comparing the length of the walk completed as indicated on my Defender Pro to that of other members devices, and indeed the walk length indication when composing it on the PC. The calculated distance walked! given by my Defender Pro is always inflated to the order of around 10 – 15 percent. Having read your article on long distance walking utilising the Defender Pro I would be interested to know how your experience was with such. What I tend to do is configure the rout to be walked on PC then cloud sync to the Defender Pro. Then on starting to walk I commence a “track log”on the Pro which then tracks the downloaded rout I am following on the Pro.Now looking at the track log being written during the walk this tracks the rout closely whilst actually moving, however once stopped for refreshments ie. Lunch etc because the Pro is still logging, on examining the track log it can be seen that whilst stationary the GPS is “wondering” all over the place for tens and even hundreds of yards out and back and forth etc etc.This wondering when stopped is responsible for the inflated mileage walked. I asked memory map if the “Track log” could be paused! whilst stationary but was told that No! one would have to exit the application to stop it tracking. Or I guess you could “Stop” logging during the break and then restart it once walking is resumed. However this would result in two separate track log over lays being written which would then need to be summed together for total mileage. Rather disappointing and messy.
Hope you can offer your views on this.
Hi Nigel. I don’t trust the mileage and ascent figures given by any technology, that’s why I don’t put daily mileages on my posts. I don’t plan that accurately either, I don’t tend to worry what distance I’m walking any given day. I just stop when I’ve had enough or reached a pub. Thanks for your message. Mark
Hey Mark, thanks for this my sentiments entirely.
Hello I love your blog and love your walking ethos and philosophy.
I use an iPhone 10 and subscribe to OS maps via an App on my phone. I find the iPhone battery life dies fast say after 6 hours of navigation. I carry a battery pack to recharge so more weight to carry. What your view on my set up ?
Lastly, why are you not Sir Mark Webb your sense of adventure and walking the talk deserves Royal recognition ? Cheers Reef Wesu. I am following you on twitter as reefwesu @ chaggabaz
I’ve never used an iPhone or the OS App so I cannot help directly with your issues. All I can say is that I use the OS maps down loaded onto my phone and use a phone with a large battery. I don’t need to carry a battery pack. My phone lasts one to two weeks without recharging it, but I’ve usually got it on aeroplane mode and all the Apps off. Except for the mapping and GPS.
Thank you for your message
Hi, this a question rather than a reply, but First, of course, I appreciate the knowledgeable style you have, without overdoing the ‘personality’ bit, so common.
However, to the question. I took your advice and got a rugged phone (a blackview, which i am mostly happy with) and the MM OS maps. I may have missed it, but it doesn’t seem to have an old school compass, but rather degrees which seem very volatile, which I find much less useful. If it did, I’d be able to align the map with North much more easily. Incidentally, despite their helplines explanations for its directional volatility I find a simple Android app is both stable and reliable, but a pain to use with the map.
Have you experienced a similar issue, have I missed something, or perhaps you’ve found a workaround?
I’ve not had a single issue with memory maps and I’ve been using it for years on a number of devices. I think the issue is probably with the phone you’re using. Sorry I can’t help you further as I’m rubbish with technology, my kids always set it up for me. I’ll have words with them and let you know if they’ve any ideas.
Thanks for your message.