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Looking After Your Map – Basic Map Care

A map is a tremendous resource, packed with lots of details about the landscape and invaluable for anyone wanting to successfully navigate a walk.  Maps aren’t cheap however so it is important to look after them. Even on a dry day, walking with some form of map cover will reduce the wear (and probably tear) to your map, especially around the folds.

Using a Map Case

Many people use a map case and there are some excellent makes, particularly the big cases that allow more than just two map segments to be shown at once. There is, however, a tendency to hang the case around your neck and read the map from that position. This is not good for “setting” the map. We’ll talk about setting or orientating a map in another blog, but to briefly explain the term, it means holding the map up so that the features on the map coincide with the way they appear on the ground.

If the map case is slung around your neck, then you won’t be doing this, not to mention that you risk death from strangulation! Removing the strap or string from the map case will help by stopping you hanging it round you neck.

The great news about map cases is that they aren’t really expensive. Like all products, they come in a range of sizes and prices.  But you can get a simple map case for under £5.

The map case above is one of the cheap ones, it allows you to see two panels of your map at once, and uses velcro fasteners, as opposed to zips. More expensive map cases have additional pockets to carry other items.

map care- map cases
Should you use a map case or laminated map?
Cheap map case
You can get small map cases for relatively little cost- if you must!

Laminated Maps versus Map Cases

People who have enjoyed one of my map and compass courses will know of my opposition to map cases however.  The lack of map setting is one reason but the other is the difficulty of taking your map in and out of the map case to see a hidden part of the map for the key.  There are a multitude of reasons why having easy access to the rest of the map is a good idea suffice it say that if you’ve already spent ten minutes cramming your map into your map case, you aren’t going to want to keep taking it in and out again.

My preference is to use a laminated map. They last much longer than the paper ones and they are even great for sheltering underneath when it’s raining.  They are also useful for sitting on, thus preventing DWB (damp walkers bottom)!  Joking aside, a laminated map will last considerably longer than a paper one, even in a map case.  My laminated maps get very heavy use, but last a good 18 months to two years before I have to replace them.

Harvey Maps, an excellent mapping series that cover the more popular walking areas and routes,  are all printed on waterproof paper which is more robust than the standard paper used by the Ordnance Survey.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of map care, it’s time to think about how to get the best use out of your map. Sign up for one of our Map and Compass courses today.

Pete Hawkins: Author and navigation expert runs Silva Navigation School. Map and compass courses for walkers, runners, mountain bikers and all outdoor enthusiasts.