A Guide to Map Reading and Navigation

by Votwo Team August 15, 2018

A Guide to Map Reading and Navigation

One of the great reasons to get into trail running is all the beautiful places that you get to train and challenge yourself in, and for many, this means the wilder the better. Nowadays, we have a plethora of digital navigation tools at our fingertips which offer downloadable maps and GPS so we can find our way in the wilderness. But smartphones are often useless out in the sticks: Batteries die, screens break, signal fades.


The marathon challenges Votwo organises on the South Coast, and the new Challenge in Spain, are all self navigated. It is important that you know how to read a map before you need to read the map; map navigation is an essential trail-running skill. It is also vital to be able to use the map and compass together in order to navigate successfully.

Here's a quick guide to map reading for new trail runners.

Legend

Most maps use symbols, rather than descriptions, to show where things are. The legend will explain which symbols, colours and shapes represent roads, footpaths, woods, buildings, rivers, streams, and much more.

The North Arrow

Tells you which way is north. It always points to the top of the map and is important for orienting yourself using your compass.

Scale

Maps are shown in different scales (for example 1:25k or 1:50k). The larger the map scale, the more detail that will be shown on the page, and the smaller the scale, the less detail will be shown. The scale also enable you to measure distances accurately. With a 1:50k scale, every centimetre on the map represents 50,000cm (500m) in real life. OS maps are broken up into grids, with each box measuring 2cm. Every full box on the map covers 1km in real life making for quick estimations of distances at a glance. Knowing how far apart each landmark or turning is means you are less likely to lose your way on unfamiliar training routes or new trail challenges.

 

Grid References

All maps have a network of horizontal (northings) and vertical (eastings) lines printed on them. These lines are used to generate grid references. A four figure grid reference refers to a square 1km by 1km, which is a large area on the ground. To use the grid lines to identify a location, simply read along the numbers on the eastings first, and then the northings. For accuracy, it is good practice to give a six figure grid reference, which identifies a more useful square of 100m x 100m. This is done by working out how many tenths within the square the landmark lies, both to the east and to the north of the bottom left hand corner.

For more information on map reading and navigation have a look here or here.




Votwo Team
Votwo Team

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