Online Google Maps Compass Application

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Using a compass safely

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Gain experience safely

If it’s your first expedition with a map and compass, start with a short route in a lowland area you're familiar with. You could identify a new route within this and practise at night to help you build your map-reading skills. Avoid any hazards such as busy roads, rivers and streams.

Once you have gained experience, you might consider undertaking a more adventurous mountain route. If you are planning to walk in a mountainous area at any time of the year the weather may quickly and unexpectedly close in, resulting in near zero visibility. If the clouds descend while you are on a mountain, reading a compass correctly can be a life-saving skill. In poor visibility, it is essential to use a map and compass. Hazards can be avoided by following bearings for distances measured from the map. Calculate the distance while you are walking, by counting the number of paces taken and multiplying by the distance of each pace.

The best advice is always to check the weather forecast in advance. If poor weather is forecast, postpone or abandon your plans. The mountain will still be there tomorrow. You might not be.



Make sure you plan in advance

Before you set out, take the time to plot your route. Mark your chosen route on a route card. Your route should be broken down into separate sections or 'legs'. Split the overall route into legs that can be readily undertaken in conditions of poor visibility such as in cloud, fog or at night.

The route card should show compass bearings and the total distance for each leg as well as the height gained or lost and the steepness of the ground. Using this information, an estimated time to complete the leg can be calculated using Naismith's Rule. These times can then added to estimate the total time needed for the walk. For each leg note should be taken of potential sources of danger along the route such as cliffs.

Check the weather forecast in advance and tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back.



Make sure you go properly equipped
  • A map of the area you are exploring, and map case will help to protect your map from bad weather
  • A compass
  • A pencil, in case you decide to plan and orientate a new route
  • A watch
  • Food and water
  • Appropriate clothing


Abide by the Countryside Code
  • Be safe – plan ahead and follow any signs.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them.
  • Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home.
  • Keep your dog under close control.
  • Consider other people.