What Do I Need For Navigation In The Mountains

Navigation in the mountains can be tricky, but you learned to walk, right? Mostly, you’ll need the skill. You CAN master this.

You’ll Need A Map

A very obvious tool, the map is something you should consider carefully before setting out. There are several different maps you could buy for your trip.

Navigation in the mountains
Navigation in the mountains

If you’re covering many miles or trekking over rolling hillside covered in snow, you may prefer a 1:50k map. Some choose Harveys maps over Ordnance Survey, but the highly recommended map of choice for walking the Wainwrights, the Peak District, Snowdonia or Scottish Highlands is the OS 1:25k Explorer map.

This map shows the fine detail of the terrain you are hiking so you can use these features to confirm you are where you think you are. On our workshops, we stop at regular intervals to identify characteristics on the landscape and match them to the story on the page.

Navigation in the Lake District
Navigation in the Lake District

You may be surprised to find how precise the maps we use are. I suggest you stop some time on the side of a hill with a view across a valley to identify a crag, coppice or gully you see on the map.

The weather in the UK can be harsh. We get the best practice navigating in fog or during the night, especially in the mountains, but make sure you know the basics first.

Search for Ordnance Survey Explorer maps on Amazon, I find it the cheapest place (I buy lots of maps).

Silva Expedition 4-360 Compass

When you learn the art of navigation, the compass is invaluable. Imagine driving a car without a left turn option. Navigating across the countryside or up mountains we find our way from point to point, confirming our location as we go. Sometimes we’ll follow a path from a wall to a coppice, all is sweet, but often we have to cross over open land to a feature on the other side. In this instance, we would probably employ our compass.

Navigation and map reading on Kinder Scout
Navigation and map reading on Kinder Scout

Taking a bearing from our start position to the feature we can’t see, but know is there, using the map, we can head off on that bearing and arrive at our destination in comfort. That’s the plan anyway.

Just like driving a car, only heading straight on or right, we’ll get into trouble. A compass is an invaluable tool for navigation in the mountains. The best brands are Silva and Suunto. Since the latter are expensive for no practical reason, we buy the Silva Expedition 4-360.

Be Prepared for the Hills

Not only can the weather be a nightmare in the UK, but the ground can also be as well. The boggy ground can be challenging to get around; crossing rivers can be dangerous and even long grass can soak your trousers, leaving you cold and drained.

I would strongly advise you to take:

  • Comfortable waterproof boots
  • Gaiters (we’ll spend lots of time off the beaten track)
  • Waterproofs (it rains in England quite unpredictably)
  • Water and food*

Being well prepared, we reduce the likelihood of any harm coming to ourselves and anyone in the group. I always carry a good first aid kit and a small group shelter. Please be appropriately dressed or have such items in your bag, bring more than enough water and calories for the trip.

You can learn all of the skills necessary on our Navigation & Map Reading Masterclass.

If you have any questions about navigation, trekking in the mountains or gear don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or get in touch.

Happy hiking.

Leave a comment