Being able to read a map can open up a whole new world around you, they inspire adventure, they allow us to escape well-worn paths and explore moors and mountains with far more confidence, self-sufficiency and safety awareness. They give us freedom, they provide a blueprint in which to plan a journey and hold vital information about the physical environment ahead.
A map and compass should be the fundamental part of any adventurer’s life, they’re synonymous. Yet, through the rise of technology the art of map reading is being forgotten, with this once simple skill being replaced by smartphones and GPS devices that tend to focus on your immediate location, rather than the journey ahead.
National Map Reading Week aims to inspire adventure, to teach children, teenagers and adults how to read maps and how they can get lost in the landscape, without ever actually getting lost! We want you to put down your smartphones, make map reading fun, to learn how to read contours, find grid references, use a compass, measure distance, break free, explore, have an adventure…
"Being able to read a map is a fundamental life skill and the basis of all outdoor activities. In 2017 we will be supporting National Map Reading Week to encourage everyone to improve their map-reading skills!"
Learn how to read a map with video guides from Steve Backshall
Choosing the right map
Understanding map symbols
Understanding contour lines
How to take a 4-figure grid reference
How to take a 6-figure grid reference
Features of a compass
How to take a compass bearing
Understanding magnetic north
Map reading for beginners...
A beginners guide to understanding map contour lines
Discover how contour lines on maps are used to understand
the terrain around you, including gradients of hills, valleys and steepness of
A beginners guide to understanding map scales
Have you ever wondered what a map scale is, or the
difference between OS Landranger and Explorer maps? Our quick guide to
understanding map scales will help!
A beginners guide to grid references
OS maps are covered in a series of blue grid lines that are
used to pinpoint exact locations anywhere on a map. Learn what these
are called and how to find a grid reference.
Beginners guide to using a compass
Navigating using a map and a compass is a fantastic life
skill and complements any GPS device. Here’s a step-by-step guide
on how to use compass bearings.
A beginners guide to the compass
Rather than just showing north, modern compasses have many features to
assist in planning and navigation. Find out what compass you need.
A beginners guide to measuring distance on a map
Measuring distance is a key map reading tool to see how far you've
travelled or how far you wish to go. Learn how to easily measure distance with
our quick and simple guide.
Advanced map reading...
Advanced guide to reading contours and relief
Using contours and relief on a map, plan and
navigate in remote locations where man-made features can often be rare, by
using contours to find points for triangulation and route planning.
An advanced guide to understanding map scale
For advanced map readers, it’s important to understand how cartographers create maps of different scales
using a process called ‘generalisation’. Find out why with this advanced map scale guide.
Advanced guide to pinpointing your location
Pinpointing your location on a map is a vital skill to ensure
you’re moving in the right direction and to help locate your position, if you’re
lost or need to give a rescue team a grid reference in an emergency.
Advanced navigation: never be lost again
When you're walking, running or climbing at night or in
poor visibility, things don't always go as planned. Here's how to find your
location and never be lost again.
An advanced guide to measuring distance
A critical part of navigation is being able to calculate
distance on a map, then estimate that distance on the ground to reach your next
navigation point. Here we are looking at skills for walkers and runners.
Map reading ideas for kids
Five tips to help kids plan and lead their own adventures
Sometimes it can be a real struggle to get kids outside, but
by giving them ownership of the adventure and the right tools for the job, watch them take control and become an avid navigator.
Have yourself a mappy little treasure hunt
OS GetOutside Champions, The Meek Family, love to find new
ways to make maps more fun. Try their mappy treasure hunt game and discover
more about map reading and how to get kids more involved.
How to teach young children to read and create maps
Understanding how places relate to each other is a vital
skill for children. Having a good spatial awareness helps them with many other
aspects of education, from maths to creativity.
If you would like to get involved in organising a map reading workshop or would like any other help, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.