Why it’s important to download OS Locate

Emily Thompson By Emily Thompson

OS Locate - what is it and why do you need it?

Group walking

Winter is here and the increase in call outs for Mountain Rescue teams are set to rise after one of the busiest summers for call outs. My team alone has already had our busiest year on record (by a long margin) and its only the start of winter.

Nationally in 2017 Mountain Recue England and Wales responded to 2396 call outs and 40% of those were not to help people injured. More and more they are trying to speak to people who are lost via mobile phone and talk them down off the hill rather than call out their volunteer teams to search for the uninjured.

If you want to prevent yourself being lost the Ordnance Survey OS Locate app is a great tool to pinpoint your exact location.

How it works

The app works by converting GPS location readings from your mobile phone to National Grid references, which means it works even when you don’t have a mobile phone signal.

Simply download the app and ensure the location services are enabled.

The app can also provide you with a rough reading for your altitude and has a digital compass to take your bearing.

Most useful is the ‘share’ function which can enable you to share your location with others. This is a great tool should you find yourself injured whilst out walking and need to tell emergency services where you are.

OS Locate is fast becoming a tool recommended by Mountain Rescue to help prevent walkers from becoming lost and able to get themselves back on track without calling out a team to find them.

Of course you need to have a map and know how to use it so make sure you have good navigation skills before you head out into the hills this winter.

OS Locate in use

Example of OS Locate in use

Scott Mcalister: “Descending Blencathra via Halls Fell Ridge in wet misty weather, visibility was down to a few metres at best. We lost the path and found ourselves heading down into a steep gully. Not having my phone with me that day (so no OS Maps app), we were finding it difficult to locate ourselves on the map accurately as there was no visible features to take a bearing off.

A friend of mine had OS Locate installed on his mobile phone which we used to give us a 6-figure grid reference. This confirmed where we thought we were on the map, and we safely navigated our way back onto the main path.”

Man trekking in woodland

Make sure you're safe outside this winter. Details for how you can download the OS Locate app can be found here. For more hints and tips visit our other safety guides here.

Emily Thompson By Emily Thompson


For Emily Thompson, being outdoors is an addiction, and she particularly loves hiking at any opportunity she gets.

When she's not romping over the mountains or dreaming up the next adventure, Emily works for a charity inspiring positive changes and providing second chances to young people.

Emily also works as a freelance Mountain Leader, working with young people through their Duke of Edinburgh award – training, supervising and assessing their expeditions around the UK, and providing adults with a variety of adventures in the outdoors, and is also an active callout member of her local Mountain Rescue Team.

You can find out about Emily's adventures here.