Friday, 20 May 2011

Pennine Way maps - advice please!

I've been putting a lot of thought lately into route finding and navigation along the way and what to take with me so I don't get lost. I am in several minds about this and would appreciate input from anyone who has done the Pennine Way.

I'm an old fashioned girl and I have a strong emotional attachment to OS maps of all scales. I feel at home with them, they feel like familiar old friends and the thought of setting out on a walk without one makes me go all wobbly at the knees. My navigation skills with a map and compass are pretty good so I've no worries about that. When I was looking at new GPS technology last year I opted for the undoubtedly expensive Satmap Active 10 because it uses OS mapping on varying scales.

Basically it comes with a 1:250,000 map of the UK and you buy SD cards separately loaded with 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 maps of the areas that you specifically want and use often. These mapcards aren't cheap but Satmap often have special offers so if you keep an eye on your email you can pick them up more cheaply.

It's taken me a long while to get to grips with the Satmap but I've persevered and I'm getting there. I've got the Pennine Way mapcard which has the whole route on it at 1:25000 and 1:50000. Of course I appreciate that a GPS needs power and I've got the rechargeable kit for it and because I'm staying at a B&B or YHA each night, I should be able to keep it charged up. I know that I can't rely exclusively on technology though.

I also have both the Cicerone guide to the Pennine Way and the National Trails North and South Pennine way books, all of which have strip maps and route details in them. I hope that all of this, along with the Pennine Way signposts will keep me on track.

The question for me is 'is this going to be enough?' I can't help feeling uneasy at the thought of going out onto the hills without a paper OS map (I'll have a compass with me) in my pocket. It just won't feel right to me. That is balanced with the thought of having to buy all 9 of them (£14 a time) and carry them - although I can post them back and forth along the route.

Do any of you who have experience of routefinding on the Pennine Way have an opinion on this?
  • What is the signposting on the route like?
  • Are the strip maps in the books good enough if the GPS packs up (as sods law dictates it will!)
  • I'll be walking in July so there will be plenty of daylight but I'm well aware that some of the route is at high level and subject to the usual mist and fog which could make routefinding a challenge.
I'm not going to compromise on safety but neither do I want to spend £150 if I don't really need to. Dilemma!

Do I need to carry the OS maps or will the GPS and the strip maps be enough coupled with the signposts?

Any advice would be gratefully received.Thanks in advance!


  1. Hi Janet

    I found that the OS 1:50's and the two National Trail guides with a compass were fine, coupled with a very simple GPS (which actually caused me more problems due to a malfunction when I was "temporarily misplaced" on Cross Fell in the cloud, but then I am pretty crap at technical things...)

    It's a fine walk.

  2. Hi Janet, I have just come across your blog. I would agree with Alan that his suggestions above would be quite adequate. In fact a map and a simple GPS - ie a £70 Garmin is good for anywhere. I always take a compass as well just in case of malfunctions. I have walked some of the Pennine Way in stages. Unfortunately time commitments don't allow me to do it in one go). In fact I am going to some sections on an extended weekend coming up so that I can eventually complete it. Must get round to writing it up on my blog as I started these sections before I started my blog.

  3. Hi Janet

    Harvey maps are worth checking out as they cover the whole Pennine way for a reasonable price (£30):

    The BMC also produce their own maps using Harvey data for many of the areas the Pennine way covers:

    The 1:40,000 scale is fine to use once you get used to it and is a nice compromise between the excessive detail you tend to get with 1:25,000 and the lack of detail with 1:50,000. I use BMC maps for winter climbing all the time now, they're also water and tear proof. Worth getting the plastic roamer to help convert distances.

    I don't trust GPS by itself due to battery/ signal issues. Maps never run out of juice!

    Alasdair Monteith

  4. Hi Janet
    Strip maps in books: when I walked the way (with my Dad in 1985 so quite a while ago) we took OS 1:50000 maps, but we met people using just books and sometimes found that they were struggling as a consequence. In particular, after severe weather which left streams flowing into the Tees in spate, we rescued two walkers who were worried about leaving the route in their strip maps to find places to cross the streams safely. Personally, I wouldn't be without proper maps, but then I've never used GPS so I may not be the best person to advise!
    Good luck with your walk.

  5. Hi Alasdair - that's a brilliant idea. I do have a couple of Harveys maps but it never occurred to me to look for a Pennine Way set. It seems like the perfect compromise and a heck of a lot cheaper than the full set of OS! Waterproof too!

    Problem solved - thanks to everyone for their inputs - isn't the internet a wonderful thing?


  6. I did the PW fairly recently and I also live close to the North pennine parts of the route. Most of it is very easy to follow and is well signed and even paved. There's the odd tricky bit - leaving the summit of Cross Fell would be one and in a few other places its a bit vague, but you're unlikely to get any "loster" (!) than anybody else. Its the low level field paths that are the trickiest in my 'umble....