This section gives some advice on choosing the right maps and compasses to take with you on a Wild Camping trip.

Maps and Compasses



For Scotland there is only one series of maps worth considering – Ordnance Survey. They have all the detail you need to read the hills and mountains, and avoid falling off a cliff in the mist.

One drawback of these (and most maps) is that they’re one big sheet of paper. The OS maps are surprisingly waterproof, but still blow about and can be difficult to deal with. A vital piece of kit in my book then is the map case. These are about the size of two A4 sheets side-by-side, and are transparent. You fold up your map in the right place, stick it in, then read it through tyhe map case. Ideal.


Maps and Compasses - Sundial

Maybe not the best one for Wild Camping

The compass you choose needs to be fairly simple to use, and robust. I’ve tried all sorts over the years, from the ones you see in war films with the little sighting mirror, to very basic little button compasses. The best I’ve found are the short, dumpy little Silva ones. These are transparent, marked with rulers along each side and have a rotating bezzle. I had one of these for mountain use for about 10 years, then started to use it to go sub-aqua diving in Scottish Waters. It survived a further 6 years without fault until finally, one sad day, I dropped my 25lb weight belt on it and it smashed. That was a sad moment.

The most important thing to have in a compass, though, is the skill to use that pMaps and Compasses Silvaarticular one easily. The more complicated it is, the slower you’ll be. You rarely need to be ninja-accurate with your fixes because you can read then terrain around you to give you a general idea. Fixes tend to be just to check you’re climbing up the right mountain. So ditch the complex accurate ones for reasonable ones you can get truely competent using.

There’s much more to compasses, of course, but I’ll cover that another time.