With the increasing realisation that nature is good for our souls (which is much needed after the last year), lots of folks are turn oven now keen to make the most of our beautiful British countryside and mountainous areas. However, as many people are just beginning their outdoor adventures and others may have had a year off, it's always good to remember to approach the mountains and wild areas with some research and understanding of what and how the environment can affect you.
I am a very competent navigator but find that digital aids can play a useful role in some situations as well. Many things can happen unexpectedly when out on the hill - which can be half the fun of it! - however I like to always be as prepared as possible. There's a whole range of apps out there, but I will share my favourites with you here, along with a top tip for contacting the emergency services if you haven’t got enough signal.
Before I kick off, it’s always worth noting (particularly as even those of us with lots of experience have potentially had a year off) to always make sure you have appropriate footwear, clothing, layers, food and water with you for your outing. Make sure you have some knowledge of where you’re going and have considered whether it's appropriate and achievable terrain for you to be in. Check mountain weather forecasts before you head out (they're different from the urban ones). What can start as a nice sunny day can very quickly turn into torrential rain and high winds. I always use a ‘mountain weather forecast’ on the Met Office, but it's worth checking out MWIS and yr.no. It’s also a great idea to let someone outside the group (a friend/family member) know where you’re going and a rough time you plan to be back, so someone knows where you are :)
One more handy tip before the apps......
Emergency sms 📲🤳
Have you registered your mobile with the emergency SMS service?
It's easy to register:
Send a SMS with the word
‘register’ to 999
This service can be used as a last resort if your signal isn't strong enough for a phone call.
What should you include in your text if you ever have to send one in an emergency?
Emergency service required
Location (6 figure Grid reference)
Means of identification
Number of people
Action being taken
Remember: a text is ONLY 140 characters.
Remember: your first aid ABC's (airway - breathing - circulation) and to insulate your casualty from the ground!
And a reminder - the internationally recognised emergency signals are six blasts on the whistle or six torch flashes repeated every minute!
Useful apps for your phone
I have these these apps on my phone, I rely on my navigation skills (that’s reading a map and
being able to use a compass for clarity) but these can be a great back up and aid.
It’s not always appropriate to have your phone out in the mountains, I also always have a map and compass in my bag. I do pack a rechargeable battery as well but there are certain makes of phones that do not do well in the cold.
Of course, there are a range of different apps with mapping system's out there, everyone has their own preference but here's mine.
OS Maps 🗻
I love having a map on my phone, I use the paid version of OS Maps (1 month free trial to begin with £28.99 a year after). It’s easy to access, I use it as a quick double check and I like the fact I can track my route and be a bit geeky about some of the details of my walk.
Quite handy if you want to be able to work out your average speed, also it does give you a graph of height gain and loss which I thought was great.
OS LOCATE 🗺
Quickly open this and you can have your grid co-ordinates. Great as a quick double check (you need to give it some extra time if you haven't opened it for a while).
I used to have the map app that was joined to OS locate, but now I use it as a stand alone app. I like to use it as a quick double check and very usefully you can share your location.
I've included this one for an educational purpose. I personally wouldn't use this on the hill but perhaps I would use it in a more urban area. Here's why....Mountain Rescue use a grid reference system, it's accurate (when used well) and has been used for ages (first OS map was published in 1801). If I were in trouble, I'd want them to find me asap so why would I use a different system?
For me there's also some ethical things about the app that I don't agree with....I'll let you do your own research there and make up your own mind.
Here's a great articles from MR to give you more details from their perspective (also they are a volunteer service and always appreciate donations)
Here's some articles about the use of what three words in a mountain rescue setting.
Fat Maps and BAA
Fat maps and Be Avalanche aware are two apps I use in winter to help me make decisions regarding avalanches.
***No app can be a replacement for experience and competence in the mountain environment***
Be prepared! 💛