Having learnt some very basic navigation skills, don't just head off for the hills or your local countryside with your new map and
compass without taking a few
minutes to think things through.
No I am not trying to put you off or expecting you to carry out a full-blown expedition planning exercise, just asking you to consider a few details to
ensure your walk is as enjoyable and trouble free as possible.
The factors you need to consider
- The type of walk you prefer and how far you normally walk: A short afternoon stroll, a strenuous dawn to dusk mountain hike, or something in
- Your navigation
skills: Hopefully you know enough about map reading for a short afternoon stroll or days walk on well used and signed footpaths, but unless you
(or one of the people you're walking with) have more advanced navigation skills, the strenuous hill or mountain hike is probably best avoided.
- How long the walk will take to complete: You need to be confident that you can safely complete it in the time available and certainly before it
gets dark unless your familiar with micro navigation. To answer this question you need to know how long and how hilly the walk is and how fast you can
walk (and still enjoy it).
If you are using a guidebook the walks distance, height climbed and an estimated time to complete it may well be given, if not you will have to measure
the distance and height on your map and work out the timings for yourself.
So long as you allow for the size of your group, their experience/abilities, the type of terrain, the number of rest periods required and add a safety
margin; there is no right or wrong estimation method. But remember it is always better to over estimate the time and finish early, rather than late and
in the dark, especially if you don't have torches and high visibility clothing with you.
- Measuring the length of a walk and the height climbed - It is very unlikely that your walk will be a straight line, so the easiest way of
measuring its length is to use a piece of string or a map measurer; referring to the map scale for the length conversion. To estimate the height
climbed (how hilly the walk is) count the number of contour lines you cross going uphill, the map legend should give the height between each
line on your map. Unless any downhill sections are very steep they can be ignored for time estimations.
- Estimating how long the walk will take to complete - You can either try to calculate accurate timings using Naismith's Rule and Tranters Variation or
use a ready reckoner estimation method. As we are sticking with basics here the latter may be the more appropriate.
- For a single person or small group a speed reckoner of 5 kilometres (3 miles) per hour + 1 minute for each contour line uphill + the
time you take for stops and refreshments.
- For a larger group a reckoner of 3 kilometres (1¾ miles) per hour + 1 minute for each contour line uphill
- Your own reckoner when you become more familiar with route planning
- Escape routes: On anything other than the shortest of routes it is important to look at how it can be shortened to allow a safe exit if the
weather deteriorates or something goes wrong, such as an accident / health problem or other delay. This should always be done BEFORE you set off,
ideally at the planning stage, so that you are prepared and know in advance what you will do if the day doesn't go as planned.
- Your gear: If you are to experience a safe enjoyable walk, some basic equipment in
addition to the map and
compass will be needed. This includes food, drink, hat, gloves, waterproofs and First Aid Kit (and know how to use it properly). For more strenuous
/ hilly walks, proper ankle supporting walking boots are essential and if you are venturing into more remote areas, a Survival Bag / group shelter,
spare food (and extra water if it's a hot day) and jumper should also be taken.
A few final points
As a precaution, particularly if you are on your own, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back and don't forget to tell them
when you are back; otherwise the emergency services may be called out unnecessarily.
For your own safety (and that of anyone else with you), don't ignore the weather on the day and be prepared to cancel the walk if it's really bad, you
can always come back and do it another day.
Don't let this planning put you off, a well planned walk is a safe, enjoyable one that may prove to be a lot better than you expected, with you and those
walking with you wanting to come back for more walks in the future.