In the hills, away from power, battery anxiety is a common condition, particularly when camping. Smartphones in particular are incredibly power hungry, and many have apps and functions that run in the background and suck power even when you're not using it. How you use your phone on the hill will dictate how many of the following you can do… but all could ensure you have juice left when you need it most.
- Put it in flight mode. This saves the most battery as it switches off all connections coming in or out of your phone. You can still use the camera, but you won’t be able to use navigation apps – and nobody will be able to call you.
- Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Two big drains on battery life, and both useless on the hill.
- Turn the screen brightness down. It will make it harder to see in the daylight, but you can always turn it up if needs be.
- Switch off ‘background app refresh’. This is the updating of phone applications while you’re roving about. Sucks battery and uses data as well.
- Buy a backup. If your phone has a removable battery, buy a spare and keep it charged. Alternatively, a huge range of companies make power banks, from the pricy ones by Brunton and Goal Zero to the cheapos in service stations.
- Turn it off. Yes, it is possible. Make sure you tell people that contact will be on your terms, though.
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As summer approaches, a map can often be the only navigational tool you bother using – but which mapping scale is best? In PART 10 of our navigation series, Lyle Brotherton explains how to interpret them.
"Thanks to the creation of the Ordnance Survey on 21st June 1791, in Great Britain we are fortunate to have the best maps in the world. Originally all Ordnance Survey mapping used Imperial measurements: miles, yards, feet and inches. Today they all use the much simpler metric system (kilometres, metres and centimetres) and we also have access to other excellent maps available from Harvey Maps."
The tricky part: map scales!
The scale of a map shows how much you would have to enlarge your map to get the actual size of the piece of land you are looking at. It is expressed as a ratio and is always printed on the map.
If your map has a scale of 1:25,000, this means that every 1 unit on the map represents 25,000 of those same units of measurement on the ground. These maps use metric measurements and we navigate using metres and kilometres, so using the aforementioned ratio 1cm on the map equals 25,000cm, or 250m, on the land. This means that every 4cm on a 1:25,000 map = 1km in real life. To make life easy the blue grid lines (grey on Harvey Maps) are exactly 4cm apart, so every square is 1km by 1km.
The first number (map distance) is always 1. The second number (ground distance) is different for each scale – the larger the second number is, the smaller the scale of the map. This sounds confusing, but in fact it is easy to understand. Large scale maps show small features on the land, such as an individual house. Small scale maps show large features, such as an entire city. So, a 1:50,000 map has large area (and therefore less detail) on one sheet, whereas a 1:12,500 map has a small area (and therefore more detail) on the same space.
The most popular maps
Ordnance Survey Landranger Maps
204 of these pink-sleeved maps cover the whole of Great Britain. You’ll find footpaths, rights of way and some tourist information features on these maps, but you do lose some detail as compared to smaller scale maps such as the 1:25 000. This means you won’t find minor paths, field boundaries, open access areas and public rights of way, or smaller areas of marshland, rocky ground or small streams on these maps. However, don’t be put off Landrangers, because they do have their place in walking and mountaineering. Indeed, some Scottish Mountain Rescue teams use these as standard issues where fences and rights of way are unimportant and where they need to view larger areas of land.
Why should I use these?
In places where the terrain is extremely complex or very spread out, too much detail can become confusing and the 1:50,000 scale is easier to follow.
Harvey British Mountain Maps
Centred around specific mountain locations in Britain, these have a large area of clear, detailed mapping on one sheet. Layer colouring is used for easy ID of hills and valleys. With detailed enlargements of selected summits, climbers’ crags are highlighted too. Mountain incident info is included, as well as a BGS (British Geological Survey) map of the geology of the area.
Harvey National Trail Maps
All the detail needed for sure navigation of your chosen National Trail is shown, with 100 miles of detailed mapping on one sheet along with an introduction to the route. Directions to the start, facilities available in towns and villages, information on finding accommodation, camping and food, plus ranger service contacts are all shown.
Slim, light and pocket-perfect (weighing 25gms), the unique folding pattern of the compact Ultramaps allows you to open to either side of the sheet. They show all the detail you‘d expect on a large-scale walking map, including boundaries, walls, fences and rights of way.
Why should I use these?
Like the 1:50,000 scale, these 1:40,000 maps are often preferable in confusingly contoured landscape when a more general view of the shape of the land is required.
Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps
403 of these orange-sleeved maps cover the whole of Great Britain (with the exception of the Isle of Man, which is excluded from this series). They show the detail of Britain’s landscape, minor paths, field boundaries (walls and fences), open access areas and public rights of way (except in Scotland where the ‘right to roam’ act covers most land), and small areas of marshland, rocky ground and small streams.
Harvey Superwalker Maps
Like the OS Explorers the 1:25,000 scale of the Superwalkers shows land shape in clear and accurate detail. However, although public footpaths, bridleways and other key features are shown, these Harvey maps do away with information irrelevant to the walker, making them appear less cluttered than their Ordnance Survey equivalents.
Why should I use these?
Because of the extra detail shown they are superb for micro-navigation when you need to be able to identify as much of the terrain as possible.
Harvey Summit Maps
Although they only cover an area of 4x3km, the extra close-up version of Harvey’s maps are used by some Mountain Rescue teams as they are excellent for complex ridges such as the Cuillin on Skye.
Why should I use these?
For navigating super-complex mountain summits like those on the notoriously difficult Cuillin Ridge, these maps offer an extremely clear view.
Tourist features in blue ink (nature trails, visitor centres and – importantly – ski-lifts) are not placed accurately on any of the above maps. They should NOT be used as navigation aids.
Important considerations when choosing your map
Durability: Using a map cover will protect your map, but these can be unwieldy and you may need to take a paper map out to refold it as you move across terrain – not ideal in the rain. Laminated maps are waterproof and these are good, but my preference is maps that are printed directly onto a plastic material (look out for Harvey XT series, printed on lightweight polypropylene) as these fold more easily and are less cumbersome.
Buy the most up-to-date maps you can: From the minute they are produced maps start going out of date. New OS maps come with a free digital version of the sheet, which will update automatically – but, of course, your paper map will not!
CUSTOMISE YOUR MAP
If you’re unsure of your exact position and you don’t have the luxury of GPS it’s possible to work out where you are the old-fashioned way with a map and compass. You can also use these tools to check your navigation as you go, and one of the easiest techniques for this is using back bearings.Read More
Do you know your 'dome' from your 'geodesic'? Or your 'tunnel' from your 'tarp'? More to the point, do you know which type of tent would suit you best? Confused?
Allow Trail to explain...
in association with
The simple design of the classic tunnel tent provides spacious accommodation for relatively little weight and bulk. They do need to be pegged correctly, but when set up properly, they are remarkably stable in even high wind conditions: Hilleberg Keron and Nammatj models are the de facto standard for Polar expeditions.
- Outstanding space to weight ratio
- Quick and easy to pitch
- Remarkably stable
- Can be tough to pitch on rock
Best suited to...
- Long distance walkers
- Winter backpackers and ski tourers
Often seen as the classic mountaineering tent, the geodesic design relies on multiple poles that cross in multiple places to produce a very stable structure, making them excellent for trips with high snow loading potential. Note that while the main tent is self-supporting, the vestibules do need to be pegged out on most models. Geodesics are a smart choice for demanding exposed terrain, especially in winter or extreme conditions.
- Highly stable
- Self-supporting tent body
- Relatively heavy
- Sloping walls can limit useable space
Best suited to...
- Winter hillwalkers
- Mountain base campers in all seasons
“Dome Tents” include a broad array of models. At the high end, modern dome tents, such as the Hilleberg Staika, Allak and Soulo, are easily as strong as geodesics, and offer the added benefit of fully free standing construction, with vestibule(s) integrated into the structure. These tents are well-suited to any mountain venture, from a summer ramble to a winter mountaineering assault. At the low end, dome tents offer lower prices and are often quite capable of taking on most conditions.
- High end: Highly stable
- High end: Excellent on rock and in other tough pitching conditions
- High end: fully free standing construction, with integrated vestibule(s)
- Low end: generally cheaper
- High end: Relatively heavy
- Low end: lower stability
Best suited to...
- High end: All-season backpackers, hill walkers, and mountaineers
- High end: Mountain base campers in all seasons
- Low end: Roadside wild campers
- Low end: festival goers
Though A-frame ridge tents were once a staple of Himalayan expeditions and Scout camps, better design and materials have made them impractical for most modern backpackers, who are better served by tunnel designs. However, some of the modern, reimagined ridge designs are a good choice for weight-driven backpackers. In addition, fun and funky tents like those from Field Candy are adding a new twist to the humble ridge design, and are great for festivals or sheltered campsites.
- Stable when pitched sensibly
- Can be very lightweight
- Smaller styles claustrophobic
- Old style A-frames heavy and walls slope
Best suited to...
- Festivals and campsites
- Some modern designs good for weight-oriented backpackers
'Tarping’ is getting ever more popular in summer, and there’s no doubt it offers an ascetic, streamlined way to camp – with the added benefit of the ability to pitch on tent-unfriendly surfaces like ridges or boulderfields. If you’re happy regarding shelter as purely functional, enjoy. If you like being sealed away from the elements, it won’t be for you. Note that a tarp and tent combination offers great versatility: use the tarp to create an extended patio for your tent, or use it alone for shelter on breaks from the trail, or for cooking or group gathering.
- Very light
- Pitching variations limited only by the imagination
- Open to elements & bugs
- Requires thoughtful pitching
- Colder than a tent
Best suited to...
- Superlight backpackers who love al fresco sleeping
- Tent using backpackers and hillwalkers who want extra versatility and/or those who want or need separate covered cooking or gathering area
In part 8 of our navigation skill series Lyle Brotherton shares a handy technique that can help if you get lost...Read More
The usual definition of the phrase ‘boxing clever’ is to use one’s resources beyond conventional ways. This is equally apt for ‘boxing’ in navigation; it is a much underused technique, and yet it’s incredibly effective and very straightforward to master.Read More
The navigation term grid magnetic angle (GMA) sounds daunting, but it isn’t! Here you will learn exactly what it is, and how and where to use it.Read More
This time we’re looking at how easy it is to use natural features in the landscape to keep you on track. Handrailing, collecting features and catching features are the three techniques I use most, because they allow you to enjoy the great outdoors without constantly concentrating on navigation.Read More
In this part we are working with bearings, the backbone of all navigation. Even for experienced navigators it’s good to refresh your knowledge and test exactly how accurate you are. An error of just 5° over one kilometre will result in you missing your target by more than 87m; and in poor visibility or at night, this is a real game-changer!Read More
This series is designed to help improve your navigation, using techniques and tools you can safely practice inside your home, then your garden, and in this issue we take you into your local neighborhood - don’t worry we’ll be on the hill soon!Read More
Walking Boots are your passport to freedom, so it’s imperative that you get the right footwear to suit the conditions and the type of activity you're looking to do. Our guide takes you through the elements you should consider when buying your next pair of boots.
Decide what the principal activity you want to do in the outdoors is, and then choose a boot designed for that activity. All boots can be categorised into one of the following ways:
B0 – flexible 3-season boots for valley, hill and mountain walking, backpacking, scrambling and via ferrata. They are not recommended for use with crampons or for use on snow in the mountains.
B1 – stiff but flexible 3-4 season boots for use on or off the snow when hillwalking and backpacking in the mountains. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B2 – very stiff 4-season boots for use on snow when hillwalking, climbing or mountaineering. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B3 – totally stiff and flat-soled ice-climbing boots for serious snow and ice-climbing and mountaineering. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B0 boots are not recommended for use with crampons
B1 boots can be used with C1 types of crampons
B2 boots can be used with C1 or C2 crampons
B3 boots can be used with C1, C2 or C3 crampons
You’ll find two sizes– UK and Euro – in many boots these days. We’ve listed them all here (left) so you can work out whether they’ll fit you!
Stiff uppers are better for rocky ground and winter use, and they allow crampon straps to be comfortably fitted. Softer uppers are more comfortable and so are best for valley walking where less support and protection is required than on rocky mountains.
For winter walking, look for grooves that are at least twice as deep as the thickness of a pound coin. Lug depths less than this are ideal for hill and valley walking. But if the lugs are less than the depth of a single coin, they won’t give much grip in mud or on grass and they’ll also wear down quickly on harder surfaces. The heel breast (the cutaway section between forefoot and heel) should be three times the thickness of a pound coin for hillwalking above or below the snowline. Boots with shallower heel breasts are best kept to good paths at valley level.
Press the toe box with your thumb and then pinch it on the sides. If it flexes easily, the boot is best restricted to good paths in the valley, while a stiffer toe box is better for rocky mountains and winter use.
Grab the boot by the toe and heel, and bend the heel towards the toe. Then twist the toe while holding the heel steady. The harder it is to bend the boot, the better suited it is to snow and rocky ground, and crampon use. The softer the flex, the better the boot is suited to use on good paths in the valley. A 3-4 season boot is stiffer than a 3-season boot but not as stiff as a 4-season boot.
Support Choose boots with minimal underfoot support for walking on good valley paths, but go for those with a stiffer sole and plenty of support underfoot for use on rocky mountain terrain.
Cushioning With the boots on, stamp your feet on the ground to get an idea of how well they can cushion impact. More cushioning is best for walking, but climbers may prefer less cushioning to allow a greater ‘feel’ for what they are standing on.
Pinch the heel cup between the fingers. If it is soft and flexible it won’t offer much support, so such boots are best restricted to valley path use, while boots with stiffer heel cups are better for rocky mountain walks and winter use where maximum support is useful.
Stitching will come apart over time, so a boot with minimal stitching will be most durable. But double stitching improves the durability considerably and adds extra security to the seams. Stiff uppers made of thick leather will be more durable than those made of synthetic materials. To improve durability, look for a rubber rand around the sides, toes and heels. The most durable boots are best for rocky mountain use and winter use, while less durable designs are best kept to valley paths.
If the upper is made of one piece of leather, or is relatively stitch-free, the boot will be as waterproof as most people will require – particularly if it is made of thick leather. Boots that are covered in stitching or those made with synthetic materials will leak more easily and are more prone to wear, while a waterproof lining such asGore-Tex will make the boot waterproof.
The UK offers so many great walking options, however there’s one thing that you can’t rely on and that the weather. A good waterproof jacket is an essential piece of outdoor clothing when planning a day outdoors, this handy guide highlights what to consider when buying your walking jacket.
On high-priced jackets you can expect to find that the fabrics used are the most waterproof and breathable available – and while there may be small differences between them It’ll will be difficult to notice on the hill. Your comfort will often therefore be dictated by features such as the hood, pocket and sleeve design. However, on lower-priced waterproof jackets fabric breathability and the durability of waterproofness are more important considerations. Some jackets might have Gore-Tex fabric, eVent, Polartec Neoshell or a range of proprietary fabrics.
Normal zips used on jackets are not waterproof so they are usually covered by an external single or double stormflap. Water-resistant zips are commonly used on high-priced jackets but these are not waterproof either. As these zips may leak, they are often fitted with an internal flap which is designed to channel away any water that enters this area.
Even the best waterproof and breathable fabrics allow condensation to form, so it is important that you can increase ventilation of the jacket. A front zip can be used for venting, as can underarm zips, also called pit zips and mesh linings in pockets can increase airflow through the jacket. However note that mesh pockets may also allow water to pass through.
Big pockets are great for storing maps, guidebooks and gloves, and they can also be used to protect your hands from wind and rain. Rucksack belts obscure access to some pockets, so make sure they are well-positioned to avoid this problem.
The hood should fit snugly so it doesn’t blow off, but it must also move with your head so you can see where you’re going. The peak may become bent when the jacket is stashed in a rucksack, so look for a wired one that can be easily reshaped to allow good vision even in the wind.
For over 800 reviews of waterproof jackets perfect for all types walking visit our outdoor directory by clicking here.
How to shoot the stars - wherever you are!
Few subjects are as captivating as the stars, so it’s easy to spend hours gazing at them. Dan Mold of www.practicalphotography.com explains how to capture astro images loaded with detail.
If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of the night sky using the automatic mode on your camera or phone, doubtless you’ll have been disappointed with the results. Creative cameras with manual modes, such as DSLRs, have the ability to capture a much higher level of detail than the human eye. But they do need to be set up correctly to do the night sky justice, so stabilising your camera with something like a tripod is essential for this technique.
Dark Sky areas
The night sky can look very different depending on where you are on the planet, as you’ll be able to see different star constellations. The southern hemisphere also gets a much clearer view of the Milky Way, so places like South America and Australia can be particularly good for these kind of shots. Regardless of where you are, you’ll want the sky to be as dark as possible.
A dark sky area is one that is far away from the light pollution of city street lights, as this light will bleed into your shots, reducing contrast and star visibility. There are loads of dark sky maps online showing you where these dark pockets are. In England, places such as Kielder Forest in Northumberland become fantastically dark in the evenings. You can also use apps such as Star Walk 2, which show you where specific constellations are, as well as where the Milky Way sits in the sky. This particular app also informs you of special celestial events such as meteor showers.
Set your camera up on a tripod and compose your shot. Focusing can be tricky as there is little light, but if you place your active AF point over a star it should be bright enough to lock on to. If the autofocus keeps hunting back and forth, don't worry. Go into your camera’s Live View mode and zoom in on the screen view so you can clearly see how sharp the focus is. Put your camera or lens into manual focus and adjust the focusing ring until the stars are pin-sharp.
Go into your camera’s manual mode, set an ISO of 800 to begin with and open your aperture as wide as it will go. This is usually f/3.5-5.6 on a kit lens, but if it will open further that’s even better. Shutter speeds will vary between 5sec and 15sec, so start with a 10sec exposure as your first test shot. Set the 2sec self-timer so you don’t jog the camera and start the exposure. Alternatively, you can use a shutter release cable.
Take a look at the shot on the back the back of the LCD and if it’s too bright reduce the shutter speed a little. If it’s too dark, increase the ISO and shutter speed a little until the exposure looks right. Make sure you don’t set a shutter speed longer than 15sec, as after this your stars will turn into long trails rather than sharp pinpoints of light. This is because the Earth’s rotation is more noticeable in these longer exposures.
Step-by-step - How to edit your star shot:
1. Tweak the RAW
Make sure you shoot in the RAW format, as these files hold much more data – very handy for star shots when you need a broad range of tones, from the deep black sky to the bright stars. In your RAW editing software increase the exposure a little until you’re happy with the result. Push up the shadows and decrease the highlights to preserve detail in the darkest and brightest areas of the shot.
2. Dodge and burn in Photoshop
Having a good level of contrast between the bright stars and dark sky is crucial for creating a great astro pic. In Photoshop you need to use the Dodge and Burn tools to selectively add these pockets of contrast. Start by clicking on the Burn Tool to make it active and in the Tool Options set the Range to Highlights and the Exposure to 3%. Make sure the Brush is soft so you can apply the effect gradually. Now brush over the areas of the sky you’d like to darken and keep painting over them until you’re happy with how dark they appear.
Then switch to the Dodge Tool. Keep the settings the same as before, but this time set the Exposure to Midtones and paint over the parts of the sky you’d like to brighten. This includes the horizon, stars, foreground and Milky Way. Finally, set the Exposure to Highlights and paint over the stars to make them really pop. You can switch back and forth between the Dodge and Burn tools until you’re happy with the result.
In Part 1 we gave you some navigation tips and tools that you can try in the comfort of your own home or office. Now, we’re taking you outside, all the way to… your garden! Here is a trio of techniques that you can learn in your own outdoor space before taking them to the hills to put into practice.Read More
Trail’s photographer Tom Bailey covers more miles on the hill than most (if not all) walking gentlemen. Hence, so do his boots – and more often than not they’re transporting a fair weight of kit over difficult terrain. Correctly fitting boots are essential. Finding himself in the Lake District in need of a new pair at short notice, he drops in to the George Fisher store in Keswick to chat with John Owens about his requirements.Read More
QUESTION: THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF CHOICE WHEN IT COMES TO WEATHER FORECASTS. IS THERE ONE THAT'S PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR MOUNTAINS?
ANSWER BY JEREMY ASHCROFT, MOUNTAINEERING EDITOR
"All weather forecasts are derived from the
same raw data – that is, land-based weather stations, weather buoys, satellite sensors, aircraft and ship feeds. It is the interpretation of this data that varies, and generally the variance tends to be user-driven. For example, the forecasts you see on national television are aimed mainly at the general population and
will generally focus on where most people
live and work. For a more specific mountain forecast you really need to track down reports that use interpretation modelling designed specifically for mountain areas, for example
the Mountain Weather Information Service – www.mwis.org.uk
"Mountains have a huge influence on weather locally and generate microclimates. For this reason developing an active or even an obsessive interest in a full range of weather forecasts is ‘best practice’ for any mountaineer. Learning what all the different charts mean and comparing the detail with what you experience on the ground will over time allow you to make your own interpretations. A good place to start is by learning how to read a synoptic chart; this will allow you to understand what’s heading your way. You can also glean extra information by looking at webcams, reading other people’s hill blogs, and checking out walking and climbing forums."
Even the most adventurous of us are inevitably sometimes confined to staying at home. When you can escape, safe and competent navigation sets you free to explore the hills – and you can practise much of it while stuck inside! Here are three simple skills you can try indoors that really will improve your outdoor nav.Read More
We take the fragmented, round-stoned expanses of our highest peaks for granted – but have you ever wondered what caused them?
The UK’s mountains used to be taller, some of them much, much taller. But over millions of years they have been eroded down to their current size, a process which continues. Rain, wind and ice constantly attack summits, creating cracks, crevices and hollows. Moisture gets in to these weak points and, when it freezes and expands, exerts pressure on the rock. Regular freeze-thaw cycles can eventually split stone apart. Repeat this process over millennia and you end up with carpets of shattered rock, such as those seen on the summits of Scafell Pike, Tryfan and the Glyders, and Ben Nevis. These in turn are exposed to the perpetual battering by the elements, sculpting the stone into irregular shapes – all of them the result of the weather’s war of attrition with our peaks.
Question: I’ve seen signs asking climbers to stay off crags due to nesting peregrines. Does this have any implication for walkers?
Expert: Jeremy Ashcroft
Trail’s mountaineering editor, Jeremy is also the author of Britain’s Highest Mountain Walks, pb Collins. He knows the UK hills better than his own reflection.
"The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) in England and Wales and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) are partners with organisations such as local authorities, RSPB, National Trust and the National Parks in implementing a scheme of climbing restrictions on crags during the nesting season. These are very site-specific, and tend to operate on sectors of crags rather than the whole crag.
"The signs will indicate which areas are restricted, and possibly a time span. As soon as it is safe for climbers to have access the restriction and the signs will be removed. Clearly this would also apply to scramblers on the same sector of a crag, and in theory walkers either directly above or below the sector could cause a disturbance. The signs should give specific directions, but either way the best bet for walkers is to give localities where restrictions apply a reasonably wide birth. A good rule of thumb during the breeding season is that if you become aware of an agitated bird you are likely to be near its nest or fledgling – in which case give them space and head elsewhere."
QUESTION: Help! I’ve ripped my Gore-Tex jacket. What can I do?
EXPERT: GRAHAM THOMPSON
GT is Trail’s technical editor – anything he doesn’t know about outdoor kit isn’t worth knowing.
"This really depends on the size of hole. A pin hole is enough to allow leakage, while a long tear will need more than a simple patch to prevent it reopening in use. It’s important not to just stitch a patch over a hole or even just stitch up a tear, as stitch holes themselves will leak, unless they’re sealed. A strip of gaffer tape works surprisingly well, making this an ideal method for mid-trip repairs of any kind of hiking gear for walking and trekking. Indeed, a gaffer tape repair I made to a pair of Gore-Tex Paclite trousers in 2000 is still in situ and is still working perfectly! Gaffer tape is not totally waterproof, though, and depending on the location of the tear it may over time come detached – so a more professional option is a McNett Gore-Tex Repair Kit, which includes a pressure-sensitive adhesive patch of Gore-Tex, designed to stick and provide waterproof and breathable performance. If the tear is more than a couple of centimetres, however, small patches probably won’t be adequate, so then the best option is to send the product away to be repaired by companies such as Lancashire Sports Repairs at www.lsr.gb.com and Scottish Mountain Gear Limited at www.scottishmountaingear.com