If you’re thinking about route planning for you’re next adventure, first of all you’re going to need a map. You’ll need to select the most appropriate map for your adventure, if you’re heading on a road trip then a road atlas will be useful but this scale of map will be useless if you’re heading out for a walk in an unfamiliar area. For walking and cycling in new areas an Ordnance Survey map will be most suitable.
The OS 1:50,000 maps will cover a larger area but a 1:25,000 map will provide more detail when planning your routes. There are plenty of options and you can use including online mapping and apps on your phone but make sure if you’re planning on using this after the route planning stage when you’re out exploring that you have a battery pack and spare paper map just in case there’s no signal or your phone dies.
Once you’ve chosen a map to use you can begin choosing and planning your route. This process begins with choosing an start and end point, giving you the length of your walk. At this point you need to think about things such as parking and facilities if you’re heading out for a whole day.
You’ll need to get to grips with the scale of your map and the symbols shown on it. Below is a key to a 1:25,000 OS map, when exploring the countryside you’ll need to stick to the public rights of way and open access land to ensure you’re legally allowed to be there.
To make sure you are capable of completing the route in the time you expect you’ll need to work out how long it will take between your start and end points.
Your average walking speed will be around 5km/h (3.1mph). This assumes level ground with easy paths and does not allow for stiles, scrambles, streams or any of the other things you might encounter. If you are in hills or mountains, you can also use Naismith’s Rule. For each 100m of elevation gain, add 10 minutes to your time. Plan your route length based on the ability of your whole group and the time you have available. Don’t forget to add on time for breaks for refreshments or photos. The larger the group the slower you are likely to travel, so allow extra time for this too – big groups of 20 or more will generally travel at about 3km/h!
As you are planning your route along the public rights of way network or over open access land you need to keep your eyes peeled for any obvious features and any dangers that could include steep slopes, coastal dangers and dangerous terrain. As part of the route planning process you should also keep escape routes in mind in case something changes on the day and you can’t follow the route you intended or you get injured and need to find a road quickly.
Now the mapping part of the route planning is complete you will need to think about environmental factors such as the weather. Weather conditions can change rapidly in areas you may be exploring so make sure you head out prepared with things such as enough to drink, plenty of food and suitable clothing, even packing spares for any emergencies. You’ll need to think about the time of year you are heading out for the type of weather conditions you might experience and how much daylight you’re going to have for your adventure. If you’re heading out alone you’ll need to make sure someone else is aware of your route plans and rough timings so that they can raise the alarm if you don’t return home when expected.
You’re then ready to head out and explore! Make sure you do a final weather and kit check before you head out leaving a copy of your planned route with a friend or family member. Make the most of your adventure and embrace every moment!