OS Maps – Paper v Digital

I’ve always loved maps. When I was a kid I would sit and pore over them. Looking at this flat piece of paper and imagining what the ground looked like. Planning routes and looking for things to explore. When I got older and joined some outdoor clubs we would plan trips away and make models of the hills using cardboard to trace out the contours, building the layers up and applying papier-mâché to get a feel of it.

Over the years I have used maps to plan day walks but since I got the idea to complete a number of long distance walks before embarking on my Lands End to John O’Groats trek that idea has exploded.

For Hadrians Wall I don’t really need much in the way of maps. Its a national trail with plenty of sign posts and a big wall in the middle. The plan is to just follow the map that came with the book (it uses OS 1:25 scale in a handy sized book) 

The Reivers Way isnt a recognised national trail so that would involve buying 5 maps which starts to add up at around £8 a map and it means carrying them as well. Same with Wainwrights Coast to Coast. Its not really a recognised trail with sign posts. That comes in at 9 maps which again adds up both in cost and pack space. 

Finally LEJOG. I am doing that in six stages over two months. It covers around 40 maps. So it took some thinking. I plan on doing a lot of wild camping so maps are pretty important.

I started looking at Ordnance Surveys online mapping service, OS Maps. For £17.99 I subscribed to 12 months online access to all of their maps and started playing about with it. While there are some features it could use it looks like it might suit my needs. Its easy to use and when I have had a question they are pretty quick in responding.

I mapped out Hadrians Wall over the four stages and it took an hour.  The Reivers Way took two hours and the Coast to Coast about three. I can print the tiles off in handy to scale A3 sizes and laminate them if I want to at least try and keep them water proof.

LEJOG took a bit more thinking. While I plan on mapping it out on OS Maps I don’t fancy carrying 100s of sheets of paper. So for the first stage up the south west coast I can use the Harveys strip maps from the South West Coast Path walk. Two small books that are pretty cheap and I don’t mind carrying them. That and I know to just keep the coast to my left until I get to Barnstaple.

Then the second stage I come inland through the Bristol Channel and along the welsh border to follow the Offa Dykes Path route. I have the guide book for that so might print off what I need from OS Maps and use the book.

The third stage is up through Shropshire, Staffordshire and up into Yorkshire. This I will need maps for so I think i’ll using OS Maps.  

The fourth stage follows a lot of the Pennine Way up into Northumberland. I have the Pennine Way guide so I will print out what I need and use the book. My father managed to walk the PW using just the guidebook.

The fifth stage follows the West Highland Way into Scotland. Again I will use the Harveys strip map for this. Its pretty well signposted anyway. The final stage I will need to print out maps and use the book I have.

At the end of each stage I plan on stopping in a bunkhouse or B&B, having a rest day and getting more supplies. I am going to post ahead the maps and books I need rather than carry them all.

Now the test will be walking with these print out maps rather than a map which to me seems strange even though they are essentially cut out bits of map. To try it I have printed out a few maps for Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath to see what its like. So those and the other three walks before LEJOG will be my test. If it proves to work then I have my solution.


2 thoughts on “OS Maps – Paper v Digital

  1. cescalesca

    Hello! Just stumbled across your blog when looking into walking the Coast to Coast path this summer. My partner and I walked LEJoG last year, from the sounds of it a similar route to yours (only at a nice and relaxed pace spread over 3 months rather than two…) and we mainly used sections of OS maps I had printed off Bing as the cost of proper maps would have just been ridiculous! It worked amazingly well though and it was very satisfying throwing away each page at the end of the day. To save carrying lots of paper we got sections posted to us as we went and I took a memory stick with them on just in case (although actually never needed it and I think I lost it somewhere along the way) We did however use the Harveys maps for the Great Glen and West Highland and the A-Z OS maps for the Pennine Way. Again all worked well…the only problem we did have was when we had planned to take the full OS maps with us for one section as were planning on camping wild and wanted to be able to vary our route if needed and Millets never delivered them in time….

    Anyway look forward to reading about how you get on…


    1. PaulB Post author

      Hi, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Means a lot.

      My route has changed slightly since I posted this. Rather than head over to JOG after I get to Fort William I am doing the Cape Wrath Trail. Then when thats done I will head east along the coast to JOG. Clocking in at under 1300 miles. So it’ll take me more than 2 months now. Thinking just under three!!!! Cant wait.

      The whole map thing is something that has taken some thought. For the stages where I can I will be taking guide books and A-Z Adventure books to cut back on what I carry. When I hit Scotland I am taking the print outs from OS Maps and Harvey maps. Just to be sure. And all maps will be posted ahead to where I end up at the end of each stage.

      I intend on having a rest day to shower, clean and rest for a little bit (although I am now finding things to do at each place)

      Also, doing this for charity now. If you have twitter then follow me. I am @walknorthblog.

      Cheers for following.





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