A map is perhaps the most important piece of equipment that a walker can own.
In the past maps were made of paper, cumbersome and can be, in some respects, quite delicate.
Today maps come in all manner of different forms. You can still by paper maps but now you can get them printed on plastic, have them laminated, view them on your laptop and even view them on your smartphone using one of the many navigation apps that are available for the walker.
With all these mapping options available, you would think that the map has exhausted all the avenues for their deployment but you would be wrong… enter SplashMaps.
So what is a SplashMap?
A Splashmap is simply a standard 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map printed onto fabric. Now some people will question what the benefits are to having your map printed onto fabric and I have to say that I thought the same when I first encountered one until I remembered seeing a silk map issued to the RAF in WW2.
These maps were used by aircrew who had been shot down in enemy territory and were incredibly effective so with that in mind I purchased one for Walk Fife to see if they are equally effective for the walker today.
The benefits of a fabric map
A SplashMap has several advantages over a traditional paper map and these are –
It is fully waterproof – there is no need to worry about protecting your map from rain and snow in a bulky case.
It is lightweight and tough – Splashmaps are printed onto a special fabric which weighs very little but still is resistant to tears even when wet.
You can crumple it up – you can stuff in your jacket pocket and don’t have to worry about ruining the map as it will just unfurl when you bring it out and it will still be usable.
It can be washed – if the map gets grubby from many days on the trail, you can chuck it the washing machine on a warm wash when you get home.
Custom mapping – the Splashmaps website allows you to select the region you would like mapping for and they will print it off for you ready for use.
With all the advantages in mind, I decided to see how practical a fabric map actually is for navigating in the outdoors.
I had SplashMaps produce a custom map covering the area surrounding the Lomond Hills Regional Park( an area of approximately 17.5km x17.5km). I chose this particle area as the Walk Fife team all enjoy walking the many paths and trails that crisscross this part of the Kingdom.
I particularly liked the fact that I could do away with my map case and have the map folded up in my chest pocket in readiness for when I need to check my position. When the “Beast from the East” hit Fife it proved to be a tough piece of kit especially when exposed to the high winds and driving snow.
The map has been well made with the edges being well hemmed and the addition of a fabric map key is a great feature especially for those new to using a map. The resolution of the print is surprisingly good when compared to the paper version of the same area. It is not quite of the same quality but is still perfectly fine for navigating your route on the ground in all the weather conditions that mother nature can throw at you.
Being fabric, the map does flop and sag and it is not possible to use in quite the same way you would with a paper alternative. To counter this I stretched the map over my pack or my knee when I needed to use my compass with it and this worked fairly well.
Another minor issue with a fabric map is that you can’t mark it up in the same way you would with your paper map but I did find that washable pens can be used with the map (Parents – Crayola washable kids pens work a treat!) and when you return home you can wash away the route in the washing machine.
We each took a turn in using the map over the winter period and we each found it to be a good alternative to a paper map and a few members of the team are going to buy their own Splashmaps for their upcoming West Highland Way adventure.
The price (£28.99) for some readers may be seem to be expensive when compared to the price of a paper map (or even a subscription to OS Maps) but the price is worth paying if you are looking for a map that will last you for years across many adventures. Top kit!
Find out more about SplashMaps at http://www.splash-maps.com
Images of mapping: Copyright Ordnance Survey 2018