Over the years many things in outdoor navigation have changed, most notably in the field of electronics. First it was the innovative but basic GPS that took an age to boot up, but gave you that all-important grid reference to place you confidently on the right part of your map. Soon we had electronic mapping on the computer to bring the GPS to life, by planning those routes for your longer days out.
With time those ‘gadgets’ have developed into really useful pieces of equipment, spawning a whole set of new outdoor activities. We have the ability to gather information helping us improve our physical wellbeing and sports performance. For the fells we now have reliable waterproof, rugged GPS units with full colour Ordnance Survey maps, the mainstay of traditional navigation. Interestingly the OS has just launched an electronic download service. With every 1:25,000 (and shortly every 1:50,000) map purchased at George Fisher you can now download the equivalent electronic map onto your smartphone. Walking magazines and ‘Open Source Mapping’ are now also starting to incorporate a database of downloadable walking routes.
But is all this a good thing? Electronic mapping is certainly good value and a real marketing initiative for map providers, but I am a little sceptical about downloadable phone maps and other people’s routes when it comes to the high fells. Smartphone GPS signals are notoriously fickle when the phone masts disappear, unprotected phones can fail in the wet or when they are dropped on rocky ground, maps can be hard to read in bright sunshine, and battery life is an issue.
Will we see folk downloading and walking routes in the same way they use their car GPS? Will they set off into the fells without really knowing where they are going? Our local rescue teams have numerous examples of folk navigating by electronics alone, only to end up lost and in trouble when conditions become unfavourable.
Remember, unlike some shops and most of the internet, in the store we offer to explain what your equipment can do, we give set-up advice on any new equipment and we include after sales service when requested, making sure you get the best out of your investment at all times. Here in George Fisher we can’t promise to keep you safe on the fells - you have to do that for yourselves - but we can offer equipment, be it jackets, boots, map and compass, modern GPS or sports electronics that will be of sufficient quality and ruggedness that you can go out and explore the great outdoors without being held back by the equipment you choose.