Map Reading tips – Part 4 – Map Scales

Maps come in all different sizes, by sizes I mean some show a large area with less detail and some show a small area with lots of detail. Below I describe the four main map scales and how to choose the best one for your adventure.

Above image from Ordnance Survey

1:25 000

This scale is the most detailed you will need and are found in the Ordnance surveys Explorer maps. They offer sufficient information for micro navigation and can show the smallest of streams and walls

1:40 000

A map scale that offers a good middle ground between the 1:25 000 and 1:50 000. This scale can be found with Harveys mountain maps and offers just enough detail for navigating in complex areas

1:50 000

Being a smaller scale this map will cover a much bigger area than the previous two, ideal for covering long distances where micro detail is not required. Ordnance surveys Landranger map uses this scale

1:250 000

This is for much larger areas and ideal for cycling routes and driving.

Choosing what is right for you

When you planning an adventure you need to decide how much detail you will require, if your new to navigating you may want to carry 1:25 000 maps as they give more detail, this may be very helpful if your off course and need to relocate. If your walking a well worn path or popular route a 1:50 000 would be suitable. Multi day, long distance treks may require a smaller scale so choosing 1:50 000 may give you the option to take only one or two maps instead of lots of large scale maps.

A note about small and large scales.

People often confuse small and large scale maps. Large scale means the features on the map will be large so that would be a 1:25 000, small scale is when the features are small so this would refer to a 1:40 000 or 1:50 000

Further reading

Ordnance surveys blog about map scales

Thanks for reading, this blog was developed as part of National Map Reading week.

For more information about me and my navigation courses visit my Facebook page.




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