OS Maps (Ordnance Survey Maps) and Harvey Maps – For Hillwalking, Rambling and Mountainerring
Maps are very much personal preference. Weight carried, distance and type of your walk, and the detail needed for the route, all affect your choice of map and scale. But how you prefer information presented is down to you. So what are the differences between the UK’s two main mappers of our beautiful British Mountains?
British mapping started out of military necessity. Mapping of Scotland started in 1745 following the Jacobite rising. By the French revolution in 1789, fears that that the S.E coast would be invaded led to the Board of Ordnance creating newer detailed mapping. On the day the Board bought their second Ramsden theodolite, 21 June 1791, it was recognised as the official birth date of Ordnance Survey.
Robin and Susan Harvey, both eminent Orienteers, created Harvey maps in 1977 in Perthshire focused on Mountain areas and aimed at maps focused on orienteering, hillwalking and mountaineering.
Difference between OS maps and Harvey Maps
OS covers the whole of the UK in 1:25000 and 1:50000 scales, and as they receive a massive 100,000 changes to their database every day, they provide up to date, accurate detail, including access information. Their online OS Maps app can be used on smartphones and PCs to plan and access routes, even flying the ground in 3D before you walk.
Harvey offers 1:40000, 1:25000 scales and some summit maps at 1:12500 focused on Mountain areas and Trails. Their 15m contour shading turning grey on rocky, steep ground, and reduction of detail less relevant to walkers, are liked by many and viewed as much easier to read.
- Waterproofness. OS waterproof maps are much heavier to carry but are robust in strong wind and rain. Harvey maps on waterproof paper are much lighter and easier to fold and handle, but even Harvey’s latest waterproof maps are not as durable.
- Scales and contours. OS contours are 5m at lowlands and 10m across higher areas, with an index contour at 50m. Harvey’s contours are 15m and index at 75m. So you will need to adjust your climbing timings from 1 minute to 1 minute 30 per contour between OS and Harvey. (A grid ref tool and timing card from Shaven Raspberry helps.)
- Accuracy & Detail. OS leads easily on accuracy and detail, but cluttered detail can confuse some people. Harvey focus on only features relevant to walkers.
- Digitalisation. Both provide digital maps for SatMap, ViewRanger etc.
OS offers a free digital map download code when you buy 1:25000 and 1:50000 paper maps. OS’s subscription Smartphone app and Web tool are very easy to use.
Ordnance Survey offer the whole of the UK in great detail and their digital apps OS Locate (free) and OS Maps (subscription) are easy to use and good quality. The waterproof maps from OS are bulky, but survive strong wind and rain.
Harvey Maps are easier to read a they declutter by removing some of the detail you may not need. They are light weight and easy to handle, but in a strong wind they are extremely difficult to refold and not as robust. The shading of height is useful and liked by many.
It is down to your preference but at the Ultimate Navigation School we use OS maps for the detailed updating and accuracy. We can choose what detail to ignore if we wish to.
If you have any questions about which maps to use please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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The Ultimate Navigation School is a charity providing navigation training to hill walkers, with all our net profits supporting the following charities:
Mend Our Mountains, Fix the Fells, John Muir Trust and Mountain Bothy Assoc.