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App or map – How to not get lost in the bush

*Jo Cordell-Cooper

How do you know where to go in the bush?

Are you using maps, or apps or books or blogs?

I’ve always preferred using paper maps when I’m out hiking.

I grew up using little more than ‘orienting the map’, meaning you line up your map with the terrain and obvious landmarks.

This doesn’t work at all at night or when the fog rolls in.

Also, when you’re in unfamiliar territory with a plethora of tracks, you can think you are on one particular track and instead find you are on a different track close by.

I’ve been interested in testing various apps that are essentially a digital form of a map with pinpoint accuracy as to where you are.

There are advantages and disadvantages of using maps as well as apps.

Assuming you know how to ‘orient your map’, there is a great social connection that comes with chatting with hiking buddies over where you are, how far there is to go or how steep it is going to be.

The disadvantage is that the map might be old and the track has shifted, or the weather might roll in and obscure your landmarks.

Those experienced in using a compass have an additional set of skills to navigate to the desired destination.

Most of us don’t have this level of skill.

Paper maps are best in fair weather or on clearly marked paths.

In comparison, apps precisely pinpoint your location, but if you are in new terrain or on a mountain bike trail, the trail might not be uploaded into the app.

However, you will know where you are, and you will not need to move far to establish whether you are moving in the right direction.

The disadvantage is obvious – mobile phones can go flat, so if you are using apps be sure to carry an additional battery for your device and turn it off when your direction is clear to save energy.

Three apps I regularly use are MapMy Run, Gaia GPS, and Trailforks.

Whenever heading out, it’s a good idea to do a little research on the trail.

Blogs and books are often excellent sources of information, but it’s important to check the date of publication to avoid getting outdated information.

There are plenty of Facebook groups such as Bushwalking Tasmania Social Group that have enthusiastic recreational hikers willing to share their expertise and opinions on every track imaginable in Tasmania.

Just be sure to mention what level of fitness and experience you have when taking advice, as not all hikers have the same opinion on what is hard and what is easy.

*Jo Cordell-Cooper owns and operates award-winning Jo CC Holistic PT.  To download free hiking fitness resources, go to www.jocc.com.au/hiking or make contact jo@jocc.com.au.