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How to have Better family walks with OS Maps

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We give the Ordnance Survey’s OS Maps system a try, and are really impressed. View our guide to using OS Maps.

On track with OS Maps

We’ve used, reviewed, and recommended the OS Get-a-map service before. That service has now been retired for the new kid on the block: OS Maps.

OS Maps does everything Get-a-map did, and so much more.

OS Maps in a Nutshell

Whereas OS Get-a-map lets you print your own maps, OS Maps does the same but also gives you mapping on your mobile device, a lot like ViewRanger. You get the power of both in one package.

  • Print your own OS Maps for areas at home.  That includes the standard 1:50K OS Map and 1:25K OS Leisure Maps.
  • Plot your own route or find one of the many walking or cycling routes available in OS Maps.
  • Access routes from your mobile. Follow the route using your device’s GPS.
  • Download maps to your mobile for offline access where there is no signal.

I thought it was really good value and decided to subscribe

The basic use of OS Maps is free. However, if you want to print and use OS Maps, get premium walks, and download maps to your mobile, you’ll need a Premium subscription. However, you can sign-up for a free trial of Premium to give it a try.

I tried it out, and since a full year’s subscription for Premium was just under £20, I thought it was really good value and decided to subscribe.

Read on if you want to see inside OS Maps Premium and what you get.

How to use the OS Maps website

If you are used to using websites like Google Maps, you’ll find OS Maps easy and simple to use. It’s very simple to use, and I prefer this simplicity over ViewRanger’s website.

Creating Routes

You can create your own routes quite with merely pointing and clicking.

Just Point and Click to Create a Route

But what if you’ve found a route on another website and it’s not in OS Maps? Well, if that site lets you download the map as a GPX file, you can then import that route into OS Maps.

Here’s a GPX Route of Ragleth Hill that I imported from the excellent Mud and Routes website.

Importing GPX files into OS Maps

OS Maps showing different views of the Ragleth Hill walk

Finding Routes

When you create a route, you can optionally make it public for other people to find, so there’s quite a lot of walking routes available. (I’ll be putting a few of our walking routes on OS Maps. Click here to view the Ragleth route shown above.).

With the Premium plan, there are published routes from the AA, Trail Magazine and other organisations.

An example of a Premium Route on OS Maps

A nice little touch is that it also shows you what the weather is like where the route is. Handy for those impromptu walks.

We decided to go for a walk at nearby Llangollen, and OS Maps came up with several suggestions.

Searching for routes on OS Maps

Printing maps and routes

Electronic maps on your computer are all well and good, but you can’t beat a paper map, primarily as a backup for when your electronic gadgets run out of battery.

Fortunately, you can easily print from OS Maps.

Printing options in OS Maps

The printing options are quite flexible, letting you get as much of the map as you can onto the page. You can turn off route markers if they obscure too much detail on the map.

As well as the map, you can print out each waypoint, which can generate a lot of paper on some routes, but it will at least give you the grid references if you get off track.

As a premium customer, you can also print larger maps on A3 – if you have a printer that can print A3 of course.

With our route around Llangollen selected, we printed it out. As you can see, the quality of the printouts is excellent.

Printed OS Maps

The route printed, complete with the route plotted onto an Ordnance Survey map.

 

How to use the OS Maps Mobile App

With our increasingly powerful phones always on us, it made sense for the Ordnance Survey to make OS Maps available as an App, which you can get for both iOS and Android.

As with the OS Maps website, the mobile app is simple and straightforward.

Ordnance Survey OS Maps App

Accessing your Routes

Any routes that you have saved on the OS Maps website will appear under ‘My Routes’, making it easy to plan on a larger computer screen and then take the details with you on your phone.

Accessing My Routes on the OS Maps App

 

Finding New Routes

Finding routes is easy using the OS Maps App too.

There’s a dedicated guide to the National Parks, plus you can search any area and see all the nearby routes.

Finding routes on the OS Maps App

Downloading Maps for Offline Use

Many places where most of us want to hike has poor mobile signal. Fortunately, you can download sections of a map to your phone and access them when you are offline.

Downloaded map tiles are shown with a green tint, though you can turn the colour off if you find it too distracting.

Saving offline maps in the OS Maps App

I also like how it tells you how large the map is going to be when stored on your phone.

Following Routes

Finally, the app can also help you navigate the route.

We downloaded our walk from Llangollen and set off to test it out.

The route downloaded on my phone

To start navigation, you click Follow Route.

Following the OS Map Route

To make sure it was working entirely offline, I put my phone into flight mode, and the OS Maps app continued to work a treat with the offline map.

I even found it showed some non-offline maps, which it must have saved when I used the phone to browse the area.

The app doesn’t give you turn by turn instructions but will trace your actual position on the Ordnance Survey map.

As with any plotted route, the accuracy of the plotted route may not completely follow the actual footpaths on the ground, but I found this a lot easier than following route instructions from a guidebook.

Getting routes onto a GPS device

What if you have a proper outdoor GPS to use when hiking? Well, firstly, lucky you 😉

Seriously, though, you can download a GPX from the OS Maps website to import a route into your GPS device.

I haven’t tried it, but given how well it imported a GPX file, I have no reason to expect it not to work.

Visualising Your Route

If you go to the OS Maps website, you can visualise your route, by clicking on Start fly-through.

The Start Fly-Through link on OS Maps

Click “Start Fly-Through” to start the visualisation

The Fly-Through shows the route on the landscape and follows the route so that you can better understand where it takes you. It also points out summits and towns and villages.

The OS Maps fly-through

The OS Maps fly-through shows you the route in 3D.

Visualising your Route with the App’s Tabletop 3D

You can also visualise the route using the App using the Tabletop 3D feature.

Locate a route you want to walk in the app, and then tap the Tabletop 3D icon.

The OS Maps Tabletop 3D icon

Tap the “Tabletop 3D” icon in the app

Once this starts, it uses your phone’s camera and asks you to find a flat surface, like a tabletop. When you have pointed your camera at the tabletop, tap the Place Map button.

Placing the 3D map on the Table Top

After you have placed the map, you can now see a 3D model of the route on your tabletop.

As it then says on the screen, pinch and zoom or rotate the model until you get a view that helps you see the route.

The 3D Tabletop Map zoomed in

Zoom in on the 3D model to see the route’s details.

Once you have got the model to a size and position you are happy with, tap the Lock position button. After the 3D model is locked, you can walk around your table to examine the route. Move your phone closer to the model to zoom in.

The 3D tabletop map locked into position

With the model position locked, you can walk around your table to examine the route from all angles.

Verdict

GOWTK Thumbs Up AwardI was impressed with OS Maps from the Ordnance Survey, and as I mentioned before, I signed up for the full Premium membership as soon as my free trial ended.

We certainly give this bit of outdoor tech the GOWTK Thumbs Up Award.

 

Finding and using OS Maps on ‘Get Out With The Kids’

After trying out OS Maps, we have enhanced the maps on this website to link to OS Maps.

When looking at a route, campsite, or activity, you’ll see a button to open on OS Maps. This will show you that location on the OS Maps website (even if you don’t have a premium membership). You can then find nearby routes or plan other activities in the area using an Ordnance Survey Map.

os-maps-on-gowtk

 

Please note: all OS maps are Copyright Ordnance Survey and are shown here for educational/information purposes only. To access the full maps suitable for navigation, you will need to access the maps and routes on OS Maps.

8.3Expert Score
We give the Ordnance Survey's OS Maps system a try, and are really impressed. View our guide to using OS Maps.
Easy to use
8
Practicality
8
Value for Money
9
PROS
  • Provides any OS Maps in the palm of your hand (subscription required).
  • View and follow routes made by others.
  • Record or plan your own routes.
  • Download maps and routes to use offline (subscription required).
CONS
  • Not as intuitive as it could be to find routes, but you can soon work it out.
  • The place search doesn't work with things like hill and mountain names, which is a shame.

Photos: How to have Better family walks with OS Maps

4 reviews for How to have Better family walks with OS Maps

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  1. Nick

    Great article and I have this and plotted a walk online, sent to mobile and got it offline so no data service was required.

    You can get OS Maps subscription via £8 of Tesco club card vouchers, see Tesco website or a subscription to Trail or Country Walking magazines too.

    Hope that helps.

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    • Tireless Trekkers

      Gav Grayston

      Thanks for the tip. That’s a great discount deal.

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  2. Get your family to try the (local) 3 Peaks Challenge!

    […] a little shocked, we took in the impressive view of whiteness.  It was like the arctic!Using our OS map on the phone, we parked up in what we think was the […]

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  3. Lee

    An excellent article!

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    • Tireless Trekkers

      Gav Grayston

      Thanks Lee!

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    […] OS getamap service has now been replaced with the new OS Maps, which does everything getamap did and so much more. Click here to read our review and how-to guide to using OS Maps. […]

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    Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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