Every map shows a range of information, in different formats, making some more suitable for walking or hiking.

Map Scale

The Scale of the map is the reduction of the size to fit the land on to the map.  Most (all?) maps nowadays use the metric system of metres, kilometres but some may also show equivalencies like 1 mile = 1.6093 kilometres.

The scale of the map is shown:

For walking maps scales of 1:50000 to 1:25000 are suitable.  Maps with a scale of 1:50000 are good for showing a larger area but will not show as much detail as a 1:25000 scale map. Maps with a scale of 1:25000 will show more detail but you may need more than one to cover the area.

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Map Contours

Contour lines show the height above sea level.  They join areas of ground of the same height.  Contour lines are shown at different vertical intervals on different maps.  For maps in mountain areas, intervals of 50m or 100m are normal.  For 100m vertical interval maps the lines at every 500m are thicker. The height is written on the contour line every few hundred metres.  Spot heights are also shown.


There are three “North” on each map. True North, Magnetic North, Grid North.

Grid System

With the increased use of navigation systems like the European GALILEO, the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS, more maps have grid systems that show location information.

The grid system consists of the Projection System and the Datum. Some Grid Systems combine the Projection System and the Datum.

Longitude and Latitude may be shown on the edges of the map but there may not be grid lines marked on the map.  The Longitude and Latitude lines do not go exactly horizontally or vertically across the map and are curved. If they are not marked, the map can only be used for approximately finding your position. The Datum is not included.

Some countries have a grid system that they use on their maps.  In the UK the Ordnance Survey use the OSGB system. The Datum is included.

A popular grid system in use is the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) system. Maps have horizontal and vertical lines making 1 km square boxes. The Datum is not included.

The Datum used on modern maps of Europe tend to be the geodetic reference WGS 84 (World Geodetic System 1984).

Paths, Tracks

Some maps show paths marked as black or coloured lines. Some show marked and / or public paths.


The text on the map or associated book may be in more than one language.


Some maps may have directions for walks covered by the map. This may be on the reverse of the map or in a separate book. details of distances and times may be given.


The reverse of the map may show a panorama of the area covered by the map.


The map may come with a book with details of the area, walks, mountain huts.

One or two sided

Most maps are only printed on one side but some are also printed on part or ll of the reverse.


The map may show an edition number or the date of publication. There may also be details of when the area covered by the map was surveyed.


Map Information

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A Fielding
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