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  • Writer's pictureKate

Unlocking the Potential of the OS Maps App: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: 2 hours ago

Embarking on an outdoor adventure requires meticulous planning and preparation. Whether you're an avid explorer or a budding adventurer, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference. Enter the OS maps App, a digital companion that promises to elevate your outdoor experiences to new heights. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the myriad of features of this powerful application, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate the great outdoors with confidence and ease.

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Laying the Groundwork for The OS Map App

Before we explore the intricacies of the OS Maps App, it's essential to understand that this App should not replace the use and knowledge of a paper map and compass. Technology, including apps and phones, can fail, break, run out of batteries, etc. and losing the App's ability and being stuck up a mountain is dangerous; you need to know where you are approximately at all times. I always carry a paper map, and by using the OS App, I make sure I'm aware of where I am on the map App so that if the App fails, I can look at the paper map (which looks exactly the same) and still know where approximately I am. Please do not just follow the arrow. See picture. As I have known the arrow to point in the wrong direction for a short period, so knowing you are on the right path, for example, and in which direction you are working is essential. 

That said, this cutting-edge application is a product of the esteemed Ordnance Survey, a renowned authority on mapping and exploration in the United Kingdom. While a free version is available, investing in the Premium subscription at £34.99 a year or £6.99 a month unlocks a treasure trove of advanced functionalities, ensuring a truly immersive and enriching experience.

To get started, sign up for an account on the Ordnance Survey website. If you prefer the tactile experience of paper maps, fear not – any purchased maps come with a code that allows you to access a digital copy on your device, seamlessly integrating the physical and virtual realms.

Crafting Your Adventure: Route Planning in The OS map App Made Simple

At the heart of the OS Maps app lies its route-planning capabilities, which transform your dreams into adventures. The process begins with a simple search, where you can explore pre-existing routes curated by fellow explorers or embark on creating your own bespoke journey.

OS Map App

Discovering Existing Routes

The "Discover Routes" feature is a treasure trove of inspiration, allowing you to browse through a vast collection of tried-and-tested trails. Whether you're seeking a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, this feature ensures you'll find a route tailored to your preferences and skill level. Find the area on the map you wish to explore and click the 'Routes' tab, which will show you a number of pre-made routes that you can download to your phone.

OS Map App

Crafting Your Masterpiece

For those with a penchant for customization, the OS maps App empowers you to craft your own unique routes. Drop waypoints on the map, and the App will seamlessly connect them, creating a personalized itinerary.

I identify the mountain or region that I want to explore and pin my start point to a car park nearest to where I want to explore. You can then use the OS Maps identified maps using the explorer map size 1:25k topographic and, if required, change the map set to standard and find other possible path alternatives (however, it is claimed that these paths are not as reliable, as in may not always be visible on the ground), you can then drop more waypoints to make your route once completed it will give you an elevation graph, distance, and approximate tie it will take for the hike. I feel this is a great tool, and I plot all my hikes this way. It's a great way to time your day; make sure you're not out too late and, therefore, not out in the dark, and you are able to tell loved ones approximately what time you will be back at the car. It's the perfect tool for solo adventures. 

Bringing Your Route to Life

Once your route is plotted, the OS maps App offers a multitude of tools to enhance your understanding and preparation. The "tabletop 3D" is a game-changer, providing a breathtaking three-dimensional rendering of your chosen path. This feature is particularly invaluable when navigating hilly terrain or unfamiliar landscapes, exposing potential hazards and offering a comprehensive overview of the difficulty level.

Navigating the Great Outdoors: Real-Time Guidance

While planning is crucial, the true magic unfolds when you embark on your journey. The OS maps App becomes your trusted companion, providing real-time guidance and ensuring you never lose your way. Whether you're following a pre-existing route or recording your own trail, the App's intuitive interface keeps you informed and on track.

For those venturing into unfamiliar territory, the "Follow a Route" feature is a lifesaver. Simply select your desired path, and the App will guide you every step of the way, ensuring you stay on course and enjoy the journey without the worry of getting lost. Remember to be aware of where you are on the map as well and not just follow the arrow, 

Embracing Technology and Tradition

While the OS maps App is a testament to the power of modern technology, it's important to recognize that it complements, rather than replaces, traditional navigation methods. A paper map and compass should always be part of your essential gear, serving as a reliable backup in case of technological hiccups or unforeseen circumstances.

The true beauty of the OS maps App lies in its ability to seamlessly integrate with these time-honoured tools, offering a harmonious blend of cutting-edge technology and tried-and-true techniques. By leveraging the strengths of both digital and analogue resources, you can embark on your adventures with the utmost confidence and preparedness.


In the ever-evolving landscape of outdoor exploration, the OS maps App stands as a beacon of innovation and convenience. From meticulously planning your routes to unveiling the hidden gems of your surroundings, this powerful application empowers you to embark on adventures with unparalleled confidence and enthusiasm. Whether you're a seasoned explorer or a newcomer to the great outdoors, the OS maps App is a must-have companion on your journey. So, embrace the call of the wild, and let this remarkable tool guide you towards unforgettable experiences, one step at a time.

If you have any questions about using the App, then ask in the comments.

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