HR Kit: Navigation


Guide Book

We’re using the famous “Chamonix-Zermatt – The Walker’s Haute Route” by Kev Reyolds.

It is possible to navigate the whole route using way markers and the route description from the guide. But if the TMB is anything to go by, the way marking will probably border on vandalism in easy to follow sections and disappear for long stretches in the mountains.

Cicerone publish a set of updates to their guides on the web site.


Although some people do the HR using just the Kev Reynolds guide book, to me, a map is essential even if the trail is well marked. I’ll be carrying two of each (well, LB will have one copy). Anyone that’s walked with us will know our bad habit of wandering off trails to do other “interesting bits” so anyone walking with us is well advised to carry their own maps.

Swiss Topo produce two maps that cover the whole route (offset from their main mapping to do so). They’re both 1:50000: “5003 Mont Blanc Grand Combin” and “5006 Matterhorn – Mischabel“. I did consider getting 1:25000 scale maps (it’s more that I like maps than wanted the detail!) but it would take nine to cover the route.

They don’t come with a key printed on them but one is available as a PDF download. I’ve printed the first page on a piece of A5 paper at half scale since it’s the one with useful info for navigation.

I’ve always used the The Map Shop for foreign maps but a supplier of Swiss Topo maps local to your own country shouldn’t be hard to find on the Internet.

Map cases drive me mad so I send them to Aqua3 for coating. It’s not cheap but it makes them just about indestructible and has also got people approaching me to ask where I got maps, that they’d only previously seen as plain paper, in what appears to be a plastic version. A good conversation starter – as long as you can speak the language!


Again, to me a compass is essential and if you’ve got a map then you really need a compass to be able to use it fully. I also carry a spare, not just because they they’re small enough to lose easily but I’ve also known someone trip and ram their compass into rock!

The Silva Expedition 4 (38 grams)is the usual choice in the UK hills (just make sure you get one marked in degrees rather than the military version that’s marked off in Radians).

But it’s expensive so I carry a Field 7 for a backup (24 grams).


I’ll be carrying a Garmin Gecko 301 (87 grams). Although I’ve navigated for hours in visibility so poor that I’ve had to throw little snowballs a few feet ahead of me to be able to focus on something it’s a pain if you’re tired and everyone’s relying on you to get to shelter.

I don’t actually plan to switch it on at all especially since they tend to eat batteries. However I will be using Lithium/Iron sulphide cells (Energizer e2) that are meant to last about 7 times longer than alkaline cells according to the manufactures but seem to last a good three times longer according to reviews I’ve read.


3 Replies to “HR Kit: Navigation”

  1. Interesting information about the Aqua3 service. Is there a rough estimate how much heavier the maps are after their treatment and when will this end up in a heavier overall weight compared to carrying a map case instead (ignoring the facts that the maps will survive much better after the Aqua3 coating and the handling is easier without a map case)??

    Have you ever considered making colorcopies of the trail from your maps on waterproof paper? Compared with carrying seven seperate maps I could minimize the weight by approx. 80% and the maps still look like new and remain as a backup in my car at the starting point of the trip just in case…

  2. Ah good question! Well since I have a paper and an Aqua3 version of the exact same map… the plain version weighs 88 grams whilst the Aqua3 is 130.

    42 grams per map – 84 grams total. One gram more than an Ortlieb document case:

    And for the lack of having to take it in and out of a bag…

    I’d not considered copying maps since the UK Ordnance Survey is very, very strict about having their maps copied and you (theoretically at least) must go to a shop that has an agreement with them and pay a surcharge. I’m not sure if such a restriction applies to Swiss Topo or IGN etc. But of course – who’d know? ;)

    It’s a very good idea!

    The other reason I guess, is time – I’m rushing around trying to sort several other things out (a canoe trip in Sweden whilst we’re seeing LB’s parents for the next week!) and even this Blog – each entry takes a good couple of hours when I’m on about kit! Trying to cover the basics for people that are new to it and keep it interesting for my fellow “Gear Heads” is tricky…

  3. Thanks for your quick answer. Looks like it makes sense from a pure weight perspective to use Aqua3’s service if you take two or less maps with you.
    Re. the copies I never ran into any kind of problems. The additional benefit of that method is that you can use the backside of the paper to copy trailinformations from guidebooks on it soe you really have everything at hand plus you can also easily scan the maps as PDF’s and store them e.g. on your mobile phone just as an emergency backup.
    But I admit it takes time. I’ve easily spent about 8-10 hours total to prepare the maps, copy, scan etc. for a two weeks trip.

    And yes…writing the stuff is much more time consuming than reading it..;-) But it is also fun and I see it also as kind of my own gear repository just in case I can’t find that special link anymore I just look into my blog…

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