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My wife is due to under take her Lowland Leader course in then next couple of months and she has been advised to gain experience using Harvey Maps as well as the more familiar Ordnance Survey maps. As far as I can see the only advantage they have is that they are waterproof as standard. They don't cover the whole of the country and are not as widely available as Ordnance Survey maps so I can not see a reason why it would be necessary to use them.

What advantages do Harvey maps offer over Ordnance Survey maps?

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    Perhaps they consider it a useful skill to read a map that is ugly, at a weird (and worse) scale, and IMHO harder to read (if their Canada maps that I have seen are anything to go by)? Or to visit Greenland? I fear and wonder what they mean by "Map is uncluttered by information irrelevant to the walker", perhaps the skill is to read maps even if some information is left out (additional challenge)?. – gerrit Jul 4 '17 at 8:09
  • I can't see why you would choose one of these. They're going to be based on licensed ordnance survey data anyway as that's the official record. So why get a second hand account of the official map when you can just get the official map?! I guess from a LL point of view they just want you to be familiar with other offerings that are on the market. – user2766 Jul 4 '17 at 9:17
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    @Liam - Apparently they are made using their own data. It's a fair point about the familiarity with different products. – BWFC Jul 4 '17 at 9:29
  • If you Google "compare harveys ordnance survey" you can find some side-by-side samples online - e.g. routebuddy.com/routebuddy-popup/… – aucuparia Mar 6 at 9:05
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Well, if you've ever tried walking in countries like Spain or Italy, we should celebrate the fact that we are spoiled for choice. You can always get by with an OS, so why would you ever choose Harvey?

First, you should understand that they offer two main series - the SuperWalker maps at 1:25k and mainly centered on popular mountains, and the newer BMC Mountain Maps that cover wider areas at 1:40k.

Here's what I like about the Harvey offerings:

  1. They are tougher than the OS maps, without the bulk of the lamination. You don't need a map case - just fold and roll and stick them in a pocket.
  2. The footpaths are often more complete and accurate - they get on the ground and check them out.
  3. It's the same for rocky and marshy ground - they get out there and check the terrain.
  4. Subjectively, I find the contouring and shading is clearer - compare the mapping of the Cuillin, for example.
  5. They omit details like administrative boundaries that clutter the mapping and are of little interest to walkers.
  6. They name the popular climbing crags.
  7. They offer maps scaled and centered to show a whole area - eg 1 map for the Lakes, vs 4 for the OS. The Dartmoor map, for example, is more convenient than the two-sided OS Explorer.
  8. They offer strip-maps covering many of the National Trails, while you would need multiple OS maps for the same coverage.
  9. They offer useful specialist maps - eg large scale summit maps for complex tops and fell running maps for popular races and challenges.
  10. The contours are visible using a night-vision red light, while they are pretty much unreadable on the OS map.

On the downside:

  1. For the 40k sheets you won't have a romer on your compass, but they do sell one for £1.
  2. When you're trying to navigate the valleys though farms and fields the 1:40k can lack detail vs 1:25k mapping.
  3. They're not so clear about the access status of the land.
  4. They don't show as many ancient monuments.
  5. They don't show pubs! (Don't they understand their market??)

Long story short - both the OS and Harvey make great maps. There will be times when one suits your usage better than another, and times when you might use them in combination - eg the more detailed 1:25k OS map for planning and the more convenient 1:40k Harvey on the hill.

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    I guess "planning" might include using the OS maps to mark pubs on the Harvey sheet. – Andrew Leach Jul 5 '17 at 10:04
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    The official maps in Spain are terrible – user2766 Jul 7 '17 at 15:08
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    @Liam - yes, the Spanish maps are close to unusable. I was traversing the Sierra Nevada and had to find the right point on the ridge to descend thousands of feet into a gorge to hit a tiny footbridge. Visible were a deep notch in the opposite ridge, a stream on the opposite hillside, a mature plantation, a weather station and a helipad. Not one was on the map. It was dusk so I ended up not taking the chance and taking a much longer way down... – Tullochgorum Feb 16 at 20:01
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I've used OS 1:25k and 1:50k extensively in the UK. I also have a little experience of using 1:40k Harveys maps (Lake district, for mountain marathons).

I have been impressed with the Harveys: in detail as well as scale they sit nicely in between the two OS scales. So you get very detailed contours (nearly as much as the OS 1:25k), but less of the clutter on the 1:25k OS maps - they don't attempt to map every fence post and small rock. I personally find that a lot of the fine detail in the 1:25k is not very helpful for navigation, but I do like to have more detailed contours than the 1:50k offers.

Another (small) advantage with the Harveys is that they seem to have more sensible coverage. For example, in the Lake District I recently had to take four OS maps where one of the Harveys maps would have covered it. But that just depends on where you want to walk.

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    Also with the newer "Superwalker XT25" Harvey maps (1:25,000) it is much easier to use both sides of the map due to the way they are laid out and folded. If you are near the edge of an OS map and need to refer to the other side, it can be a right pain having to fold and refold the OS map whereas it is very easy with the Harvey's "Superwalker XT25". – Paul Lydon Jul 4 '17 at 11:08
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    second that. Many happy (!) memories of trying to refold a big OS map in gale force winds and driving rain... – aucuparia Jul 4 '17 at 14:09
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I know several people who recommend the Harvey maps, so they're obviously not terrible.

The main advantage is the 1:40,000 scale which offers most of the detail of a 1:25,000 map while covering a larger area. Additionally, they don't have many irrelevant features like county boundaries and slightly more colourful style than OS maps, which make it easier to understand the map at a glance.

The larger area of the maps allows them to cover more useful areas where multiple 1:25000 maps would be needed. Particularly the Lakes, which are covered by 4 OS maps compared to 1 Harvey map.

Additionally, their waterproofness is pretty good and can make them much easier to use than using a mapcase or a laminated OS map, which are much more bulky.

Obviously as OS maps cover the entire country Harvey maps are never strictly necessary, but in many situations they can provide an, at least arguably, better alternative to OS maps.

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Some places they provide a better scale or more useful map for specific locations. For instance the 8cm (1:12500) map of the little Cuillin Hills mountain ridge on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is slightly better (larger/less cluttered) than the 4cm (1:25000) OS map in my opinion.

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