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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Not so much of a Luddite after all then...

Oh I might be blogging and facebooking, (not, I repeat NOT tweeting), and setting up ipads and laptops so I can do both those things en route across the country but there's one thing that leaves me cold - the SatNav/GPS. As anyone who read my 'Diary of an Editor' in January's Mountain Rescue mag will testify.

See, me and satellite signals don't get on. In the car, I'd rather read a map, plot a route, write down a few instructions for myself, maybe even Google a route with AA maps (although even THEY have a handy knack of getting you hopelessly lost.) And, on foot, I'd rather carry a map in my hand and a compass in the pocket of my rucksack. As someone very recently said to me (funnily enough quoting a certain team leader who, it has to be said, has a natural way with the journalistic camera), a map and compass don't need batteries.

Back in November, a very well-known company sent me an all-singing, all-dancing, so-flippin-clever-it-almost-makes-your-tea, GPS. They wanted me to review it, give it a star rating, then plug it in the mag. Well, as a novice GPS user, and dyed-in-the-wool satellite-averse, it was a big ask, as they say. Several frustrating days trying it out - alone, and in the company of one more experienced in these matters - and the thing ended up resolutely back in its box, under the stairs. Where it still resides, waiting to be returned to sender.

Fast forward to last week and a text from a mountain rescue colleague. 'Why not ask ViewRanger to provide the mapping for the Coast to Coast?' So I did, and they did - very generously.

Then it started: me going round in ever decreasing circles with a variety of license numbers, serial numbers, passwords and user names refusing to play ball. Followed by a frustrated late night email to Russell, ViewRanger's support man, to the effect that paper maps were looking incredibly sexy at the moment; this very generous piece of sponsorship already mentally consigned to the ipad equivalent of the cupboard under the stairs.

But Russell talked me through it. (Thank you Russell!) And, today I've been testing it out in St Bees, the start of the Coast to Coast route. The plan was not to carry the ipad before me as an over-sized GPS (hardly practical!) but, safely tucked in the rucksack, it happily tracked my footsteps, logging my 10.8km walk, and how long it took me. The details it records will be useful blog fodder; once it's set up, the Buddy Beacon will allow people to track us as we walk; and, if the visibility closes in or we're lost (temporarily mislaid!), we'll always know where we are on the map.

So far so intuitive - I actually enjoyed using it! Maybe I'm not such a Luddite after all. Thank you ViewRanger!

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