Ordnance Survey maps: sometimes government CAN do a great job

map, maps, OS maps, OS, Ordnance SurveyThe BBC recently interviewed a cartographer for the Ordnance Survey. This government department is in charge of mapping the United Kingdom, except for Northern Ireland, which has its own agency.

If you like maps or plan to hike in the UK, the Ordnance Survey maps are simply amazing. They’ve been measuring and drawing this green and pleasant land since the eighteenth century and produce the best maps I’ve ever used. In the interview, cartographer Dave Wareham explains how he uses GPS satellites and OS ground stations to get his measurements to within “a maximum tolerance of 2.6cm.” That’s one inch to you Yanks.

The smallest scale maps are truly amazing, with every fence, building, postbox, and public telephone carefully marked. If you know how to read a map and use a compass, it’s virtually impossible to get lost with one of these in your hand. Unfortunately, a poll back in 2007 discovered that the majority of Brits can’t read maps. If the UK government wasn’t ruthlessly slashing education spending they could add a map-reading course.

It’s nice to see a government project that works well. In the days of GPS and Google Maps, the Ordnance Survey still sells three million copies maps each year. They even turn a profit. My only quibble with the OS maps is that they’re updated only once every three or four years, which isn’t enough in some parts of the country, as I discovered while hiking the East Highland Way.

Still, they’re the best maps you’re going to find. If you’re having trouble shopping for that outdoorsy type in your life, grab some of these to inspire their next hike.

Gadling’s gift guide for the outdoor and adventure traveler

In this first of several Gadling gift guides, we’ll follow the tradition of all other sites by suggesting some great gift ideas for travelers. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some impressive kit for the outdoors and adventure traveler.

Since I am more geek than adventurer, you’ll notice a trend towards battery powered gadgets. Some of these great products were featured here on Gadling this year, others will be reviewed in the coming weeks, so keep paying attention to our product reviews!
Contour HD camera

The Contour HD is a lightweight HD digital camera that can be attached to almost any surface. It features a really impressive wide angle rotating lens. To top it off – the camera also features 2 lasers, which help adjust the camera so you know exactly what you are shooting.

One of the coolest features of the ContourHD is its large sliding record button, which allows you to immediately start recording whenever you want, without having to fiddle with small knobs. The slider is large enough to operate when you are wearing gloves.

The camera itself is only part of the package – once you have recorded some awesome adventure footage, you can share it with the world on the VholdR ContourHD community. If you have recently paid attention to Mike Rowe on “Dirty Jobs”, you’ll have noticed him climbing off the edge of a building using one of these cameras to record his antics. We’ll have a full review of the ContourHD here on Gadling next week.

Price: $279.99 (Contour HD) and $329.99 (Contour HD 1080p)
Where: ContourHD retailers

180s Quantum Vent gloves with Tec Touch

There is very little “high tech” about most gloves, unless those gloves are the new Quantum Vent gloves by 180s. These gloves are obviously designed to keep your hands warm, but they also feature an adjustable venting system and a goggle wipe.

The really cool feature comes from 180s patented “Tec Touch” system. This nifty invention allows you to control your iPod or other capacitive touch screen device without having to take your hands out of your gloves. Metal conducting fabric on the inside of the gloves, and a metal tipped finger make it possible to switch tracks or start your iPhone fart app on the slopes.

Price: $75
Where: 180s product page

Garmin Oregon 400t

You can tell I’m not much of an outdoors person, because I’m the kind of person that would pick a GPS unit before even thinking about good boots. Still, a good outdoors GPS device can be a real handy piece of kit.

One of the best outdoor units is the Garmin Oregon 400t. This device combines a waterproof touchscreen GPS unit with a compass, barometer and even wireless connectivity with other Oregon devices. You can plot tracks, view topographic maps and of course, find your way back to basecamp (or your car).We reviewed the 400t earlier this year.

Price: $499.99
Where: Garmin product page

Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk 28

Adventure travel is not always lightweight travel. If you need to haul a lot of gear, then check out the new Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk. This large rolling case features 2 separate compartments, with enough room for a ton of kit. The bag works as a rolling trunk, or as a shoulder bag (with the included shoulder strap). If holds 49 liters of stuff, and weighs just 12lbs when empty, which is really impressive for a bag this large.

Compression straps help reduce its bulk. and “off road” wheels let you pull it through smooth hotel floors as easily as through muddy trails. A full review of this bag is coming up later in December.

Price: $350
Where: Eagle Creek product page

SPOT Personal satellite messenger

If you really love the outdoors, you’ll regularly find yourself well out of range of cellphone signals. This is where the SPOT personal satellite messenger can help. This small device communicates with a constellation of satellites to relay your position, inform people that you are “ok”, or send an emergency message in need of immediate assistance.

Sure, it may not be a replacement for a true emergency beacon, but at just under $150, it is a really handy tool, with a proven track record of saving lives. We reviewed the previous (larger) generation SPOT unit last year.

Price: $149.95 + $99 annual subscription
Where: SPOT retailers

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TX1 waterproof camera

Heading to cool locations is great, but if you’d like to share your trips, you’ll need a camera that can survive the elements. The Panasonic DMC-TX1 is a waterproof and shock/drop proof digital camera. Its internal 4.6x wide angle zoom lens shoots in 12 megapixels, and allows you to record HD video clips. We reviewed the Lumix DMC-TX1 here.

Price: $379.99 (MSRP)
Where: Panasonic Lumix retailers