I go through a lot of maps in my line of work. A wet map soon becomes a useless map, and for most of us who work in the outdoor instruction business that means falling back on one of three solutions. Either buy maps on waterproof paper (such as the range of Harvey Maps, or the OS maps by My Mini Map), buy a laminated map, or get a good quality map case. This is not the place to discuss the ins and outs of different types of map (I’ve written blog posts on this subject before!), so lets consider the other two options, a laminated map versus a map in a waterproof map case.
A laminated map has the advantage in that you can write on the map, then erase it afterwards. This makes for simplifying navigation in that you can scribble down useful info such as compass bearings and distances for the navigation leg you’re on, then erase it and start again once you’re on the next section of the walk. For me though, the really big disadvantage of a laminated map is that it is really big! They are not the easiest thing to fold to the section of the map you’re working on, and most people completely fold the whole thing up, shove it in a pocket, then have to re-find their position on the map each time they get it out again.
With a map case you fold the map to the section of map that covers your walk, and that’s it for the day. Obviously you can’t write on the map case (well, you can, but you’ll never be able to erase it again!), so that is a disadvantage of this method of protecting your maps. However, on the whole I personally much prefer map cases to laminated maps.
But, and this is a very big but, pretty much all map cases come with a lanyard that you’re supposed to wear around your neck. This seems to be designed purely to achieve one of two things (or possibly both): 1) With the map around your neck you can’t orientate the map at all, so you can’t navigate properly with it. And 2) even in a slight breeze you stand a pretty good chance of strangulating yourself as the maps flips over and over in the wind as it hangs around your neck. Solution? Take the lanyard off the case and don’t use it.
With the Kaituna Map Case from Aquapac the lanyard is very easy to remove. I was actually very impressed with this map case. I’ve used another leading brand of map case for a number of years, and have always thought that nothing could beat it. A good quality map case is durable (many become brittle in the cold, then split), has a non-slip surface for ease of taking compass bearings, and is easy to fold in half with the map inside for stuffing in a jacket pocket. The Kaituna has all of those features. It’s made from a lovely soft, rubbery plastic, so is very usable in all weather conditions, and when used with a compass it has sufficient ‘grip’ that the compass baseplate doesn’t slide along the surface.
One very minor addition I would like to see Aquapac make would be a little tab to make opening the case easier – the two sides of the opening tend to stick together a little too well, it’s a bit like trying to pull apart a plastic shopping carrier bag. The seal is a roll-over velcro flap, which is a well tried and tested method.
At around £18 this is all and all a good solution to keeping your map dry and usable throughout your hillwalks.