Mapping for Expeditions

Resources, links, downloads, guides

A growing repository of resources, tips and downloads about Google Earth and digital mapping for expedition planning. Please send suggestions and corrections by email to me.

Browse OS Maps (UK) online

You can access 1:25k and 1:50k mapping for the entire country, for free, using with Bing Maps or Streetmap as your mapping search engine (as opposed to Google Maps).

Ordnance Survey themselves have an impressive set of digital products these days:

Many other websites make use of the API mentioned above to provide OS maps for free, for instance (side-by-side comparison between OS maps and satellite imagery) and

For historical mapping, the National Library of Scotland have an excellent collection of maps to explore on their website.

You can view mapping data online for other countries here:

Simon Likes Maps, run by Simon Freytag, is an easy to use interface to create route maps all over the world. The site combines many of the sources above into a single interface.

Google Earth vs. Google Maps

Google produce two of the best tools for exploring the world: Google Maps and Google Earth.


You only need three buttons to navigate Google Earth. A proper three-button mouse is essential.

You should go to Tools > Options and under the Navigation tab select Do not automatically tilt while zooming.

Google Earth tips and tricks

You can download a cheat sheet of basic Google Earth commands.

Some useful tips and tricks for mountaineers:

Good datasets worth downloading:

More information and resources can be found on the old Google Earth forums. The GPSVisualiser website includes some useful tools for converting GPS data into Google Earth files and making a Google Map from a GPS file.

Using maps for expedition planning

A good general introduction to using online maps to plan expeditions can be found in the UKClimbing article: "Where on (Google) Earth?". There is also a shorter summary of the information on this page in article I wrote the BMC: Using free online mapping for expedition planning.

Many climbers make use of old Soviet maps on their expeditions. The number one resource for these is:

Maps can be downloaded individually by clicking through on a file of the appropriate scale. Most extensive coverage is of central Asia where many areas are mapped to 1:50k resolution, however 1:100k or 1:200k resolution maps exist for large parts of the world.

If you wish to pay for some maps (!) and purchase an entire country in one go, there are number of sites on the internet including

Other useful tips and links for using Soviet maps:

3D Printed Models

Recently I've been exploring the idea of 3D printing models of mountain ranges. Some useful resources to help with this process:

More resources



Trackers and hardware:

Commercial services:

Fun map things

Interesting links for real enthusiasts:

In 2013 I had the chance to speak at TEDxBrum (Birmingham) about using digital maps to look for unclimbed peaks. The talk is embedded below:

Disposing of maps

Finally, you can make use of trailmix pieces to play chess on an un-wanted 8x8 section of a Soviet map. Other maps might work too. Recommended to tape down the corners and to make a list of which piece is which. Upon capture of a piece, you may eat it.