Stop using smartphones to navigate mountains, warn Mountain Rescue

Rescue -

Stop using smartphones to navigate mountains, warn Mountain Rescue

With a powerful smartphone in each of our pockets and the ability to download maps onto them the smartphone has been both a life saver and killer for many people venturing in the hills. Stop using smartphones to navigate mountains, warn Mountain Rescue.

Back in 2015 the BMC where warning people not to use their mobile phones to navigate with in the hills

Coniston Mountain Rescue Team warned walkers not to rely too heavily on their mobiles for navigation.

The team cited a spate of recent callouts involving people using battery-draining GPS mapping technology - one man who got lost near Langdale in January last year was using a photograph of a map stored on his phone. With mobile navigation increasingly being seen by walkers as a replacement for the traditional map and compass, are other mountain rescue teams concerned?

“Navigating with a mobile is a big no-no”

Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team also stated - Mobile phones have, without doubt, contributed to saving people's lives in the mountain environment. However they have also been misused and abused and led to much time-wasting for voluntary mountain rescue teams.

If you're taking your phone with you for emergencies, then make sure it's fully charged. If it's a smart phone, and you spend the day using its features, then it is quite likely it won't have enough battery power to use it later in the day in an emergency. Be careful if using apps for navigation.

The Telegraph in 2016 led with a headline - Lake District walkers who rely on smartphones rather than maps blamed for record mountain rescue call-outs. Rescuers spoke of their "shock" at how walkers lack "basic" outdoors skills and use mobile phone GPS instead of a map and compass.

Then in 2018, the Metro newspaper led with a piece -

Rescuers have advised people to stop using their smartphones to navigate mountains so they don’t have to keep on saving them.

Members of the Cairngorm and Braemar mountain rescue teams had to find two walkers after they got into trouble near Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms, Scotland. Full article here

Even through the 2020 summer rescuers plea for help

Cumbria Police and the Lake District’s Mountain Rescue Team’s saw a tidal wave of avoidable rescues that is putting a real strain on our volunteer team members. In one week they had 19 callouts in the Lake District with a focus on the Wasdale team with 9 of these incidents. Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team cover Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England and a magnet for walkers and climbers. Many of our walkers and climbers are very experienced and know exactly what they are doing. However, 11 of the callouts were truly avoidable with inexperienced and ill prepared walkers finding themselves in serious, life threatening trouble being either missing or lost.

Cumbria Police have also commented that many are dialling in ‘999’ calls with as little as 1% battery remaining on their mobile phones. This means that after the initial call their battery dies and the mountain rescue team cannot get back to them which makes finding them a bigger challenge requiring more numbers of the volunteers. Many are relying on smart phone mapping apps which drain batteries and no back up - source here

Further reading

1. How waterproof is an outdoor GPS unit

2. Going off grid - your options

3. What happens if you do press it the SOS button on the Garmin inReach satellite communicator?

4. The Best Outdoor GPS units


  • Simon Brown

    John the walker, that’s a bit harsh, summing an article up after reading the last sentence. Perhaps we should concentrate a little more on the MRT saying they are – “shocked” at how walkers lack “basic” outdoors skills and use mobile phone GPS instead of a map and compass.

  • John the walker

    What a stupid post! It should read ‘bring a power bank’

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