Published by Lyn on 29 July 2016
So your maps get wet and soggy? Richard Peace road-tested a new range of wearable, washable maps for cycling.
Tired of dirty, torn or destroyed by rain maps? Splashmaps allow you to print a large range of mapping, including UK Ordnance Survey and SplashMaps' own styled Open Street Map 1:40,000 mapping, selecting the exact area of your choice – all on washable and wearable high quality fabric.
I received three samples for review: one at 1:25,000 to explore the mountain bike tracks in more detail around my local area in the UK’s Pennine foothills, and the other two covering my own Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner. In the interests of unbiased reporting, I won’t review the content of my own maps, but instead stick to the quality of the map reproductions and how you go about ordering via the SplashMaps website. (If you want to know more about the UK route planner maps, see the Amazon reviews here).
So, say you fancy a fabric map to a certain area of France (that's Calais in the bottom image above). Simply click on ‘Create a Personalised Map’, use the ‘move and zoom’ map interface to cover the area you want then press the small logo in the top right of the map area. After a small delay, up pops a preview, and if you're happy this covers the area you want, then simply close the preview and procced to order in the usual internet manner. A very quick and straightforward process.
I used this method for the local 1:25,000 map and was impressed when the map arrived a short time later (apparently 10 days is the typical lead time from order to delivery). The print quality, while not as crisp and sharp as a paper map, is pretty phenomenal given they are printed on fabric.
The material itself washes easily and drys quickly. If it gets soaked while out, it doesn’t hold a lot of water; in fact, because of its microfibre-like construction, water tends to run off (though it does get damp after a good soaking). The maps can also be drawn and written on using washable markers such as Crayola Supertips (particularly handy for highlightng your route), and this can be subsequently washed off (Splashmaps are machine-washable).
Map reading on the go is a case of stuffing the Splashmap in your pocket or tieing round your neck and whipping it out when you need it; in this sense it’s maybe not quite as handy for cyclists as having a bar-mounted map or GPS device.
The international 1:40,000 mapping used on the Splashmaps website doesn’t have quite the same level of detail as the UK OS maps, but there is still enough detail to cycle navigate and some useful features such as relief shading and very minor roads.
Though prices vary depending on your map, you're looking roughly in the region of £20 per map. SplashMaps may not look particularly cheap, but for an apparently near indestructible product, they may offer great value in the long run.
Richard Peace is founder of Excellent Books, specialists in cycle publishing. He is author of Cycling Southern France (UK, US), Cycling Northern France (UK, US), and Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide (UK, US). He is a regular contributor to A to B magazine, Bike Europe and writes for Eurobike Show Daily.