Map Reading - Contours

Report Copyright Infringement View in OSM UK


Explain how contours on OS Maps are vital to show you how steep a hill is.


Brent knoll and Scouting Skills Contour sheet, Contour Activity, Os Maps, Tables, Pencils


1. Contours and Rock Features [10 mins]
• Contours are lines printed on the map that show levels of equal height above sea level. They will follow for example the same height around a hill.
• On the maps that you will be using the contours are spaced every 10m, with a thicker line at 50m intervals.
• Looking at the contours allows you to see the shape of the land, as you are travelling over it. The horizontal distance between contours is relative to the map scale.
• The closer the contours are to each other therefore the steeper the terrain, the further apart the contours are the flatter the terrain.
• Also of note are rocky outcrops, boulders, loose stone and scree, which may also make passage difficult, dangerous or impossible.
• [Find the features on the map.]

2. Travelling across contours [5 mins]
• When you are travelling up hill you will travel slower, as you are taking smaller steps and you are working harder. Equally when travelling down hill you will sometimes travel slower as you have to take smaller steps and you have to keep your balance.
• The steeper the terrain the more time it will take you to cross.
• Therefore we need to take the height gained or lost into account when you are calculating the time it will take you to walk a route.

3 if there is time use the worksheet to turn contour lines on a map into a cross sectional representation


  • Contours
  • map reading
  • Naismith
  • route plan

Badge Links

This activity doesn't complete any badge requirements