Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Book Review - the Lakeland Pack 2 by walkingbooks.com

 The phrase “book review” is possibly a slight misnomer, as this isn’t really a book at all.  Perhaps “pack review” would be more relevant – as this is one of the range published by Walking-books.com.

So what is it?  Well, it is a box which opens up to show a map on the left side of the region covered – the Lake District in this case – and on the right is the collection of walks.  These are on loose cards which are laminated and contain all the info about the route on one side and the route shown on an Ordnance Survey map on the reverse.

Walkingbooks.com originated this style of publication, and, as with any major innovation, found it copied by several other larger publishers.  However, generally speaking, the rivals have re-used walks they already had published in other books, whereas Walkingbooks.com's versions have been written from scratch.  The other major difference are the size of the pack – Walkingbooks.com (herein WB!) originated the style using an A5 sized pack, and the rivals have generally used a smaller format.

This is the second series of the packs published by WB and they've had a complete make-over from the first outings – which date way back to 1999.  Times and designs have moved on a lot since then, and fortunately WB have taken the opportunity to radically bring the layout and style into the 21st Century.
Firstly, the main difference is in the style of the pack; the original series of WB packs were made from a fairly lightweight cardboard - which damaged easily – and had a difficult opening flap - as seen on the left. That’s gone now, in favour of the much more sturdy box which opens easily to the left – like a book.

But that’s not as much of a difference compared to the design of the cards themselves… they have had a complete make-over.  The originals were a mass of plain text on one side, and the OS map on the flip side.  As I’m mentioned, WB have kept this style for the new packs, but a designer has given the layout a fresh feel.

These new cards have an info bar to the left of the card and another at the top, which give similar details to the “Essential Info” box on our own Walks Around Britain website.  The walking route itself is split into 4 or 5 numbered stages, which are highlighted on the OS map on the reverse of the card.

These numbered stages have type in two colours, with the black text describing the route and the blue text providing interesting information – such as historical details, stories and such like.  This method works very well, the helps you distinguish between the route and the additional details.
Another handy feature is the correct Ordnance Survey map number is shown at the bottom left hand corner for each card – along with contact details for the relevant Tourist Information Centre for that walk.

OS Maps on The Lakeland Pack 2
Turning the card over shows the Ordnance Survey map for the walk – and this is really WB’s major selling point, as almost all the competitor packs of a similar style don’t have full-blown 1:25,000 Explorer mapping on their cards.  But here is my first, and really only, note of disappointment.
OS Maps on the older packs

The quality of the maps are a bit of a let-down; they tend to be a fuzzy and not very sharp.  Some are better than others, but I do feel perhaps the OS hadn’t supplied high enough quality mapping to WB for the printing process.  Ironically, this is the only point in which the original series of packs are better – as the quality of the OS maps in those are excellent and pin sharp.

Accompanying the pack is a booklet which at first glance only details how to use the walking cards.  But the booklet actually is a tiny treasure, with information about walking safety, suitable clothing & equipment and much more.  And finally, hiding underneath all the walking sheets is a clear plastic wallet which you can pop a card into, keeping it safe and dry from the Lake District weather.

What are the walking routes?  Well, in this pack there is a great mix of easy, moderate, difficult and strenuous, and there’s also a nice spread across the whole of the Lakeland area – not just sticking to the honey pot of the Central Lakes.  Heck, there’s even a walk in Barrow-in-Furness – part of the area not often covered by walking books.

My favourite is perhaps number 12 – a 4 ½ mile wander from Waterhead through Troutbeck to the Lake District Visitors Centre at Brokehole – a lovely walk.  But then, so are the other 24.  Jim Rubery and Michael Law have selected some crackers, and you won’t be disappointed with any of them.

So, is this new series of walking packs from WB an improvement on the originals?  Definitely.  The box is stronger and won’t get squashed in your backpack; the cards are laminated and won’t get damaged on route; they have a fresh, clean design which is easy to follow and get the info you need – and the 25 walks offered are top routes too.  It’s just a shame about the fuzziness of the OS maps…

What’s good
The 25 walks are stunning and well worth trekking out on
Walking cards are laminated and should be safe to use in most weather
Clean, fresh inviting design of the walking cards
Sturdy box which won’t get squashed easily
Extremely helpfully booklet

What’s bad
Quality of the OS maps – a few are fuzzy and not too sharp.
Perhaps slightly expensive for fair weather walkers

 The Lakeland Pack 2 by walkingbooks.com - Rough Price - £14.99

Walks Around Britain rating  8/10

Order it online from Amazon here.

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