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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Hugh Rooney/Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images File photo of the Wicklow mountains.
# mountain safety
Your smartphone won’t keep you safe on mountain hikes
If you’re heading out on a hike, take a good old-fashioned compass and map with you.

THE IRISH RED Cross has warned hikers not to rely on their smartphones for mountain safety and to revert back to using a traditional compass.

Speaking to, Aaron Byrne, spokesperson for the Irish Red Cross, said most navigation apps on smartphones do not have enough details on them and often fail to show up important markers like cliffs and rivers.

“When your phone is giving you a location it’s relying on a 3G signal which isn’t great in Ireland at the best of times but especially in the mountains,” he said. “If you’re relying on your phone you better hope it has a proper signal or it won’t give you anything at all.”

“Another problem is that the battery doesn’t last very long on them and it that goes then you’re snookered,” he said. “The maps and compasses are the old reliables, they have all the information and don’t need batteries.”

Just two weeks ago, Byrne said a man got lost in the Wicklow mountains, contacted the Red Cross to tell them where he was, using locations details from his smartphone, but then kept moving and his phone lost signal.

“We completely lost contact with him and he turned up in an army artillery range while they were in the middle of a shoot,” he said. “Now he was never in any real danger because we contacted them to let them know he was out there and they stopped the shoot but hundreds of soldiers were waiting and there were helicopters left grounded just because this guy was wandering around.”

While hikers should not completely depend on their phones for navigation, Byrne said anyone heading into the mountains should always have one with them in case they get into trouble.

“Sometimes people will leave their phone in the car because they want to get away from it for the day but then if something happens they have no way to call for help,” he said.

Byrne also encouraged hikers to attend a training course to learn about the proper use of a compass and how to read maps as it can be confusing for people.

“The courses are well worth it, you don’t just learn about maps and compasses, they teach you about other potential hazards like hypothermia and about route planning, preparation work and equipment,” he added.

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