Review: Memory map Adventurer 3500 GPS

The Memory- Map software brand will be well known to GPS users. Their more recent offerings in terms of actual GPS units may not be so familiar. This review is based on my experience of the recently released mid-range Adventurer 3500 unit in two spheres of activity, hill-walking and off-road driving.


The unit itself is certainly striking, with a bright yellow moulded casing it is not exactly “tactical”. A key feature is the relatively large display screen, 7.4 cm x 5.5 cm. As it stands it is rated as IP65 waterproof and has both a black silicon slip-on cover and a semi-flexible zipped case with belt-loops. The version I describe here comes loaded with the entire UK Ordnance Survey mapping at 1:50k, the OS 1:250k road atlas and the 1:1m Route Planner. You can purchase further digital mapping to down load to the unit’s micro-SD card. Other versions on sale come without the mapping or as marine or air versions with appropriate charts. The kit also comes with a plug in charger, car-charger and usb cable and with a CD containing the Memory Map software and mapping. Also in the box is an alternate battery-box cover which allows use of a belt-clip and a cycle mount. The kit contains a colourful quick-start guide but not a full user guide. This is available as a pdf file to down-load from Memory-Maps website at .

My initial reaction was that the unit was excellent, once I had mastered its differences from the competitors units I was used to. After a slow initial lock-on from the box it was fast to locate itself on every occasion afterwards. The display is bright and clear, although in strong sunlight the full screen brightness is required, reducing battery life. The position marker can be centred on your current location and effortlessly scrolls to follow your movement. One minor niggle is that the unit only has a North=Top setting but I soon became used to this. Mounted on the vehicle dash for use off-road it was easily readable. At 37000 ft and 800 Kph on a commuter flight south it was “seeing” the satellites from my window-seat table and providing a moving map display and 10 fig grids, updated every second!

Longer acquaintance reveals some issues however; issues that I feel render this unit unfit for use as a navigation device when hill-walking. The main problem is that there is no way to turn off the very sensitive touch screen other than to put the unit into “sleep” mode. Left running every slight touch will either move the map – potentially by several kilometres – or worse, take you down a menu choice rabbit-hole. Put the device into “sleep” mode and it stops tracking. Now let us imagine using this device in the rain – how do you clear the rain-drops from it without moving the map 3 counties ? Even mounting it on a day sac strap it’s all too easy to knock the display, which makes its key feature – the map display – unusable without resetting it.

There are then a number of other issues which individually appear quite minor but which add up to a device that appears not particularly well thought out. In common with most GPS units it has a “Go To” feature, enabling you to head straight to a pre-determined mark – but the direction arrow appears in a separate box on the screen and unless you move continuously and at a decent pace it fails to point solidly towards your target, swinging about apparently randomly. The box then also covers a fair proportion of the screen display. Move it to an edge and it can “fall off” and disappear. The unit has a good “keyboard” pop-up to allow you to name marks, input grids etc using the supplied stylus – but every mark is called “mark” making them indistinguishable in a list unless you amend the name there and then, a task you may not want on the open hillside. An automatic naming convention of Mark01, Mark02 onwards would surely make life simpler? The software is often quite simplistic, the only position options are UK National Grid or Lat-Lon for example. All bearings are in Degrees, no mils option.

Another oddity is that when plugged into a PC the unit does not appear as a GPS unit, simply as more Mass Storage on a separate drive. Routes, Tracks and Marks are imported/exported as files to the drive. Two copies of the software, one on your PC, one on the unit...not talking to each other. The registration and licensing of the software and mapping is another issue. Technically you cannot sell on either to another user, they are registered to you and a new user would have to buy their own copies of the maps. I can see that happening a lot.....

The software on the unit also has some issues. Once powered down it may not start up again unless the battery is removed and reinserted. Simple enough to do but not exactly confidence building or something I wish to do in the dark at 4000 ft on a ridge. This happened to me on day 2 of ownership and is a known fault that Memory Map intend to address in a future software upgrade. A problem I have not encountered so far but others have reported that the screen also marks easily, even using the supplied “guitar pick” type stylus. This issue and the lack of a screen-lock option mean that some sort of see-through hard case is an urgent requirement. The screen brightness is adjusted in the main settings, so the mapping software needs to be shut off to change the brightness. The system also allows “Apps” to be run – but all apparently on separate SD cards, licensing does not allow for them to be copied to a single large SD card. For longer trips the battery will also be an issue. Mine worked exactly as advertised, 8 hours on a full charge, but the only way to charge a spare battery is to put it into the unit and connect to a car, mains etc. I’d prefer to have the flexibility and options opened by running on AA or AAA rechargeable. My car-charger was returned as faulty in the first month.

So my verdict is that this is a bit of kit that will do well mounted on the dash of my Landrover as a moving map display. It will do the same job for a mountain biker on an afternoon in the forest, indeed I strongly suspect that this is the real market the kit was aimed at – but as a serious GPS for use on the high hills it’s just got too many problems, until Memory-Map fix them the old Garmin will have to come too.