WaterProof Maps

WaterProof Maps by Alan Halliday OD/Print5

I first came across water resistant paper being used at the Swiss 5 Days in 2005.  I certainly enjoyed using the maps and not having them in plastic bags – although it didn’t rain (during competition) all week so wasn’t really a true test of their capabilities.  I spoke to the organiser who found out for me what the material was – my first introduction to Pretex.

Back in the UK I mentioned this to a few people and showed them samples, but the general feeling then was that the rough surface would be a problem in UK orienteering due to mud and blood getting ingrained causing loss of readability.  After a few experiments I put the project on the back burner until the matter came up on the Nopesport discussion web site.

After speaking to some of my suppliers, I received samples of PolyArt, Pretex Uncoated and Xerox Never Tear.

Prints on the PolyArt material looked very good but I felt there were three problems with it.

1.                   There was no environmental saving over using plastic bags as disposing of the used material was a problem.

2.                   If it jammed in a printer, it had a tendency to melt.  This was potentially a rather expensive issue and having spent over an hour scraping a plastic mess of heated rollers, I decided not to use it again!

3.                   Like many plastics, although very strong, if an edge gets a cut or ‘nick’ then pretty soon you have a map in two parts as it then tears very easily.

The Xerox Never Tear is a bit like PolyArt although I have not had a problem with jamming so is probably a safer bet.  The Xerox web site, as you would expect, promotes certain environmental considerations but manages to avoid others.  Make your own judgement:

http://www.xerox.com/Static_HTML/never_tear/environmental.shtml   I particularly liked the line “As an inert material it can be buried in approved landfill facilities.” I assume that means if you dig it up in 20 years, it will be much the same as when buried.  On the positive side, it prints well and is very clear and vibrant. From an orienteers point of view however, I personally hate it.  It springs open when I have it folded and I generally find I am fussing about with the map rather than concentrating on my navigation.  I would produce maps on it if requested to do so but generally do not keep stocks of it.

I started commercial printing of maps on Pretex in 2006.  This was on the Pretex Uncoated material i.e. the one the manufacturer recommends for use in laser printers.  It prints well, folds well, but unfortunately has the rough surface that holds mud and blood and smears when you try to rub it off.  In the majority of cases, this is not an issue, but some events……..  Since last year when we upgraded our large digital printers, we have been able to print successfully on the Pretex Coated material that is much smoother than the original Pretex uncoated.  We use 150gsm weight that we import by the pallet load from Germany.  I believe this is currently the best offering.

1.                   It acts like paper in terms of folding and feel.

2.                   It is reasonably priced.

3.                   Although not perfect environmentally, it appears to be rather better than the more ‘plasticky’ materials.  The website is below for those who would like more information.

4.                   Although it can tear, it is much stronger than normal paper.

5.                   The coated material has a much smoother finish and wipes clean reasonably well.  It will never be as good as a true plastic of course.

Recent maps I have printed onto this material include:

Edinburgh City Map

Concorde Chase


Chiltern Challenge

 This is the website of the German manufacturers:   http://www.neenah-lahnstein.de/en/

If you would like any further information or a printed sample, please call Print5 on 024 7667 8444 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.