View Full Version : Guide books and maps- er no?

02-03-2003, 18:56
I am trying to decide weather to purchase the guide books and maps or just maps or use the money to upgrade some of my aging gear. Can any of you fine folkes give a little insight. Or maybe i should aquire the electronic version. I am planning a thru hike. Dirtydave:confused:

Lone Wolf
02-03-2003, 19:08
You really don't need either, especially the guidebooks. But you should have maps for safety reasons. It's good to know where the nearest road/side trail is to get out in case of emergencies.

02-04-2003, 06:48
I just read THE best written post on WHY anyone should carry maps. It was on the AT-List and written by Baltimore Jack. I am not sure if archives are available yet on a date this recent for the list. It was written on 1/30/03. If his permission could be obtained I could cut and paste it as a reply on this thread giving him proper credit. It TRULY is worth reading.

(IMHO I wouldn't go on a DAY hike without a map.)

Lone Wolf
02-04-2003, 06:52
I'm sure Jack wouldn't mind Ann. Maps weigh nothing. Cell phones are useless most of the time on the trail. It's f***ing irresponsible to hike without a map.

02-04-2003, 07:17
Lone Wolf wrote:

Cell phones are useless most of the time on the trail. It's f***ing irresponsible to hike without a map.

I'm in 100% agreement with you and it's really good to hear from someone like yourself who has logged in the milage you have over the past 16 years on the trail.

02-04-2003, 09:27
If one just needs to know where roads are to make one a safe hiker, then why not just carry the companion, which lists lots of the road crossings anyways? If the main safety purpose of carrying maps is location of roads, and the companion lists most of the roads (and some side trails to other places), why not skip the maps and just carry the companion? Of course, I carry maps because I like to know what is around me, etc. That is, I carry them for fun and do not consider them a safety inducing piece of gear, at least outside of northern New England.

Papa Bear
02-04-2003, 10:18
There is a near real time archive of the traffic going through AT-L (which is not a BB but rather a mailing list).

Click here for AT-L Archives (http://mailman.backcountry.net/pipermail/at-l/)

You will see a list by month. Click on the appropriate month (January in this case). This list can be sorted by author, date or subject. The map thread was quite lengthy and went from January into February.

The subjest line was variously:
AT maps
(and maybe some other variants)


02-04-2003, 10:19
First off I do not carry maps because I don't want to spend the money on them. But I think what others are alluding to concerning an emergency situation is this: You cut your femoral artery and need to leave the trail immediately. You open your data book/companion and find that there is a road 4.9 miles north and one 6.2 miles south. Your probably won't make it to either road. On the other hand the map shows that if you just walk .6 miles downhill west of the trail there is a county road and it happens to be heavily traveled that time of day. Thus saving your life.

I've never said maps can't come in handy, I just choose not to carry them for the most part.

chill out
02-04-2003, 10:54
Forget state guidebooks,too heavy and detailed. Maps very useful for trail profile and look at elevation. Most basic way to go is AT Data Book, or thru hiker handbook or companion.

02-04-2003, 11:12
Below is the link for the AT-L post by Jack Tarlin re: maps
By far the BEST post I've ever read regarding the importance of maps. It is TRULY worth reading:


PS..THANKS Papa Bear...I couldn't find the archives for 2003!!!!

02-04-2003, 11:12
Someone mentioned Baltimore Jack's opinion on this subject. He posted a while back in a different thread:

Media > Guide book - Companion or Handbook?

Hope this helps. It is certainly helpful to me.

02-04-2003, 15:56
Reprinted with permission from Jack Tarlin. THANK YOU!!!
IMHO the BEST post I've ever read regarding the importance of
carrying maps. This was Message 14 in the AT-List digest Dated,
1/30/03 received on 6:47 pm.

Message: 14
From: "Jack Tarlin" <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 14:45:17 -0500
Subject: [at-l] Re: [ at-l ] maps

Have to disagree with what a couple of other folks said.... I don't think
that Trail maps are overly expensive or overpriced, considering how useful
they are. And I absolutely disagree with the contention that they aren't
needed because of abundant trail markings, the presence of other hikers,

Going into the backcountry without good, current maps, and the ability to
use them is simply not a particularly intelligent thing to do.

This subject has been done to death, but in brief, here are the advantages
to maps:

1. They'll tell you where you are in relation to where you've come from,
and where you need to go.

2. They'll provide vital information on terrain, which is invaluable in
planning your hiking day: Do you want to know where it's easy to do big
miles or consecutive 20 mile days? Do you want to know where you'd be crazy
to try? Do you want to end the day on a mountaintop with a good sunset? Do
you want to get each day's big climbs outta the way before it gets too hot
or before you're too tired? All this info and much more can be gleaned from
your map. Without them, you're hiking blind, with no idea of what lies
ahead interms of terrain or topography.

3. Studying the maps is invaluable when planning your scheduling, pace,
maildrops, etc. Obviously, 65 miles of southern Maine is NOT like 65 miles
in Central Virginia, and studying the maps and trail profiles will provide
invaluable information on how difficult a stretch is likely to be; this in
turn will give you a better idea of how long it'll take you to navigate a
particular section, how much food is likely required, how many days to
allot, etc.

4. Maps are invaluable in an emergency situation, especially if you have to
get out of the backcountry in a hurry, or need to evacuate someone else.
Maps will point out side trails, paths, lumber roads, etc., and maps will
tell you where these features go. This is ESSENTIAL if you have to leave
the main trail for any reason. Going down these side paths and trails
without a map to tell you where they lead is a form of Russian Roulette.

5. Maps can save your life if you get lost; likewise, they'll enable you to
help others. Without maps, you're not in a position to assist anyone. On
nearly all of my hikes, I've used maps to assist, locate, or evacuate hikers
with emergencies. Whether it's helping a family find their lost dog, or
helping a scout group find their campsite, or whether it's trying to find
the best place to evacuate a hiker with double leg fractures----believe me,
these things can and do happen out there, and without maps telling you
exactly where are, where you're going, and where you need to be, you're not
in a position to help anyone.

6. Maps will point out alternative water sources during dry spells, and
will tell you where the water leads. This was a life saver during last
year's drought.

7. Maps will help you plan alternate routes if the trail becomes
impossible, as has happened several times in recent years due to tornadoes,
flash floods, impassable streams, etc. Several years ago, massive flooding
in Maine caused several streams to become completely impassable and were
absolutley unsafe to cross. Dozens of hikers had to navigate/bushwhack
around them; without maps, these folks would probably still be out there. I
should also point out that the mapless hikers were totally helpless in this
case and were totally dependent on the folks with maps. Their carelessness
rendered them absolutely incapable of taking care of themselves, and forced
them to totally rely on others.

I could go on, but I think the point is made. Unless you're travelling on
land you're intimately familiar with, you shouldn't travel in the
backcountry without a map. There's a zillion ways to save money on your
thru-hike, but going without maps is a lousy way to save a few bucks, and
while I have no doubt that plenty of folks have managed to get from Georgia
to Maine without 'em, this doesn't alter the fact that travelling mapless is
reckless, irresponsible, and potentially very dangerous. If you doubt me,
then ask anyone who's worked in Search and Rescue in the outdoors----a
ridiculous percentage of folks who get in trouble in the woods and mountains
are either travelling without maps, or can't use the maps they're carrying.
To me, this says a great deal.

If you managed to thru-hike without maps, that's fine, I think that's great.
However, advising others to do likewise is not, in my opinion, wise
advice. They are as vital a part of your gear in the backwoods as your

02-04-2003, 16:07
I believe that some of the latest revisons of the AT trail maps (maybe Mass. and others?) are marked with mileages between points on the map. This is a great feature - I may buy the updated maps just to get the mileages. Previously carried xeroxes of the state guidebooks just to have those detailed mileages between points.