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View Full Version : Far Out or old-fashioned paper guidebook? Opinions?



foodbag
07-28-2022, 18:07
In 1999 I attempted an AT thru hike, unsuccessfully. Back then all I used to navigate and get trail info was Wingfoot's guidebook, which seemed adequate enough, for the most part, although there was always an opportunity for uncertainty to arise in some situations. The only device I carried was a compact Olympus film (!!!) camera, as cell phone technology was pretty much non-existent.

Fast forward to 2022, and of course the world has changed, to say the least. I'm headed out for a big section hike in October, SOBO from Duncannon, PA to (hopefully) Daleville, VA, and I am wrestling with the question of how much tech I ought to have, i.e. should I get Far Out's Android app for my phone, or go sort of old school and just use paper? I've already bought a paper guidebook, in loose-leaf format, so that all I have to carry is the pages related to my hike.

I don't mind spending the money for Far Out but I'm wondering if I really need it, and would it detract from the adventure somewhat when most trail topics are no longer in doubt.

What say you? I'd like to know what people think. Thanks!

Deadeye
07-28-2022, 18:43
I use a paper map, and now and then a page out of a guidebook. The phone is off, stowed in the pack, used for calling home, hostels and hotels. I've spent the last 40 years looking at screens of various sizes, the last thing I want to do on the trail is look at another screen.

Mockernut
07-28-2022, 18:59
I'm in the same camp...use copies out of AWOL's guidebook and a NatGeo map. I stare at a screen all week and the reason for me going out is to not look at one for a few days. The couple times that I tried to use my phone using various apps, I found myself not looking at trail and not being present for the hike. Just my reaction.

justhike
07-28-2022, 20:54
First, I am planning a NOBO section Daleville to (maybe) Port Clinton, beginning mid-September, so perhaps we'll pass each other along the way!

I have done two long sections over the past couple of years and used only an AWOL guide (also looseleaf version, so only the pages I needed to carry).
I didn't always know EXACTLY where I was, but most of the time that was just fine with me. There were a few times when it would have been nice : )

I don't have a smartphone yet, although that may change this fall.... verizon will no longer be supporting my old 3G flip-phone, so it's probably time!

Captain Blue
07-28-2022, 21:16
The FarOut app is hands-down the most popular trail guide/app in use. Once you use it you will find out why. This is especially true for the section and month you are hiking. You'll really appreciate the recent comments about which water sources are flowing and which ones are not.

When I started hiking Wingfoot's book was the guide to have. I really miss the little tidbits of information Wingfoot included about plants, animals, history, etc. Unfortunately, the FarOut app has very, very little of that.

Emerson Bigills
07-28-2022, 22:47
My AT experience was primarily with AWOL's guide. I did have Guthook's App, which I only used about a dozen times. When thinking I was off the trail, Guthook is a great tool to have, but any electronic source as the primary should have a backup.

I will say on the PCT there is no AWOL guide and I learned to rely on Guthook as the primary app, with my Garmin GPS watch as the emergency backup.

To answer your question, either will work, AWOL and Guthook have much the same info, but Guthook has GPS mode and recent comments. AT is so well marked and blazed it is hard to stay lost very long.

gpburdelljr
07-28-2022, 23:02
Why not have both. Far Out because it will have more up to date water info, GPS location data,etc.. The paper guide as a back up. You’ll have your phone anyway, and the paper pages won’t weigh much.

putts
07-28-2022, 23:42
Having thru hiked using only a guidebook and maps, I would do it again that same way. Though having Guthooks would have eliminated some route-finding adventures in the thick of winter when there's no trail and the blazes are caked over with snow. That being said, those adventures and challenges are some of my fondest memories. I'm also the type who avoids screens and doesn't tweet, tube, blog or facebook and accept it's not for everyone. If loosing the trail is something that would cause one to immediately panic, I'd recommend an app.

HeartFire
07-29-2022, 05:30
I used Wingfoot back in 2006 - I liked being able to write notes on the pages - and, it's easier to flip through a real book then trying to look back and forth on an app. But, I do use GutHook now.

HankIV
07-29-2022, 06:34
Agree on the AT being a tough place to get lost for long. As Capt Blue mentioned updates on water/not water, closed or new hostels ahead is helpful. Be advised those and other updates are dependent on users; Farout themselves are slow to update. That point was driven home for me after walking half mile for a non available egg sandwich.

I did not feel like the app kept me on my phone much. You should download maps and photos (in “Tools” > “File Manager”) when you are at home, so you can use the in airplane mode.

Seatbelt
07-29-2022, 07:31
I did not feel like the app kept me on my phone much. You should download maps and photos (in “Tools” > “File Manager”) when you are at home, so you can use the in airplane mode.
I was just wondering about this, because cell phone service is non-existent in many places along the trail.

One Half
07-29-2022, 09:03
I was always a guidebook, trail map (and compass) user. This year on maybe my 3rd or 4th hike I finally ditched all the paper and the compass and just used FarOut on the southern portions of the AT I hiked. I have found the trail maps to have very little info of use these days as they are just a "strip map" for the most part. The app has up to date water source info, can track your location even in airplane mode, and has info on shuttlers and hostels and resupplies etc. The only place I think I would go back to map and compass would be the White Mountains. Just my opinion. And you don't really need to be looking at the phone much anyway as it's super easy to just follow the trail. I do use WhiteBlaze Pages prior to my trips for planning purposes.

illabelle
07-29-2022, 09:24
I used Wingfoot back in 2006 - I liked being able to write notes on the pages - and, it's easier to flip through a real book then trying to look back and forth on an app. But, I do use GutHook now.
We used AWOL 2010-2020. I also liked the ability to write on the paper. I photocopied the pages for whatever section we were doing, and marked it up to show intended mileage, camping, and other info. I don't feel secure relying on a phone, though they are helpful.

rhjanes
07-29-2022, 10:00
When I started hiking Wingfoot's book was the guide to have. I really miss the little tidbits of information Wingfoot included about plants, animals, history, etc. Unfortunately, the FarOut app has very, very little of that. Agree that the FarOut doesn't have this, but the AWOL guide does have information scattered thru it about plants and such. With AWOL you also have choices. Buy the bound version for home use, buy the loose sheet version to take the sections you need, and download it to the phone.
I get the AWOL loose sheet for hiking and also have FarOut on the phone.

Old_Man
07-29-2022, 12:35
Agree on the AT being a tough place to get lost for long.

Probably 90% of the trail, this is true. But, as Inchworm's sad story attests, it is very possible to get lost and in serious trouble on the AT.

Kittyslayer
07-29-2022, 13:49
Well I have always been a paper guy but will supplement with electronics when appropriate. Looking at 2024 and thinking...

Far Out App for up to date information from the comments.

AntiGravity Map sets to satisfy my preference for paper. I have seen this in a store once and it looked like a good overview for orienting and planning/measuring daily mileage. Anyone use these maps and have comments to share?


https://antigravitygear.com/shop/product-category/pocket-profile-appalachian-trail-elevation-profile-map-sets/

putts
07-29-2022, 13:51
Probably 90% of the trail, this is true. But, as Inchworm's sad story attests, it is very possible to get lost and in serious trouble on the AT.

Very good point. And certainly not a bad idea to have both, guidebook pages and an app. You can use the app as little as you like if it seems to detract from the adventure, or use the pages as only a back up in case your phone dies. Those, along with a fairly basic understanding of self-rescue (follow the stream down if capable) can be the difference between an ordeal and an adventure even if the spot or phone dies and the pages blow over the cliffside. Inchworm's tragic case was the perfect storm of misfortune, and goes to show that it can happen to experienced hikers. Thoughts and prayers to her family and friends.

Kaptainkriz
07-29-2022, 14:43
On the front page of this website is a link to Whiteblaze Pages - an affordable and very comprehensive guide available in PDF. I find it worth having a copy.

One Half
07-29-2022, 15:38
Well I have always been a paper guy but will supplement with electronics when appropriate. Looking at 2024 and thinking...

Far Out App for up to date information from the comments.

AntiGravity Map sets to satisfy my preference for paper. I have seen this in a store once and it looked like a good overview for orienting and planning/measuring daily mileage. Anyone use these maps and have comments to share?


https://antigravitygear.com/shop/product-category/pocket-profile-appalachian-trail-elevation-profile-map-sets/
the map set is essentially what I call a "strip map." While it's good for planning mileage it will do you very little for up to date trail info or if you do get lost (like in the White Mountains) or need to bail in a place like the WMNF due to serious weather etc.

One Half
07-29-2022, 15:39
the map set is essentially what I call a "strip map." While it's good for planning mileage it will do you very little for up to date trail info or if you do get lost (like in the White Mountains) or need to bail in a place like the WMNF due to serious weather etc.

I wanted to add that I prefer WB pages for this as the "map" doesn't really add much that the guidebook doesn't have other than pretty colors.

One Half
07-29-2022, 15:46
the map set is essentially what I call a "strip map." While it's good for planning mileage it will do you very little for up to date trail info or if you do get lost (like in the White Mountains) or need to bail in a place like the WMNF due to serious weather etc.

I wanted to add that I prefer WB pages for this as the "map" doesn't really add much that the guidebook doesn't have other than pretty colors.

foodbag
07-29-2022, 17:20
First, I am planning a NOBO section Daleville to (maybe) Port Clinton, beginning mid-September, so perhaps we'll pass each other along the way!

I have done two long sections over the past couple of years and used only an AWOL guide (also looseleaf version, so only the pages I needed to carry).
I didn't always know EXACTLY where I was, but most of the time that was just fine with me. There were a few times when it would have been nice : )

I don't have a smartphone yet, although that may change this fall.... verizon will no longer be supporting my old 3G flip-phone, so it's probably time!

Hope to see you out there! My original plan was to start in Daleville and go to Duncannon, but I managed to book a flight from Sarasota, FL to Harrisburg, PA for $39 (!!!), so that was the deciding factor.

Tim Rich
07-30-2022, 08:21
I guess paper could fail if it got wet, but it's more reliable than an electronic device. Some of the newer electronic offerings are really neat, so I may supplement, but I don't think I'd hike without something on paper, at least a map.

As a section hiker (we never hiked more than 170 miles on one trip), it gave me the time to prepare for - and then savor - each trip. I took information from various places and consolidated it into a single document that was formatted to print on quarter pages. Fold it twice, and it had each planned day's information. I still do that now for hikes elsewhere, looking at Trailjournals for recent experiences, or those in a similar season. And I carry a map.

atraildreamer
07-31-2022, 12:39
On the front page of this website is a link to Whiteblaze Pages - an affordable and very comprehensive guide available in PDF. I find it worth having a copy.
.
...and you can also get an electronic version that is regularly updated.

Miner
07-31-2022, 13:36
I hiked a 600 mile section of the AT with just AWOL's guide back in 2012. There were no smart phone apps when I thru-hiked the PCT though I had paper maps. So Far Out and other phone based apps are really an optional thing. Plenty of people successfully hiked before them.

That said, the gps based phone apps are convenient with one advantage of knowing exactly where you are at a given moment. There are a handful of times that I make a wrong turn when I hiked those trails; mainly carelessness on my part for not really paying attention. With a gps phone app, when I started to suspect I was off trail, I could have glanced at it and known for a fact instead of going a little further to see if I saw an marker/blaze. That said, I've seen plenty of people break their phones on a trail and I drowned mine once in a deep pool where it was dead afterwards, so always have a backup.