View Full Version : Companions? Guides? Databooks?

12-10-2003, 14:26
I'm planning a 2004 SOBO right now and have been wondering about books. As I understand it...there's the Thru Hikers Companion...the AT Data Book...and the Thru Hikers Handbook. Ack! With all this published wisdom what's a poor Southern boy to do? From what I've heard the Data Book is essential. Are the others?

12-10-2003, 14:40
I would definitely get the companion (I am a section editor for the companion) and the data book. The data book has all the information about mileage, shelters, water, and trail towns. The companion will give you all the information about what is available in a trail town. I have seen many thru hikers with the data book with notes in the margin. I personally xerox the page out of the data book to give me bigger margins and then on the back side Xerox the map of that section (reduced). I add info from the trail guide on the back (i.e step climb, historic spot, point od interest, area where camping is or is not permited etc.) The type of info put on the front side is nearest medical facility, nearest bank/atm, people who provide shuttles, etc. THe companion can be downloaded at no cost from the ALDHA website, the ATC have a list of people who provide shuttles on their website, so the only book you really need is the data book.

Disclaimer, The Companion gives a picture of the trail at the moment the section editors went out to contact the services in the book. the 2004 version is already out of date. I would definitely write down phone numbers so that one can call ahead to verify that a service is open and that the prices are correct.

Grey Owl

TJ aka Teej
12-10-2003, 14:55
Disclaimer, The Companion gives a picture of the trail at the moment the section editors went out to contact the services in the book. the 2004 version is already out of date.Earl Shaffer told me that trail guides weren't worth a damn. It was his opinion they were no more than a report of trail conditions from prior years. I'm not gonna argue with Earl's words :O) We try to ask service providers about next year's rates and changes, try to adjust descriptions, try to add important changes - that's why it's so important to check out everything in person each year, in my opinion.
The '04 DataBook just came out, might be all any hiker really needs.
Updates to the Companion are posted on the ATC's website during the year, the Class of '04 should remember to check that, Baltimore Jack's update, and Weather Carrot's words of wisdom too.

12-10-2003, 16:40
The companion is fairly useful for shelter and town info, but doesn't things like water sources. I'd take the companion and the maps and call it good (this is what I did on my section hike). You can look at an online version of the companion somewhere on the aldha website www.aldha.org

You'll find a lot of different opinions on carrying maps, so I'll just say that I carry them and leave it at that.

12-10-2003, 16:43
I should also state that Dan Bruce uses the milage from the Data Book for his publication. As for water, it can be found in the trail guide, or some can be found in the data book. There ain't no water in PA.

Grey Owl

12-10-2003, 17:27
I posted a reply to this same subject earlier today on another thread. I feel it is appropriate to repost it here, so here it is again:

IMHO, I think that the primary difference between the 'thru hike preparation books' is in the way they evolved.

On one hand you start out with the Appalachian Trail Guides & Maps for the 11 different regions (with North Carolina-Georgia being one region). These are very detailed and are probably more appropriate for section hiking than thru hiking. These are complimented by a very condensed Appalachian Trail Data Book that contains all the mileage points contained in all the individual section guides with some abbreviated services information, but it is still layed out with mileages referenced to the individual sections. The Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Companion compliments the AT Data Book with more detailed information that a thru-hiker will need about services and towns along the way. So a thru-hiker would take the AT Data Book and the AT Thur-Hiker's Companion. Fortunately, all the information you should need is in these two books. Unfortunately, they are not tied together efficiently-- for instance the AT Data Book flows from north to south and the AT companion flows from south to north.

On the other hand The Thru-Hiker's Handbook was written to be one complete reference/data book for thru hiking the AT and the latest edition has a condensed data section and a more detailed services & towns along the way section that are tied together fairly well.

How accurate and complete one version is relative to the other is obviously something where some people have strong opinions. What individuals or organizations benefit from purchases is also different. But, I think that you are comparing two kind of tied together books verses one complete reference.

Now these are books that will help in planning but are most useful to carry on a thru-hike. There are other publications that are valuable for planning a thru-hike. There is the "Appalachian Trail Workbook for Planning Thru-hikes" as well as two very informative articles written by Jack Tarlin and Weather Carrot that are posted on the ARTICLES section of this web site.


12-11-2003, 21:07
As most have posted, the guides are "out of date" and indeed the 2004 is reportedly already past it.
The guide I use is MY compilation of the 1997 Handbook by WF, & the 2000 Data book, and I have done fine. Granted: there have been a few trail relocations, and some of the businesses listed are not in business anymore, nor are the new ones even mentioned. But I got by quite well April of 2003 :sun My latest data was over 3 years old.

So, get which ever book you want, or not, and have fun however you do it.

Personal note, I like wingfoot's book, especially for the in town hints.