View Full Version : maps

12-16-2003, 09:07
:clap I got my maps &guidebooks (AT) but those suckers are heavy !! Has anyone any sugestions to reduce the weight. I will be mailing each set tho I didn't plan on maildrops as I found them unnessary in my first 2 attemps. I also find the guides rather heavy & reduntant as they give directions both north and south. Thanks Cowboy

12-16-2003, 09:30
First, don't carry the guidebooks. Most hikers don't.

Maps, good use for maildrops or bounce box. Read the Companion or Wingfoot to determine which Post Offices are close to the trail and use some of them. For example, starting at Springer, you might do a maildrop at Fontana Dam to pick up maps that will take you to Hot Springs. Then, another mail drop with maps there.

12-16-2003, 09:52
Thank you Cowboy for stating that maps do weigh something. I didn't carry them and there are some on these forums that say that anyone who doesn't is either lazy or stupid...in that they are necessary for your safety.

It comes down to "weighing" what the benefit/risks of YOU carrying or not carrying them are. Only you, knowing your "comfort levels," can decide if suggestions that you get here make sense.

I personally liked the guidebooks and met many others who did not carry maps. I also hiked with others that really enjoyed scoping out the terrain ahead and carried only maps for that section to obviously save weight. I did not meet anyone who said they were absolutely necessary. I thought maps were more bother than what they were worth on the AT...just call me stupid.

Matt Pincham
12-16-2003, 10:03
Stupid :p

Only joking. I don't think I'm going to bother on my thru-hike attempt. Maybe for Georgia but then I'll see if I need them after that and buy them as I go (if that's possible?). I doubt that they're very necessary, (except for a safety point of view) as everything I've read indicates that the trail is well blazed and you'd have to be a moron to get lost.

PS Even if I wanted maps, it's not all that easy to get AT books etc over here in the UK. (Except for kt_lyn helping me out with the databook and planning workbook. Thanks :) )

12-16-2003, 11:06
and you'd have to be a moron to get lost.

Matt, I don't think this is a good quote for someone who is about to start out on the trail. Leaves you wide open for something called 'poetic justice'. I hope the trail doesn't prove you wrong.

Have a great hike,
Youngblood... a good natured moron from the class of 2000.

Spirit Walker
12-16-2003, 11:16
Although it is a hard habit to pick up, for some of us, the best way to deal with weight is to cut your guidebooks into sections that fit your hiking plans. Get rid of the north to south information and the plant identification stuff, etc. (unless you like to look at that while you are hiking.) If you are doing mail drops, or even just a drift box, then put the maps, Companion sections and guidebook sections into plastic bags that you can pull out as needed.

On the PCT we saw one hiker with the entire California PCT guidebook in his pack - probably 1000 pages. He couldn't bear to cut up the book. But at the next town stop - snip snip.

Although on the AT guidebooks and maps are not, strictly speaking, necessities, some of us have a bit more curiosity and desire to KNOW where we are hiking. I love to know where the side trails lead, whether there is a waterfall or view or watersource down the way, whether that mountain I am seeing has a name, or a history, why there are stone walls along the trail, whether there are alternate routes that are more interesting than the one I am on, etc. I do not hike mindlessly. Some do. It is easy enough to follow the blazes and never think about where you are or what you are passing through. One foot in front of the other will get you there, but I enjoy the journey much more if I can see where I am in relation to the area around me, and if I can understand better the land and history of where I am hiking. YMMV

And if you ever decide to hike someplace a bit more remote than the AT, learning how to use maps and guidebooks will be essential. Try to hike in the San Juans, or the Beartooths, or the Bob without these and you will get very very lost. But for me, it is the stimulation to my imagination that I most enjoy with maps and guidebooks. So many options, so much world to explore. Why is this area called Dead Woman Creek? Why is that place called Frying Pan Lake? If I follow this ridgeline, will I be rimrocked? Would I rather follow the river or follow the ridge?

12-16-2003, 12:49
I waffled this year a bit in terms of carrying the maps. I started off carrying them and found that I wasn't using them at all. So, after 2 weeks on the trail I sent them home and asked that no more be included in my mail drops.

Then, somewhere around Virginia, I began to see other hikers using the maps and found that I wanted them back. Unfortunately, the set I had dated back to 2001 and many of them were obsolete so I ended up bying them on the fly as I hiked. Speaking of which ...if any future hikers plan to use old maps be prepared for the fact that many of them will be terribly outdated. I remember one day in particular when I spread out my map and was looking over the upcoming elevation profiles. Another hiker came up and commented that his maps looked totally different. He pulled out his map of that area and Shazaam ...the trail had undergone a serious re-routing since 2001.

There are actually 2 points to the above comment that I think are worth mentioning. First ...if you're gonna carry maps, do yourself a favor and get the latest versions. And second ...having said the above, I would caution anyone about trying to plan their hikes based closely on the elevation profiles. There is a lot of "smoothing" that takes place in condensing all that topographical information down to a nice little curvy line on the map. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of ups and downs that are not clear to the eye on an elevation profile. Also ...even if the elevation profile is correct it says nothing about the quality of the trail.

Would I carry the maps again ...probably ! But I just thought I'd throw out those caveats for the benefit of the folks planning thru-hikes in the future. In defense of the maps I would say that they give you a general picture of the surrounding areas and can be of great assistance if and when you would need to bail out and need to know the location of a side trail, road or town in relation to the AT.

Rain Man
12-16-2003, 17:37
...everything I've read indicates that the trail is well blazed and you'd have to be a moron to get lost.


Call me a moron then! I've (only) hiked the AT in Georgia, but got lost at least three times. Seriously lost? No, but let me tell you that "well blazed" means different things to different people. LOL

At one split in the trail a couple of days north of Springer Mtn, I couldn't see blazes ANYWHERE ahead, so I took the more-well-traveled fork. Turns out it was more well traveled because it came out on a nearby road. We went back and eventually found a blaze on the other fork.

At another section, the trail follows an old logging road, but there is no blaze and no double blaze where the trail veers off sharply uphill to the left as the old road continues straight ahead. We did turn up the hill (because the map said go that way), but hiked quite a ways before ever finding a blaze, and that one we found by looking backwards.

Another time we tried to find a church cemetery and picnic ground, which the guidebook said was to the right going north. We walked all over and up and down a gravel road and never found a thing. To this day, I'm convinced the guidebook was wrong about right and left. The map was no help.

Just north of Neels Gap the trail goes up a mountain (DUH) immediately and has switch-backs right away. At one of the switch-backs, the trail appears to go straight AND there is a blaze on the tree immediately in front of you where in fact the trail switches sharply to the left. Anyway... I went staight until the false trail petered out.

Also, this last time (last month), the trail was covered in a deep layer of leaves, so following it was worse than following a trail in snow.

Finally, last month as we were coming off the AT and it got dark, we did get "lost" on the Kimsey Creek Trail in NC. The blue blazes (even when they did exist) got awfully hard to see in the dark, even with lights and the closer we got to the bottom of the mountain, the more cross trails and jeep ruts we ran into. We had to bushwhack across terrain a bit when we difinitely lost the trail, or it lost us. Fortunately, this was very near the end, so we came out soon onto a road. The map helped us know about how far we had to go.

In one or two cases, having studied my maps before hand each day helped, in others, it didn't. I guess I only got a "little" lost each time, so I'm just a little moron. Now... gon't go start thinking of new trail names for me just yet!!! LOL

Rain Man

12-16-2003, 17:56

and you'd have to be a moron to get lost.


Matt, I don't think this is a good quote for someone who is about to start out on the trail. Leaves you wide open for something called 'poetic justice'. I hope the trail doesn't prove you wrong.

Have a great hike,

It'd be a heck of a trail-name to get stuck with!


Spirit Walker
12-16-2003, 18:05
[QUOTE=Rain Man]Matt,
"At another section, the trail follows an old logging road, but there is no blaze and no double blaze where the trail veers off sharply uphill to the left as the old road continues straight ahead. We did turn up the hill (because the map said go that way), but hiked quite a ways before ever finding a blaze, and that one we found by looking backwards."

I remember that place. We went about a mile up the hill on the wrong fork before we realized there were no footsteps in the mud. Amazing how you don't notice the absence of the blazes, except as a certain unconscious discomfort. We considered doing a cross country trek back to the trail, but the map showed us that that would entail a lot more work, so we had to backtrack, grumbling all the way.

Worst for me on the AT were road crossings, especially on foggy days, where it sometimes wasn't obvious whether you were supposed to go right or left at the crossing. I learned to assume uphill -- because that way if I were wrong, it wouldn't hurt as much to backtrack. When the book was handy, it saved some time to whip it out and find out which way to go.

The one time I was most happy to have my book along was on a whiteout day at the Scales, in Grayson Highlands. I could not see a blaze, or anything else. There were multiple paths from the horses, so I couldn't just follow the treadway. After circling around a few times, I got out the book and saw "Go straight ahead across the corral."

Happiest time to have a map on the AT was a day when I was crossing a bald and the wind was blowing steady at about 40 mph. It forced me off the mountain, as I couldn't stay upright and couldn't walk and was being pushed over the edge. So we descended below the ridgeline for a half mile or so, then crossed quickly over the ridge to the other side. If I hadn't had the map, I wouldn't have known that the trail did not follow the ridge straight, but turned off to the left.

12-16-2003, 18:46
tHANKS ALL. I like the g_books and may use them when I car camp but I'm not carring them on the AT. I am taking the maps by sections but cutting excess paper off. This means finding someone to mail them, I plan on using Baldimore Jack's guide for maildrops By the way Thanks BJ, your list is the best and has bee a big help. Iplan to use Wingfoot's 2002 guidebook, still the lightest and best IMO. I think Baldimore Jack could write a better guidebook than any out there.

The Old Fhart
12-16-2003, 20:08
I carried the particular maps for the section I was going thru and a compass. As an instructor (volunteer) in the New Hampshire Chapter AMC's mountain safety workshops for the last 20 years, I thought it would not be good press if I got lost on the trail without maps, compass, first aid kit, etc.. I also enjoyed "seeing" what was ahead by looking at the trail profile. Having hiked the trail before allowed me to more or less know what was ahead and the maps refreshed my memory for the sections ahead. It is always interesting to see how the relos have changed the trail and to be able to identify the lights you see in the valleys below or other landmarks off the trail. One pet peeve of mine is the hiker who doesn't want to carry a watch or maps but always expects to see mine. If you don't want to carry maps don't be a needy person always imposing on the prepared hikers.
I didn't carry the guidebooks but had the databook on my 11 oz. computer and now that I've bought the Maptech A.T. CDs I can also have the guidebooks on my computer as well without adding any weight. The computer also stored my journal and lots of novels as well as the Old and New Testament. Hard copies of maps definitely win out over digital because you can't get the detail of the printed maps. It is legal to have backups of software you have bought but not to let others use it. Maps, etc., are kind of like seat belts or air bags in cars. You may never need them but if you ever do, they could save your life.

12-16-2003, 20:20
There was several times before when maps would have save me steps and time< true it is har to getlost on the AT but sometime the blazes and or turns can be misleading> I use maps any whereelse I hike and vowed I'd have them next time I set foot on the AT,