View Full Version : Guidebooks/maps on a Thru hike

01-07-2010, 20:01
I was wondering what you would carry as far as a guidebooks on a Thru or carry one at, just need some suggestions. I am not looking to carry too much yet be able to know where town is and where the heck I am.

01-07-2010, 20:02
Some people cut up their guidebooks and stuff portions of it in their resupply boxes.

01-07-2010, 20:10
I am trying not to do any maildrops but i suppose i could for maps and some other small items

SGT Rock
01-07-2010, 20:49
Find a guide book you like. I have bought the Companion, the Thru-Hikers Guide, and the Appalachian Pages (the author of the last is now doing the AT Guide) and settled on the AP because I liked the format best. When you get a chance to look at the books, what it really boils down to is which one works for you because they all work.

I would take the new book - the AT Guide now. I highly recommend maps too.

01-07-2010, 21:34
I know when i go im going to take maps and guidebooks. I cant do with them. I like to read then see it before hand.

01-08-2010, 03:27
I started with the Companion and then switched to the Pages - just personal preference - and I bought all the maps before hand and had them grouped so they could be sent to me - about once every two states in the beginning (my only planned mail drops). I ended up only using maps for the elevation profiles, but those were also in the Pages. So after I felt comfortable with the thought of not having maps (around NJ) I quit having them sent and went the rest of the way with only the pages.
You have to decide what you are comfortable with for your hike. Sometimes the maps can come in handy if you get lost or if the trail detours. I never got lost and the detours were always marked well enough for me.


01-08-2010, 04:04
When you are on the trail all you will need is the data book. If you want to familiarize yourself with different areas, identify the better resupply points and figure out some key areas where you want to spend some more time, read some guidebooks before you go.

The AT is a well worn footpath and it is well blazed...you're not going to lose the trail...some people disagree, but I don't think you really need the maps...sometimes the maps and elevation profiles are taped to the inside cover of shelter registers or are tacked up on a sign at the trailhead/road crossing.

I took the trail as it came and only planned a week or so ahead of time in order to resupply, and all of that information is in the data book...I'll grant you, its not very detailed...that's why I say read the guides before you leave so that you have a picture in your head of what the bigger towns are so you know whether a grocery store listed in the databook is a gas station or a super Walmart. Put a star next to these towns in your databook before you leave or make little notes in the margins.

01-08-2010, 04:48
Bought the data book and the A.T. Guide. Both will do, but I like the additional data the A.T. guide provides. Items such as; visual elevation markings, extensive info on resupply towns and identifying the distance to the next three shelters ahead in case the one you planned on staying at is full are nice touches. Like mentioned above, do a little research and choose what's best for you!! Also, some of the contributers to the A.T. Guide are active members here on WB. I believe SGT Rock who posted above is listed as a contributer in the 2010 guide??

SGT Rock
01-08-2010, 08:48
I believe SGT Rock who posted above is listed as a contributer in the 2010 guide??

I contribute a little. I'd contribute to the Companion too if they didn't already have someone covering the towns I cover for the AT Guide.

01-08-2010, 10:14
I liked the Companion myself. You can download last year's edition online.

Jack Tarlin
01-08-2010, 13:23
Actually people lose the Trail all the time, even in the summer.

There are all sorts of really good reasons to carry maps, and this has been discussed here many times; the threads are easy to find.

There are two reasons not to carry maps, and they involve an attempt to save a few grams and a few dollars.

These are both lousy excuses.

Can one thru-hike without owning, carrying, or frequently using and relying on Trail maps?


But just because something CAN be done doesn't make it a wise or prudent thing to actually do. One can go over Niagara Falls in a barrel if one so chooses, but I wouldn't want to see any of my friends attempt it.

jersey joe
01-08-2010, 13:44
Comparing carrying maps to going over niagra falls in a barrel is a bit of a stretch but Jack is right, carry maps if possible.

SGT Rock
01-08-2010, 20:14
Jack is about right. Most people that don't carry maps do it because they want to save some weight or money. There are some that don't carry maps because they just don't care, but there is no way to determine if you care or not.

Some reasons to carry maps:

1. Trails vs. roads. I'm not a purist and I'll say that up front. When you are hiking on certain parts of the trail you will find yourself going back and forth across a road. If you have the maps you will notice that the road and the AT do this for X number of miles. And while the forests are nice to walk through - you do that a lot on the AT while stretches with nice views are sometimes weeks apart. Now that road you are crossing will give you nice views for X number of miles and if you get back on the AT at point Y then you won't get off. You may even find out that the road is the way the old AT went anyway. In short - it opens up some of those "diversions" from the trail that will still get you where you want to go.

2. Orientation to the side stuff. If you have a hiking guide, it will probably list a road crossing at one point where you can go get some hot food and groceries 1/2 mile away. Then it will list another side trail up the AT another 2 -3 miles up the AT to another place that you might want to hit like a cool campsite next to a waterfall. If you just have guides it may seem that these points are miles from each other. But if you have a map you will see that after you walk that 1/2 mile to the grocery and then walk 1/2 mile up a gravel road you get to the same spot that would take 2-3 miles of walking the AT to hit them both.

3. Side trails. Most AT guides only list a few major intersections and not the side trails, or where they go to. Of course most AT thru-hikers only want to stay on the AT and avoid any extra walking at all costs, but there are times you may want to do these side trails. Including emergencies.

4. Emergencies. As I mentioned above, the guides usually only list major crossings. So in some cases it may seem that if you are in trouble in a specific area, then it is 2-3 miles in either direction to anything of use. But if you have a map to show these side trails and roads, you might find a way to a road faster. I can think of one specific case a few years back in the Smokies where some people were freezing to death on the AT and were VERY near a side trail from the AT that would have taken them to a Ranger Station. Luckily for them some locals went up that same trail to go hiking, found the guys, and then one went back down the trail for help.

And one more reason I always like to throw out there: supporting the AT and the ATC. Most hikers are going to spend about 6 months hiking the AT. Most likely they MIGHT even join the ATC at some point, and give the ATC about $30 for that membership if they do end up joining. The ATC needs money to keep that trail open and working. If you guy buy maps, you throw another $160 (I think) to them. This is about $1 a day for the duration of your trip.

As to weight - Carry one or two maps and have the rest mailed to you.

SGT Rock
01-08-2010, 20:25
I liked the Companion myself. You can download last year's edition online.

I like this option. Even though I have the Appalachian Pages now AT guide for my paper copy, I have the Companion on my cell phone so I can look something up when I have the itch to plan a hike when away from the house. I've also used it to look up numbers for outfitters when I needed to get something while away from my house.

01-09-2010, 00:26
"I have the Companion on my cell phone so I can look something up when I have the itch to plan a hike when away from the house."

This has turned out to be my exact plan for this year too --- pdf Companion on smartphone, paper AT Guide sheets in my pocket. I'm wondering if there will be a 2010 set of Companion pdf's ? I emailed a couple of addresses I could find to ask this but haven't had a response, so I'm guessing --- not. No big deal, from perusing the 2009 and 2010 versions of the paperback Companion, they look very very similar, and mileage differences are quite small.

SGT Rock
01-09-2010, 01:07
I think recently they have kept the on-line companion a year behind. I don't care, it is still close to right even if it is a year back.

02-24-2010, 00:15
Is there anyway to buy maps along the way? I want to have maps, but I was hoping to not have to bother with maildrops.

02-25-2010, 14:28
I love my 2010 AT Guide but I was wondering if anyone would let me borrow their old topographic maps pre-hike so I can review them. I don't think I'll carry them but would be interested in reviewing them... Starting in April. - Yum Yum

02-25-2010, 15:48
Is there anyway to buy maps along the way? I want to have maps, but I was hoping to not have to bother with maildrops.

Uncle Johnnies, Bluff Mtn Outfitters and The Happy Hiker all had maps. The Shendoah NP Waysides had maps too. I would be willing to bet that Neels Gap and NOC both have them as well.

02-25-2010, 17:25
Click on the link at the bottom for more information including last year's files.

02-27-2010, 18:19
My $0.02 re: maps...take them! I got sick on the trail and because I had my maps, my friends were able to tell the 911 operator which county we were in so that she could dispatch the appropriate service to my location.
I had the TH companion, ripped up into sections in maildrops. Others had the AT Pages, and we would very often compare notes with each other.