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Thread: maps or not?

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    Default maps or not?

    Hi everyone - I'm planning a NOBO thru hike for this coming spring, and one topic I can't find a whole lot of info on is whether or not to bring maps? I was planning to use the AWOL guide and have the Guthook app/maps on my phone for backup info. However a part of me feels like I should have maps, since they've always been such a critical part of by backpacking safety planning in the past. It seems kind of crazy to set off without them!
    I'm sure there are many schools of thought on this topic, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.
    Thanks,
    Matt

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    Registered User Turtle-2013's Avatar
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    I'm a section hiker so bringing a map along isn't a big deal.... after all I can bring just what I need for that trip and not worry about swapping out, carrying extra till my next bounce box, etc. ALSO, I'm actually competent with maps, in the past I have taught orienteering, and other map skills. HOWEVER, I rarely bring them ... and I don't think I would even consider them for a thru. The AWOL guide will be far more crucial than the AT maps since the maps that will be most useful are the "town" maps showing where services are. Plus if you have the Guthook app (which I don't use), you will have trail mapping available that GPS locates where you are.

    That is just my opinion of course .. but as a thru hiker, I THINK that you would find the maps un-used and un-necessary ... at least most of the time.

    Ron
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    At minimum, have a good set of maps for the white mountains in NH. The A.T. up there was built by borrowing sections of existing trails that were already named and the signage/blazing can get a bit confusing.
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    Registered User KDogg's Avatar
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    You have everything you need. I didn't see a single person on my thru that had separate paper maps. You just don't need them. Even Guthooks is an extravagance, but a very handy one.

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    Maybe on the PCT, the AT? Nah. When are you gonna get lost on the AT and pull out the TOPO under a bunch trees and figure out where you are (when you are lost in the first place). Lol good luck with that. But you just wonít even use them. You are always under trees.


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    Chances are, you won't need a map. But if you NEED A MAP, and don't have one, what are you going to do? Will you be hiking during winter weather? Will your phone work reliably?

    From time to time someone asks whether they need to bring a trowel. Others will say, nah, just use your trekking pole, or the heel of your boot. But neither of those, in my opinion, is even close to adequate. In many conditions, it's difficult to dig a barely adequate hole through roots even with a good trowel.

    Do people hike successfully without maps, or without a trowel, or without a shelter, or without a phone, or without water treatment, or without some other item that is thought essential by another person? Yeah. Did they hike responsibly?

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    Registered User DownEaster's Avatar
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    I'm going NoBo in late winter, and don't plan on any maps that aren't on my phone. The white blazes are almost always easy to follow. Plus it's a busy trail, so you can generally find someone else to follow if your phone konks out. There are very few people who will walk a considerable distance off trail before noticing, but are also good at locating themselves on a map. Very few indeed.

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    i think maps have the potential to provide motivation.

    Even if you donít use them for navigation at all, but rather use them to visualize where you have already been ó and appreciate just how far you walked the past day, or weeek, or morning ó they can have value.

    Amd as for whatís ahead, the can be sort of like your own personal trainer shouting words of encouragement, and pushing you to get your ass in gear for the next workout.

  9. #9

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    There seems to be an opinion that no one needs a map, ever, on the AT. Likely few of these opinions have faced the confusion of the White Mountains (as Elf points out) or needed to find a fast way off the trail for medical needs. One doesn't need shoes to walk the AT either, however they consistently prove to be a useful tool.

    There are some basic tools one should have in the back country, weather protection, fire starting materials, water, and navigation tools being high on that list. Many of these opinions rely on someone else to point the way when in fact there may not be anyone there to do that when its most needed.

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    Registered User hikermiker's Avatar
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    Antigravity gear sells strip maps printed on water resistant paper that weigh 0.14 oz each. They are not as detailed as a full map but do complement the Awol guide or Companion. https://www.antigravitygear.com/shop...file-map-sets/

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    yes. bring maps

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    All good comments, on BOTH sides of the discussion. Maps CAN be useful, most people don't have the expertise to use them, many should get the training to know how to use them. I've used some strip maps "like" the Antigravity Gear maps in the past ... but they were useless ... leaving off even major road crossings if there were several in a short distance. The Antigravity Gear maps APPEAR to be MUCH better. They appear to be actual topo maps just cut down to what is useful for the AT corridor. I'll probably try them at some point since I like maps.

    That said ... I'll stick to my initial comment that "I THINK that you would find the maps un-used and un-necessary ... at least most of the time." as amended by "the Elf". While I have hiked in the White, that is the major section of the AT I have yet to complete, but I can easily see that they may have great value in that area. Also, I wasn't commenting on motivational factors, or safety value. I was only suggesting that in my experience of WATCHING thru hikers ... MAPS ... with the exception of digital maps ... never come out of the pack. AND because it takes SO MANY, I don't think most even have them, and manage quite well. It is like the Original Guide books ... which I really like for their detail and completeness. However, I haven't actually seen a thru hiker use them in recent years ... even though from time to time I'll carry one so that I can read up of the area in the evenings.

    Which ever way you go ... stay safe, and happy trails!!

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    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    You don't need a map to navigate the AT just as you don't need a seatbelt to operate a car...
    Lonehiker

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    I didn't carry maps on the trail, instead I relied on AWOL's guide. There were sections of trail where maps who'd have been great... GSMNP, Roan Highlands, Grayson Highlands, White Mountains, Maine. I missed the allure of looking at maps in those areas. I like looking at maps. If you do too, well then carry maps. I wish I did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hikermiker View Post
    Antigravity gear sells strip maps printed on water resistant paper that weigh 0.14 oz each. They are not as detailed as a full map but do complement the Awol guide or Companion. https://www.antigravitygear.com/shop...file-map-sets/
    I would be interested to hear other people's opinions of these maps. I bought them but frankly I don't see them as useful because of their scale. There just isn't enough detail to be helpful if you where lost or needed to find a nearby road to get off the trail for an emergency or weather and that is what you need maps for.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

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    I've never thru-hiked (that's for 2018), but I've only carried pages from the AWOL guide, and have never carried maps, nor thought I needed them or wished I'd packed them. The AWOL guide and white blazes have been plenty for me. Never been in the White Mountains, though, so Elf's comments might have me packing maps there, don't know.

  17. #17

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    You don't maps on the AT... until you need a map. GSMNP is the only place I personally have needed a map, and that was not for the AT itself, but to get off the AT as quickly as possible. AWOL tells you where side trails are, but not where they go. I had to rely on asking others, and finally ran across a day hiker who had a map that showed where I needed to go.

    I now have the Guthook app with the maps for the section I am in downloaded offline. While not a perfect solution, it is good enough as long as my phone works.

  18. #18

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    Good to go with Awol and Guthooks. If you are confident in your cellphone/ battery capacity/ waterproofness of phone etc etc I would even consider ditching the awol. There are guide books at just about every hostel that pictures can be taken of, but like I said I would just stick with gut hooks. That is all I personally bring.
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    Registered User ScottTrip's Avatar
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    I carried no maps on the AT on the AWOL Guide, except through the White Mountains in NH. Just in case a big weather change I had an idea how to bail out....

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattp View Post
    Hi everyone - I'm planning a NOBO thru hike for this coming spring, and one topic I can't find a whole lot of info on is whether or not to bring maps? I was planning to use the AWOL guide and have the Guthook app/maps on my phone for backup info. However a part of me feels like I should have maps, since they've always been such a critical part of by backpacking safety planning in the past. It seems kind of crazy to set off without them!
    I'm sure there are many schools of thought on this topic, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.
    Thanks,
    Matt
    Based on what you've said you probably will not need them.
    However, agree with well made pts by Rickb, Traveler, Ilabelle, and LW. Good pt Rick made. Since this is likely your first really long hike I can think of many other things less necessary you'll have to learn for yourself that you'll wind up not needing.

    And, FWIW IMO it's best to habituate early to a very high degree of self sufficiency on a long hike than 100% relying on others for navigation, AT lean-to's, popping into towns/hostels at the first signs of inclement weather, etc. IMHO a thru hike can be a life skills building experience as well as a sobering eye opening up from the cultural comforts (standards) of this society?

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