24 comments on “Myth 5: The Best Guidebook for the PCT is…

  1. We’re going to hike it in 2012. Thanks for the advice. It’s unfortunate to hear that Yogi’s guides are poorly updated.

    Is there an alternative to finding out what’s in a town? I know some of the hitches are annoying, and I’d hate to hitch 20 miles to some place that has nothing there.

    Second question, have you had a chance to speak with Erik the Black about these issues? I know he’s updating his books for 2012 in addition to making them ultralight.

  2. Shawn, that’s a good question. I kind of wish there were a better town guide. Eric The Black has good maps of towns, but not much info as far as phone numbers and mailing addresses. I’d say if you can find a used copy of Yogi’s guide, grab that for cheap. Pocket PCT (hikethru.com) and Halfmile’s maps also have basic town info.

    And I know this isn’t really a good way to plan ahead, but just listening to people while you’re on the trail is the best way of finding out what a town offers. You’ll know long before getting to a town if it’s worth hitching into– there are only so many places that hikers go into, and it’s a small community. Information gets around VERY fast.

    Smart phones work really well for this, too.

    I haven’t spoken to Erik myself, but I heard secondhand about how open he is to corrections in his books. I really liked his current edition, but the updates will probably be much better with accuracy.

    Also, I just heard about this: http://www.planyourhike.com/planning/resupplypoints.html

  3. I found the planyourhike resupply information really helpful but somewhat frustrating to look at, since you have to pull up each location one at a time. I recommend joining the PCT listserve (there’s a link at pcta.org) and asking questions from the hiking community. You’ll get a whole range of opinions on any topic…..

  4. Csilla, good point. I never used that website, but it was just an option that I noticed while writing this. The PCT-L list can definitely be a good source of information, but there are two problems that I don’t care for: first, it’s a hugely antiquated system, often flooding your email with hundreds of posts per day. If it were in a standard web forum format it would be much nicer. The second issue, which isn’t unique to PCT-L, is that you need to be careful with the advice you get from there. Just like any time you ask someone who has hiked before what the trail is like, there’s a lot of opinion that may only be relevant to the specific time that that person hiked.

    The forums at Postholer.com are a little easier to navigate, but still, the best knowledge you’ll get on a hike is from your own firsthand experience.

  5. There is yet another trail guide just published. It’s by Brian Johnson AKA Ancient Brit. It’s called “The Pacific Crest Trail–from Mexico to Canada on foot.”

    It’s small–4.5 X 7 and weighs under a pound. The first 90 pages of it is on planning and prep. Then the rest is maps and trail info. The maps aren’t topos and if you got off trail they wouldn’t help you much but it’s a sturdy little book packed with info. Includes alternate routes.

  6. So many options. This is probably a good thing. Guidebooks are one area where healthy competition may eventually weed out the guides that aren’t as good as the others. I think as more people hike the PCT, it the quality of information can only get better. Although there will probably be more hype to go along with the good information, too.

  7. Very well done review. I have used Yogi’s guide, Erik’s books, and Halfmile’s maps on different sections of the PCT. And I had exactly the same conclusions as you. I remember coming across 3 thru hikers in CA section O, cursing Erik’s book at a trail junction. Halfmile’s maps on my iPhone got us down the trail. I don’t fault anyone trying to make a living by publishing books and guides, but honest critiques go along with the business of writing and publishing.

  8. Agreed, grandy. Criticism is definitely part of the territory. One just hopes that the authors can use that criticism to make their product better. I’m pretty sure Eric the Black’s next edition will be a great improvement, although it’s too bad it won’t be out this season.

  9. Ryan, I have been reading many posts from PCT thru hikers and which guides they used and why. But your post really did a great job of really analyzing each guide. I so appreciate your thoroughness! Can’t wait for the next pocket sized edition from Paul!
    Heather Darnell
    mom_and_alex@yahoo.com

  10. Heather- It’s been over a year since I hiked the PCT now, so I don’t keep up to date on all the new guidebooks and such. If I did, I’d really like to update this post with how Erik The Black’s new books turn out, or how some of the other new guidebooks are.

    One thing I can comment on– Paul sent me a new copy (2nd edition) of Pocket PCT, and it’s pretty great. $15 and 3.9 ounces for an elevation profile, mileage data, and mail drop info all in one book for the entire PCT. Paired with Half-Mile’s maps, you’ve got everything you need. And a smartphone or just listening to the word along the trail for where to go in towns. You can get your guidebooks much cheaper than I did when I through-hiked!

  11. Thanks for the informative review of these guidebooks. Are you suggesting that the Wilderness press guidebook maps are not as accurate as Halfmiles maps? I purchased the wilderness press books and was planning on cutting them up and carrying sections but it sounds like you recommend halfmile’s maps.

  12. Hey Wilderness Calling,

    It’s not that the WP maps aren’t accurate, just not as detailed as Halfmile’s. Although, I believe Halfmile updates his more frequently than the WP books, so they may in fact be more accurate as well. The bottom line is that all of the guidebooks and maps work, just some are better than others, especially depending on what kind of hiking you’re doing (through hiking, section hiking, etc.).

    • Hey! Great question! I’ve actually been thinking of this a bit in the past few months, so maybe I’ll take this opportunity to update the post a little bit. Updates coming this evening…

  13. Just found your website- very good info and well written.
    Question- do you know when (or if) Paul Bodnar is going to do another updated Pocket PCT book? Most recent book I see is 2011, with one 2 years before that.

      • Guthook, do you know if Paul has a book ready for the upcoming hiking season? I have tried to contact Paul at that URL on 2 occasions, and haven’t received a reply back.I will be leaving for the PCT in April, and this is the only piece of gear I don’t have. Any thoughts? Should I just get a smartphone and your apps? Thank you for your trail work. You are trail GODS and I have nothing but respect for you! See you out on the trail!
        ~Stretch (GA-ME 2011)

        • Ooh yeah, Stretch! Paul is actually just finishing a giant revision of Pocket PCT, and it should hit the press any day now. Try contacting him at contact@sierraattitude.com since maybe hike-thru.com isn’t getting as much use these days. It will definitely be ready before April, that’s for sure. And he and Alice will be at the ADZPCTKO this year, too! Stop in and say hi if you’re around :)

          Thanks for the support, and happy trails!

  14. Halfmile also produces a data book style companion to his maps. They are simply called Trail Notes and can be found on his website. There are waypoints with a mileage and elevation accompanied by a description and map reference. There is info on water and towns. It also seems to have been updated this February.

  15. Pingback: Maps, permits and some new gear | Navigating the surface

  16. I am hoping to hike the PCT in 2015 and I am so happy I game across your site. I have downloaded the demo version of your app (I will be downloading the rest soon) and it’s brilliant! Thank you for all your hard work…

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