Are Paper Trail Guides Obsolete?

I want to make a confession, I used to obsessively look at my trusty trailguide all the time.  Looking for water, camping spots, shelters…I don’t do that any more. Now I look at my phone instead. Guthook’s AT Hiking Guide is the bomb. On my recent section hike from Marion to Springer, I sometimes felt I was a sales rep for this product.  I never used my paper guidebook to find any information about the trail on this trip… Not A Single Time!

Before torch bearing anti-technology forces storm my home consider these facts.

  1.  It works in airplane mode and uses the GPS of your phone to find your position.

    The elevation profille with the blue dot showing my current location

    The elevation profile with the blue dot showing my current location

  2. You can easily shift between NOBO and SOBO
  3. Drought conditions exists on a lot the trail. Since Guthook’s users can post comments about water sources, this app gives much more current information than you’ll be be able to find in a traditional trail guide.

    Note the user comments about this water source

    Note the user comments about this water source

  4. In map mode, your icon is an arrow.  The arrow on the map corresponds to the direction the top of your phone is pointingimg_1842
  5. It is easy to focus your search to the particular type of information you are looking for.                                                       img_1890
  6. Each waypoint has its own write-up often including pictures.  It is also easy to view waypoints in either map view or the elevation profile.

img_1892

7.  Here is the map of the waypoint pictured above.  There are several map options.  The “road” option is my personal    favorite

You have several different map options. This on is called "road"

While Guthooks gives you almost no information about resources available in town, the trail information is the best.  Since you and other users have the option of posting updates, the information available in the app, particularly about water, is more current than that in the traditional guides.

Guthooks offers trail guides for many trails across the country.  I know when I purchased the AT Guide, you just bought the app with all the data in the App Store.  With the PCT guide (bucket list material), you buy the maps/data direct from Guthooks within the app itself and seems to cost about half as much as the AT guide did.  If you are considering a thru hike or even a long section hike, you should really consider putting The Guthook’s guide for whatever trail on your phone!

If you have any questions about this app, ask it in the comments below this post.

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Comments 22

  • Avatar
    TBR : Nov 30th

    Best explanation of Guthook I’ve read so far. I’ve never used it, but intrigued.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      George Turner : Nov 30th

      Thanks! I’m a believer!!!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Refill : Dec 1st

    Biggest downside Guthook has compared to a paper guide is that it is more expensive.
    Totally worth that in my Opinion, but still for the AT it was roughly 5x the money

    Reply
    • Avatar
      George Turner (Old Growth) : Dec 1st

      I suspect the price may have gone down with the latest update. I know that the PCT data cost only $24 or $36 is you get the super version which includes the JMT, Whitney approach trails and a few others. I can’t verify this because I already have it. Also, since the app updates, even with the higher price it is a bargain as I buy the guide every year just on the off chance that there are changes.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kelly : Dec 1st

    Love Guthook’s guide! I used it for some smaller section hikes up north, I’ve just bought the few sections around where I live where I hike frequently (or will be in the future). Went during the summer and it saved me a few times during the drought, I filled up at a not so nice looking stream that I would’ve normally skipped over because a user had commented that the shelter I was at for the night was dry…and it was! Saved me from a thirsty night.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Fireman : Dec 1st

    I loved Guthooks on the PCT this year. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been with paper maps in the Sierras in early June. That being said, I lost my phone out of Stevens Pass and had to do the last 200 miles blind so you may still want some paper backups because things can go wrong.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      George Turner : Dec 1st

      I ripped mine into sections defined by maildrops and included the part I needed in each. The Guthooks site suggests having a backup

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Michael Zmyewski : Dec 2nd

    How do you keep your phone charged?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Refill : Dec 6th

      Used a Battery Pack (10000ish mAh) on the AT. Easily lasted me from town stop to town stop, even with nearly constant music while walking. if you are somewhere with less woods, you could try a solar charger, but on the AT those do nothing.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    George Turner (Old Growth) : Dec 2nd

    I work on this two ways. 1) I save power by keeping my phone in both airplane and low battery mode 2) I carry 2 batteries good for about 7 charges between them. So I’m good for about 10 days altogether. Solar on the AT isn’t really an option. The green tunnel is awfully shady. On the PCT, however, I’m thinking that a solar charger with the panels velcroed to the top of my pack would work.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      John Grizzley Volt : Dec 2nd

      I used a Goal Zero on the top of my pack on my 2013 thru hike. It worked all the way to VT where it wasn’t the green tunnel that got it but another issue. Charged the batteries all day and recharged at night.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    George Turner (Old Growth) : Dec 2nd

    The larger battery is probably all I really need, but I like having a spare. On cold nights, the batters go into the foot of my sleeping bag

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Dennis Arthur : Dec 2nd

    I purchased Guthooks last year and used it often on our thru-hike attempt. Since we only made it NOBO to Pine Grove Furnace in Pa, we’re thinking about one more attempt next ur from Springer. My question is does Guthooks provide updates for previously purchased Apps, or will I need to re-purchase to be current for 2017?

    Thanks for your help!

    Dennis

    Reply
  • Avatar
    George Turner : Dec 2nd

    I know the app has been up dated several times. I’m not so sure about the data. I reached to them via twitter and asked. I will let you know if I hear anything

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Guthook : Dec 6th

      I don’t think I ever got a Twitter message from you, Old Growth, but then again I haven’t logged into Twitter in several years. My contact info is in the app, and in several other places, though. Happy to discuss through email 😉

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Brian : Dec 2nd

    I use Guthooks all the time on the AT and I have downloaded in PDF format from David Miller AWOL website the actual AT Guide on my iPhone 7 for info on town stops and such. I also bring along a small Anker battery charger to charge every couple of days. I am starting in Springer this Spring to Maine and plan to use this set up, I highly recommend guthooks app. I was surprised by the amount of hikers I met this year on the trail that did not know it existed though.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Don Knots : Dec 4th

    Great article – thanks!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Don K : Dec 4th

      I got value from this too!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Tim S : Dec 4th

    Hello World

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Don K : Dec 4th

    Dude this really is the best!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    David Forney : Dec 7th

    Thanks for this George. In your opinion, does one cell provider stand out over the others on the AT or more specifically in Virginia? — dgf

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Anne aka Quiet Storm : Dec 8th

    I’ve used the app for section hikes in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Just purchased the northern Virginia section. I love it and use the route drawing function to plan section hikes. My only quibble is that you have to pinch and expand the map to see some waypoints. I guess that’s inevitable when they’re close together. More info on parking would be great too. The Rohland website is not up to date.

    Reply

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