Friday, January 27, 2012

Guidebooks: Great sources but not enough

Guidebook trail maps usually lack enough detail to be
of use on the trail. They also can be out of date.
Guidebooks are great sources of information for planning a day hike with kids. They provide a list of potential trails and usually all kinds of relevant information, such as trail lengths, sights to see along the way, and even maps.

Be forewarned, though: trails and conditions may have changed since the guidebook was published, so you don’t want to rely solely on one book for information to plan your hike. Always check online and other guidebooks to see if there’s any updated information or additional descriptions to help you become even more familiar with the trail. You’ll also almost always want to gather better maps than what a guidebook provides.

Some hikers find the information in them useful when out on the trail. While you might take kid-friendly field guides to help identify plants and animals, guidebooks about trails usually are bulky, and the first moment they get wet the pages turn moldy and curl out of shape. A guidebook is best left at home, if only to reduce the load you carry.

Bethany O., of Hood River, Ore., suggests, “If there’s information you need from a guide-book about a specific location, type it as notes and carry it with your paper maps. I usually do this for directions to the trailhead and location of key turns and landmarks to help me along the way.”

Read more about hiking navigation in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.