by site editor Rick McCharles
I’ve updated this list, my first revision since 2007.
At besthike we are assessing hiking guidebooks all the time. Most are poor: too much dense text, lousy maps, too few photos and graphics.
The worst of the worst are lists of dozens of hikes in a region with a short summary of each. There is no recommendation on “best hikes” because the author has (presumably) not walked them all.
Sadly, there’s no shortage of bad hiking guidebooks.
How do you find the BEST hiking guidebooks?
We often START by looking at the Lonely Planet walking guides.
Lonely Planet books are brilliantly succinct, have great maps and a high standard of quality control. And from the LP website you can buy just specific chapters as PDFs, if you wish.
And in some cases, the Lonely Planet guide is the best available. As an example, Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes.
The very best hiking guidebooks we’ve seen are the newest editions of Chapman’s guides to Australia.
The Overland Track guide, for example: 64 pages, 48 colour photos, 9 colour topographic maps, costs only A$17.95 including tax. Chapman is the undisputed expert on the region.
Chapman wrote the first editions of the Lonely Planet guides in Australia, later deciding to self-publish along with his wife and other co-authors. These guidebooks are near perfect, both informational and inspirational. Elevation profiles, history, climate, vegetation, geology, wildlife.
Other “best” guidebooks that come to mind include Blisters and Bliss, the beloved, venerable guidebook to the West Coast Trail. It uses humour to best effect.
The most compact format for a guidebook is published by Rucksack: waterproof, lightweight, open-flat with built-in map. (Exploring the Inca Trail, for example.)
But the VERY best format WAS The Canadian Rockies SuperGuide, by Graeme Pole, which WAS offered in a 3-ring binder (with a plastic sleeve for carrying only those pages you need).
It’s no longer available in the binder form. These days I’m back to photocopying the pages I need from his newest edition (2011).
Do you have a favourite guidebook? If so, leave a comment below.
… The future, obviously, is digital.
I’ve just bought a new iPod Touch (no GPS) and will be experimenting with Apps and other digital guides this season.