If you are going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and want a serious app dedicated to the PCT, then Guthook's Guide is exactly what you're looking for.
Guthook went to extraordinary lengths to not only create an excellent app, but also to document thousands of waypoints, from campsites to post offices, all complete with locations, descriptions, and sometimes even photos.
Guthook's Guide is split into five different apps, one for each section of the trail (Desert, Sierra, NorCal, Oregon, and Washington). They run $5.99 US each (that's $29.95 US if you can't math), and can be purchased individually (i.e. if you only want the Sierra and Washington maps at $5.99 US each, then you don't need to also but the others).
Despite the price, Guthook's Guide is far superior to any guidebook you probably wasted your money on before hiking the PCT. Also, when you consider it's something you will use (probably) every day for what could be as long as five months, it helps to justify the price.
NOTE: This app has both iOS and Android versions. Although the two are similar, this review reflects my experience with the Android version of the app (because we all know Android is superior).
- Name: Guthook's PCT Guide
- Android Publisher: High Sierra Attitude, LLC
- iOS Publisher: Guthook Hikes, LLC
- Offline Maps: Yes
- GPS Tracking: Yes
- Cell Service Needed: No
- Elevation Profile: Yes
- Waypoint Photos: Yes
According to Guthook, the app includes the following waypoints:
- Water sources (including the reliability of each water source)
- Resupply locations/post offices
- Tenting sites/camping sites
- Trail junctions
- Parking areas along the trail
- Picnic areas, campgrounds, ranger stations
- Roads, railroad tracks, power lines, fences, gates
- Natural landmarks (e.g. mountain passes)
- Restaurants, stores, libraries, lodging
WHAT WE LIKE
THE MAPS | Guthook offers you the option to use seven different map types, and more importantly, to download and cache maps for use offline. The maps available for use are: USGS Topo Maps* (feet), OSM Topo Maps* (meters), Offline USGS Satellite*, Google Street, Google Satellite, Google Hybrid, and Google Terrain (limited zoom).
*available for download and offline use
THE WAYPOINTS | Guthook's Guides include hundreds of waypoints including actual photographs of many waypoints meaning that you'll no longer have to wonder if you've actually found the campsite or water source that the map is referring to.
THE DETAILEDNESS | Not only does Guthook include hundreds of waypoints in each of his guides, but it also includes descriptions of each waypoint. For example, choosing a “tent site” waypoint, I get the following information:
- A photo of the waypoint
- Mile number
- Miles until the end of the section
- Details: There is space for at least five tents here.
- Next water information (south and northbound)
- Next tenting information (south and northbound)
There are also options to show the waypoint on both the map and the elevation profile.
THE SEARCH | The app features an excellent search function that provides you with instant results based on what you enter. The search results show waypoint names and their mileage (which saves having to guess what you're looking for).
THE DEMO | Not sure about paying for something that you'll use every day and might save your life? That's alright, Guthook has been kind enough to include a free demo of his app that just happens to span the first 43 miles of the PCT (assuming a NOBO hike) from the US/Mexico border to Mt. Laguna. The demo is a fully featured version of the app that will give you the chance to see how you like it before deciding to continue.
WHAT'S JUST OKAY
THE DOWNLOADING | This is not anything wrong with the app itself, but rather a problem hikers may run into when deciding to use Guthook's Guides. After downloading the app, you will need a stable internet connection to download the maps and photos for offline use. If become lost and decide you all of a sudden want to download and use Guthook, then chances are you're out of luck.
THE TRAIL REGISTER | Guthook's Guides also have an interesting social aspect. Each waypoint offers users the ability to add “trail register” entries. Ideally, this function is used by hikers to inform on the status of water sources, warn about trail hazards, or bring up unforeseen issues. However, it could also be abused by rogue users or simply spread misinformation posted by uninformed hikers. However, the PCT community is a relatively awesome group of people who would never engage in any of that undesirable behavior (except maybe on the Facebook page – that place is the worst).
WHAT WE NO LIKE
THE COST | Yes, it's true that this app costs money. It's also true that it comes in five parts – one for each section of the trail. And yes, it's true that each part is $5.99 US, making the entire package almost $30 US. However, if you're serious about hiking the PCT and you want an app to help you do so, then you can't do any better than Guthook's PCT Guide. Paying $6 per section of trail is no more the cost of a beer or four Snickers. Just do yourself a favor and treat the Guthook team to a beer once per section.
THE CRASHING | When I hiked the PCT with Guthook, the app crashed on me a lot. This problem has many variables including what type of phone I was using (a Samsung Galaxy SII), and what other apps I had installed on my phone, but in a perfectly programmed world, the app would not crash at all (but maybe it would? I don't know much about mobile app programming). It has since been thoroughly updated, and I haven't had any problems playing around in it off trail, but it's still good to remember that our technology is not perfect and you should never rely on only an app for navigation and information.
I would be lying if I said I didn't love Guthook's apps.
When I hiked the PCT, Guthook seemed to be relatively unknown, and I was one of only a few people I met who had his apps. However, since then the app has been updated quite a bit and now the interface and user experience have been significantly improved.
If you can get over the price (which honestly, you just should already), then this is probably the best app for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Again, if you're unsure, you can always try out the demo from the US/Mexico border to Mt. Laguna.