We are big readers here at thruhikethepct.com, often reading late into the night after other hikers in camp have gone to sleep, and created the list of books below for thru-hikers interested in a sense of place.
Imagine reading Walden while living at Walden Pond. Each of the titles below is set in places traversed by the PCT and reading a book set in the same place where you are hiking, sleeping, and living can be an incredible experience. The book enriches your experience of that place, and your knowledge of that place enriches your experience of the book.
Bibliophiles have three options for reading on their thru-hike:
- physical paperback books
- digital books on a Kindle or other ereader
- digital books on their phone via the Kindle app or PDFs
If you want to read at night and on zero days, a physical book will usually add a half pound to your pack or more since many books are only available in the larger trade paperback format. Based on a survey of the books on our shelves, the typical 4"x7" paperback weighs 4-10 ounces and a 5"x8" trade paperback weighs 7-17 ounces, depending on page count. And that's only one book.
On the Appalachian Trail, hikers often leave books in shelters for other hikers to take once they are done reading them. That sharing system works great and you can find cool titles that way, but on the PCT there are no shelters. If you can't give it away to another hiker, you are stuck with the book until town, where you can either throw it away, mail it home, or leave it in a hiker box (assuming there is a hiker box).
Kindle Smartphone App
If you want to read but also shed the weight of a physical book, the Kindle app is a great choice. Most hikers carry a phone anyway, so let it do double duty as your reading platform too. One downside is that if you are the kind of person who takes lots of pictures, uses a navigation app throughout the day, journals on your phone, and consults a naturalist field guide in addition to reading at night, then you will quickly kill the battery, making it necessary to carry a spare. Many people also do not like reading on a phone's small, back-lit screen for very long. If any of this describes you, then a dedicated ereader might be a better choice.
Kindle app features:
The greatest benefit of using an ereader over the Kindle phone app is battery savings. Regardless of brand or model, an ereader with e-ink (as opposed to tablets like the iPad) lasts months without needing recharging, even with regular use. Read long into the night, every night, without carrying an external battery charger, which saves weight. Indulge your reading habit without killing your phone battery and leaving you sans navigation and communication.
Regardless of brand or model, ereaders tend to weigh about the same. The Kindle Oasis is the lightest at 4.6 ounces, while the heaviest, Kindle Paperwhite, weighs in at 7.2 ounces, a differences of just 2.6 ounces. (The difference in price is enormous, however.) Their relative equal weights and battery lives means there are no features that make one model better suited to a thru-hike than another. For this reason we do not recommend one ereader over another. Kobo and Nook are out there, but Amazon dominates the ereader market with its various Kindles.