Yogi's PCT Handbook by Jackie "Yogi" McDonnell
Yogi's PCT Handbook is the best guidebook for thru-hikers and most hikers carry it. The first half of the book provides tips and info about planning and preparing for your hike, much like this website. The second half is a town guide combined with notes about on-trail locations. The mileage matches Halfmile's maps and app so there is no confusion when cross-referencing. It's also printed with perforations so you can tear out the pages and only carry what you need. (Digital downloads of the book are not available.) Examples of provided info include:
You may feel that a hard-copy town guide is unnecessary if you carry a smartphone. You can just google the town and find out what you need that way, right? Not really. Keep in mind that you will not get cell service all the time and that cell batteries die. Besides, Yogi knows what's most important to hikers and only provides relevant info. Her tips are based on experience over many PCT thru-hikes. We strongly recommend carrying this book with you.
PCT Databook by Benedict "Gentle Ben" Go
This is a standard trail data book similar to those made for the Appalachian or Florida Trails. It is most useful for easily seeing/calculating distances between two points on the trail. For example, our editors plan each night's campsite between resupply points so that we don't run out of food, and the Databook is helpful for that because it allows us to see a whole week's worth of hiking over two or three pages. We also take brief notes during the journey in the Databook, so that after the hike the book is a kind of quick-reference record of our trek. While Yogi's Handbook (above) provides notes on occasional trail waypoints, it is not a complete data book and so cannot be used for big-picture planning and note-taking.
Three things about the Databook are frustrating, however. First, it stubbornly refuses to include the location of campsites. You have to rely on one of the apps for that. It also does not include as many waypoints as the Halfmile or Guthook apps, and its mileage numbers do not match Halfmile's maps. The numbers aren't off by much, but in our experience Halfmile's figures are more accurate. As a result, we rarely consult the Databook during the day, relying on Halfmile's or Guthook's apps instead to determine how far we've gone and how far we still need to go. We use the Databook almost exclusively for week-by-week planning and recommend it for that use.
The Pacific Crest Trail: A Hiker's Companion (2nd Ed.)
by Karen Berger & Daniel R. Smith
Similar to but more succinct and readable than the three Wilderness Press guides below, this book provides an overview of the PCT. Beginning at the southern terminus, the authors take readers north up the Trail, describing the history, landscapes, ecology, and meteorology along the way. Some information is provided for thru-hikers, but the book is primarily a big-picture overview. If you are unfamiliar with the PCT or the landscapes it passes through, we recommend this book to get you familiarized with the Trail and its many environments.
The Wilderness Press Pacific Crest Trail guides by Jeffrey P. Schaffer and others
Year after year the three books to the right create a lot of confusion for hikers because they are not guidebooks to take on the Trail with you, even though they are marketed as such. The publisher, Wilderness Press, writes on its website: "This comprehensive guide provides in-depth coverage of the Pacific Crest Trail ... [with] supply maps, photos, resupply access routes, side trips, and updated trail data." The books certainly are comprehensive, however they have problems that make them unsuitable for use on-trail:
- Each weighs over a pound
- Maps are small, black and white, and difficult to read (Halfmile's maps are far superior)
- Relevant information is hard to find because it is provided in narratives, rather than at-a-glance charts
- Too much unnecessary info (narrative descriptions of water sources aren't essential, etc)
- They are superfluous if you use one of the apps and/or Halfmile's maps
- No town info
If you are the kind of hiker who likes to read about geologic features, plants, and history of the Trail, then you might like these books, but we prefer the Companion (see above). If you want these books with you during your hike, we recommend downloading a digital copy from Wilderness Press rather than carrying the weight of the hardcopy book.