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Reviews > Books > Field Guides > PGP - Hiking and Backpacking Guide > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Pocket Guide to Hiking/Backpacking

Initial Report: Feb 24 2007

Field Report: Jun 15 2007

Pocket Guide to Hiking/Backpacking

Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 30
Gender: Female
Height: 1.7 m (5' 8")
Weight: 68 kg (150 lb)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Pocket Guides Publishing
MSRP: US$12.95
Material: Plastic
Weight (as stated): Not stated
Weight (measured): 2.4 oz (68.5 g)

Initial Report:
February 24th 2007

The Pocket Guide is a small spiral bound guide composed of plastic pages with slightly raised writing on the surface of each page. All the corners are round cut as well as the corners of each tab. Each page has its own tab and all the tabs are offset to allow for easy reading. The Pocket Guide fits comfortably in my hand and opens flat when placed on a flat surface. The writing is easy to read and the pictures are clear. The spiral is an opaque green colour.

The warning on the front inside cover of this guide proclaims that it is not intended to be the sole source of information for the hiker or backpacker but rather should be used as a reference to remind the hiker of techniques previously learned. I like this as it means that a technique can be learned but not everything associated with the technique needs to be memorized. The guide gives me the run down on how to use a compass which is a technique I have previously learned and used once but can never seem to recall how to use it when I need to. There are a few items in the guide that I had assumed to be standard knowledge but in the end it never hurts to be reminded to pack heavy items closer to the back.

The guide is laid out nicely with most sections taking up either one page or two facing pages. It is rare for any section to span more than two pages. I like the fact that, in general, a topic will span two facing pages. This means I don't have to flip back and forth when trying to understand something. Although each tab tells me what section I am currently reading, I am again reminded by the bold title across the top of each page. This is handy and due to normal reading behaviour, it is the first place I will look to determine what it is I am reading. There are some interesting tips and tricks contained within the guide that I had not come across yet. Some are common sense, especially for shelters but it is nice to have it laid out at my fingertips. I will look into how helpful I find these tips.

The pages are made of a nice sturdy plastic that gives the Pocket Guide a nice stiffness and makes it hold up nicely in my hand. But it is this same stiffness that does limit the amount of bend I can give the guide, limiting my flipping through with one hand. The spiral binding does allow me to flip the pages all the way around to view any one page in the middle of the book. The spiral ends do not allow the guide to lay completely flat but it is flat enough to suit my purposes. I am interested in how well the pages will hold up in a pack or pocket. The stiffness does not seem to allow much give.
Field Report:
June 15th 2007
Field Trips:

I have taken this Pocket Guide out on at least two overnight trips out on the Appalachian Trail near Front Royal, Virginia, one very short day hike out in the Canaan Valley in West Virginia, and it was included on a recent kayaking trip on Pohick Bay in Virginia.

Day Hike:

This short day hike was about 3 miles in the Canaan Valley and the weather was cold, about 40 F (4 C). I was hoping for snow and had snowshoes strapped to the pack. The terrain was relatively smooth with an elevation gain of about 1500 ft (457 m). While the temperature dropped a little with elevation gain there was no snow to be had.

Overnight #1:

The first overnight hike was under dry conditions with the temperatures around 65-70 F (18-21 C). Total elevation gain was 1000 ft (304 m) with a distance of 6 miles (9.6 km). Total pack weight was about 27 lbs (12 kg). I had the Pocket Guide in the back pocket where access was a little limited but it was near the first aid kit. There was little leaf cover as the leaves were just barely peeking out.

Overnight #2:

The second overnight hike saw some rain fall and I had the Pocket Guide in a side pocket for easier access. It did receive some rain with no ill effects. Mostly it was drizzling and dripping from the trees. The pack experienced about 2.5 hours of drizzling conditions. Total elevation gain was about 1500 ft (457 m) with a distance of 12 mi (19.3 km). This trip out I encountered some thru-hikers and we got to talking about gear. The Pocket Guides make a great conversational piece as everyone has their own way of doing something.

Kayaking Trip:

The kayaking trip was about two hours along the salt marshes of Pohick Bay in Virginia. The Pocket Guide was in a small carry bag in the stern of the kayak behind my seat. Due to some dirt remaining in the kayak from a previous trip, I had to wash out the kayak which left some water remaining in the bottom when I dumped the bag in. The Pocket Guide did get wet, as did everything else. The temperatures where in the high 80's F (30's C) with little cloud cover and high humidity.

Overnight #3: The last overnight trip was over Memorial Day weekend and was a two night trip. The weather was very nice over the three days with no rain but the bugs were out in full force. The temperatures were in the high 80's F (28 C) with the night time temperatures dropping to about 65 F (15 C). Total elevation gain was 2000 ft (610 m). The trip was along a section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia to Harper's Ferry. I didn't use the Pocket Guide at all on this last trip, it ended up in the bottom of my bag and stayed there until I dumped out my pack at home.

Over the course of the last four months I have carried this Pocket Guide with me on numerous backpacking trips and even on a kayaking trip. The plastic pages have held up nicely and I have not seen any ripping of the pages nor any fading of the text. While the quality and durability of the book has been very good, the information contained in the book has only been okay. The book is divided by subject matter and each subject is boiled down to one or two pages, front and back, of material. Each page contains several small, brief paragraphs of information or a few paragraphs and some bullet points. The information has been distilled down to the very basics. This is fine for the newest backpacker, such as how to load gear in a pack but after a few trips out with a more experienced hiker, or chatting with the local outfitter, most of the information contained in the book can be learned with hands on experience.

Over the course of using this book, I noticed that it was much more useful the night before a hike then actually using it on the trail. When I am actually hiking, it was more handy to pull out and show other people, but I didn't find it useful after I had already planned and setup for a particular hike. It did make a good reference while on the trail to show other less experienced backpackers.

I assumed that the information contained within this book would be at a level above the basic knowledge that many hikers and backpackers have. While it is good to know what is contained within this book, I don't feel it is necessary to carry around a book with information that I already know. The information was a little scattered with very basic information together with more advanced information that while advanced really wasn't that useful. While it is interesting to have the airplane signals, it really isn't helpful. If I was really lost and needed to signal a plane, chances are I would simply spell out help or SOS. I did find that the section on navigation was handy to have as I can never remember how to read a map with a compass. The section on weather was interesting form a coolness point of view but I never found the information useful.

While I have been pleased with the overall durability and size of the Pocket Guide, I feel that the information offered by the book needs to be reworked if the target audience is an experienced hiker or backpacker. This book is geared mostly for the beginner and most items in the book are basic common sense. I would have been much happier with the Pocket Guide if the information level had built on the basic information that was contained within this book.


    Small, compact size
    Very durable construction


    Information is a little too basic

This concludes my report series on the Pocket Guide to Hiking/Backpacking. I hope you have enjoyed reading this report series and have found its contents useful.

Read more reviews of Pocket Guides Publishing gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Books > Field Guides > PGP - Hiking and Backpacking Guide > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

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