The latest question we have been getting at Mountain Crossings is “What is the water like out there?” The staff here love hiking in the area and we can check out water sources periodically, but we don’t always have the free time. There is a smartphone app called Guthook’s Trail Guide for the Appalachian Trail and it is a great resource to receive updates about the conditions of the trail.
About the App
We have been recommending this app for people across the board. The app has over 3,500 waypoints such as shelters, tent sites, water sources (along with historical dependability), trail junctions, road crossings, peaks, views, etc. Each waypoint has a separate page with supporting data such as elevation, and distance to next shelter/water source. The app organizes the AT in 9 geographic trail sections, including the Approach Trail. The base map options include road map, satellite or a combination. Each section can be purchased for $8.99 or you can purchase all 9 sections for $59.99.
There are several features to the app. The first is the actual map. It gives an overview of what is along the trail. You can click the icons to learn more about some of the points such as water, shelter, or viewpoint.
Another useful component is the elevation profile. It is pretty straightforward. It shows the elevation for a specific section.
The information is what will help you with water sources. You can learn about campsites and shelters and it is updated from people on the trail. If you notice water is dry at a certain water source you can write that in there for others to see. There is a Recent User Comments section with the latest comment of the area you are interested in, and if you click on a certain waypoint, you can see the comments for that particular spot.
What is amazing about the app is the GPS . Even when you are in airplane mode, your GPS system will still work and it will not use your data. All smartphones have what is called Assisted GPS, which means they have a true GPS receiver, and they also use cell tower triangulation when possible to increase accuracy and speed up the time it takes to get a lock on your location. It may take some time for it to find your location but the accuracy is fairly good. If you thought you might have passed the shelter you wanted to stop at, turn on Guthook and it will show you where you are on the trail. This is super helpful especially when you get in the “hiking zone” and aren’t really paying attention.
Here is an overview of the best aspects of the app:
-Zero added weight – if you already intend on bringing a smart phone.
-Pictures of locations – At first blush, it seems this would only be helpful for virtual hiking. But, it’s helpful in verifying that this creek is actually that creek on the map.
Descriptions – This is great to receive more information about shelters (how many they sleep) and capacity/amenities at each shelter. It will also give an estimated tent capacity, too.
-To/from distances – This is a help in deciding if you want to move on to the next waypoint.
-Active feedback from other hikers – Although it can be sporadic, information is useful especially in the case of scarce water.
-Excellent support – The app was designed by 3 people and they are on top of things. If you contact them with a question or concern, they respond quickly and are happy to help.
-GPS – Provides near exact location on the trail map and elevation through gps function –
This app is pretty solid when it comes to the trail, but with any technology, you need to be careful. You should not solely rely on your smartphone because it could die, break, or just fail. Remember this when you are planning your hike and carry a small map or guide as backup.
To download the app for your iPhone or Android, go here. They have guides for numerous trails in the United States including the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide trail and many more!
Wherever you may go whether is is a backpacking trip, or just a day hike, this app will definitely help you find water. Good luck out there!