MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 277

The only piece of navigation equipment you need when doing an established thru hiking route is a cell phone–why or why not? Make sure you're signed in to vote, and jump in the comments below!


danofoshomgatrostNekkedDaveEar_Mountain 4 votes
TenDigitGridquiggleryanAustinHagerNaomibroWoodstockbugglifeMHerbfalbelo 8 votes


  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 93

    I love GaiaGPS on my phone, I find it super helpful for planning in advance, navigating on the trail, and estimating how much farther I have to go. On a short trip in familiar territory, I can see it as being the only navigational aid. But on a longer trip when you're heading into new areas, I think there are too many variables for a phone to be your only navigation system. Based on experience, the following could happen.

    * Battery could die, you could drop your phone and shatter the screen, drop it in water, or similar.

    * Screen size is small. Sometimes it's nice to be able to spread out a big map and get an overall view. I especially like this for identifying far-off geographical features, and to get ideas about new trips I'd like to take in the future.

    * Sometimes being able to hand somebody a physical map is helpful. This could be somebody else within your group who doesn't have a downloaded map, or a stranger you come across on the trail who might need some additional assistance.

    Interested to hear other people's take on the subject.

  • MHerb
    MHerb Member Posts: 13

    I'd echo @bugglife 's comments. Phones are appropriate for short trips where cell service is available or the complete area has been downloaded on the map program. That being said I have used my phone on several week+ long ski traverses/base camps out of cell service. I carried a small solar charger or battery bank but had a map and compass as a backup, which is a light piece of security. Technology has made navigation easy, but it should not replace the skill and knowledge of how to properly use a map and compass.

  • quiggleryan
    quiggleryan Member Posts: 45

    You should always have something other than a cell phone. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Definitely bring a map or a gps device as well. You’ll be happy when you get stuck in a bad situation! Stay safe out there!

  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 93

    Another reason to bring a hard copy map. 😧😨😩

  • Naomibro
    Naomibro Member Posts: 92

    Learn compass use! How to read both planar and topo maps.

  • NekkedDave
    NekkedDave Member Posts: 5

    I said yes meaning that the only thing you “need” is a cellphone. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s smart to only take a cellphone. I often use a combo of FarOut, Gaia, Avenza maps, and paper maps/compass. That being said you can hike an entire established long trail with just a cell phone and some common sense/experience.

  • AustinHager
    AustinHager Member Posts: 32

    I think it really depends on what we consider an established thru-hike. The PCT? Probably can get away with just a phone. Hayduke or GDT? You should probably have another option. On the GDT for example there are multiple week long sections, relying entirely on electronics can be a big issue when something get wet or dies. I think there are tiers of navigation with a paper map as well. In many cases being able to read a map and have an idea of where you are is a pretty good start and will work most of the time. It feels like the pressure to "learn a map and compass" can come across as too much of a barrier for many people and instead just learning to read a map is a huge help and quick and easy to learn.

  • Ear_Mountain
    Ear_Mountain Member Posts: 1

    Yes but...

    I always carry at least one large hard copy map just in case. Also I've seen hikers who depend on their cell phone (which is ok IMO) but only have one app, FarOut for example, for the main trail. In my neck of the woods the Forest Service frequently has fire closures or reroutes on sections of the CDT. These reroutes may not be adequately described and will take hikers off the main FarOut map area. It's important for this situation to have an alternate way to know where you are. I use iHike GPS and Avenza Maps in addition to FarOut when hiking sections of the CDT in Montana.