As a long time user of hiking guidebooks, I have become quite picky about which ones I buy. My pickiness has been caused by some bad purchases with problems such as poor binding, vague hand drawn maps, and route errors.
Scrappy hand-drawn maps may easily lead many hikers without good GPS systems to become lost which leads to unnecessary rescue call outs. Even if the writer doesn’t insist on decent maps, the publisher should.
Route errors and descriptions which don’t relate to what you see on your walk may indicate that a book has been written “from the map” by writers who have never completed the walks they describe. At the risk of stating the obvious to the writers and publishers of these books, they should never appear on the shelves. Clangers like these are possibly more likely to escape the attention of the increasing numbers of people who buy books online and this may be encouraging have-a-go publishers to push out substandard guides. Indeed there is a rumour circulating among the hiking community that there is a Pennine Way guide which was written in this way, which is what made me write this post.
Walk descriptions written from the map become apparent after a day or so and result in hikers losing trust in the publishers of these books. A map cannot give you the detailed observations which characterise a good guidebook, such as an instruction to turn left by the Monkey puzzle tree, or warnings about muddy stretches, streams liable to flood etc. This sort of intimate knowledge is what creates the rapport between a good guidebook and a hiker, making them feel like an indispensable but invisible companion on your walk, and it cannot be gleaned by just looking at a map.
Rant over. I just had to get it off my chest.