In 2016, there is really no reason to carry entire guidebooks or paper maps on a long-distance hike. I relied almost exclusively on my iPhone for navigation, planning, entertainment, and managing stupid adult things like bills and bank accounts. I carried an Anker PowerCore 5000 battery until Mt. Shasta, where it was stolen from a Taco Bell. In the future, I would probably carry a battery with more charges (at least 3) and refrain from sitting across the room from my charging gadgets in a fast food joint. Check out Guthook’s fantastic advice on prolonging your phone’s battery life.
Halfmile’s PCT: I used this app almost exclusively for navigation. It provides information on water sources, campsites, trail junctions, road crossings, and towns along the trail. Halfmile’s app is no substitute for a guidebook like Yogi, but is great for keeping track of your position on the trail and distance from landmarks. Best part? It’s totally free. Cons: relies on phone GPS, which is not always functional in cloudy weather, beneath umbrellas, or between canyon walls.
Guthook’s Pacific Crest Trail Guide: I cannot provide a proper review of this app, since I did not use it. Many hikers decided to use Guthook because of its detailed maps and elevation profiles, extensive information on trail towns, user-friendly maps of alternate routes and side trails, and because it noted more campsites than Halfmile. However, Guthook’s app costs money and is notoriously glitchy. If you buy this app, be sure to use the PCT Thru-Hiker Special.
Google Drive: This app was invaluable. I used it to store PDFs of Halfmile’s maps and the updated Water Report, and to keep the relevant documents available offline. I also dumped photos into a drive folder to free space on my iPhone and maintained a document with my updated resupply plan for GC (“Ground Control” aka Mom). Since I didn’t keep a blog while on trail, my family and friends were happy to have a link to my drive folder of photos.
Hoopla: I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE ON OR OFF TRAIL. DOWNLOAD HOOPLA RIGHT NOW. Using your library card, you can borrow 10 audiobook or ebook titles per month for free. Like Netflix or Hulu, Hoopla will not always have the titles you want. However, with enough flexibility and digging, you can usually find something interesting.
Spotify: You may want to shell out the money to open a Spotify Premium account while on trail. I knew hikers who would ask their friends to create and update playlists for them. Whenever these hikers got into town, they would download new music. I wish I had done this. Instead, I listened to the same 4 albums for 4 months (never, never again.).