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Guidebook: redundant or useful?

Ol4577

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Planned: Camino Frances 22 april - 13th may 2023
Hi all,

I am doing the Camino Francés (my first camino!) from Léon to Santiago starting on April 22nd. I prefer to pack light so I was inclined to follow the recommendation to leave any books at home and just use the various apps and other online information to find my way, plan my route and search for places to eat or sleep.

I also encountered other recommendations saying that an up-to-date guidebook tends to have better information, the maps are very useful, you avoid staring at a screen, it can help discussing things with other pilgrims etcetera. So they recommend bring a guide book.

I can image that it also depends on how old the advice is. After all, in the realm of apps things can change quickly. Can people that have recently done the camino with or without such a guide book give me any advice on this? Of course, I can always buy it anyway and give it someone if I don't like the weight - but it's still good to know ;)

Thanks - Olivier
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I've never carried a physical guidebook. I use apps and have a guidebook on the kindle app on my phone. I also use the Gronze website.

I think that apps and Gronze are most likely more up to date than a book that had to be prepared and sent to the publisher months before it was printed.
 
I love the physical guidebioks and have purchased one for each of my six Caminos. I always take notes in the margins and underline things while I am doing my research ahead of time. In the last few years I have started taking screenshots of the pages before I go and sometimes leave the book at home, but I still love owning them.
I only need to take a quick look which often jogs my memory when offering to give a bit of help to questions asked. They are also great souvenirs in addition to the stamped credentials with the sellos.

The apps available are definitely great tools, and I have started using them in addition to my guidebooks.

P.S. As far as needing guidebook to actually "find your way", they are fast becoming dinosaurs.
 
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Ideal pocket guides for during & after your Camino. Each weighs only 1.4 oz (40g)!
If I I use guidebooks it is before my Camino for preparation ( and that is not necessary) The few times I took a paperguide I very rarely used it.( The last time I gave them away) Certainly on the Camino Frances the marking of the route is very good, so for route finding a guidebook is redundant.
Like Trecile already wrote the Gronze website offers everything you need an is more actual than any paper guide
 
With the apps and online info I haven't taken a guidebook for a few years. But I love looking at guidebooks before I go, will take photos of any useful pages but I tend to have written or typed page of useful notes that I have discovered in my research- recommendations, notes about interesting places, anywhere that particular care needs taken as path is rocky. With the CF being so well marked I didn't really need a guide but I did find having distances between villages and towns useful without having to check the phone - so I know I used godesalco.com to print off a list.
 
The only one I would suggest, besides of course Michael's excellent Wise Pilgrim, is a pocket size Michelin map book that can help guide you back to the Way if you wander astray. I have only used mine once and yes did it come in handy. It was after some fellow pilgrims gave me very bad route advice on a dismal, rainy morning before Leon.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
If you don't take electronics, I would want a physical guidebook. If you have electronics, then you could use one of the apps or buy an electronic guidebook. Brierly's book is on Kindle for this year's edition, but I find it a little hard to read on my phone. Personally I like books and reading, but not everyone does. We try to have written materials, books, and maps for the albergues where we volunteer or have materials there that pilgrims can look at or study. Many will take a photo of the maps or of the pages for the next few stages. As a hospitalera, I try to point out where there will be a water point, stores, cafes, etc. for pilgrims in the next day's journey.
 
Transport luggage-passengers.
From airports to SJPP
Luggage from SJPP to Roncevalles
The only one I would suggest, besides of course Michael's excellent Wise Pilgrim, is a pocket size Michelin map book that can help guide you back to the Way if you wander astray. I have only used mine once and yes did it come in handy. It was after some fellow pilgrims gave me very bad route advice on a dismal, rainy morning before Leon.
Apart from getting bad advice, or blindly following pilgrims in front of you, the most likely pilgrims to lose their way are the ones that don’t have the magnetic north gene like we are blessed with. I’ve more than thrice turned Pilgrim 180 degrees while they were holding a map. For some reason that little blue dot is interactive enough for them to get their bearings and back on track.

In the 10 years since I made the first app many pilgrims have asked for certain features which I have so far been reluctant to add. Things like itinerary planners, people finders, and the like, do not IMHO have a place in it. Those things have much better analog equivalents, and as @OlivierF hints above they do take our eyes back to the already addicting screen.

Some of my fondest moments in my earliest caminos involve a tattered piece of paper with a vague list of accommodation, a few beers among a few pilgrims, and the sketching of a plan that seldom saw beyond the next 60km. Ten years later that tactic was already losing steam, and 10 years more we (at least I) am seeing a slowing in sales of printed books. They are not as accurate with phone numbers and prices, but with any good editor you can assume they were on the day they were printed… and that is usually good enough for the pilgrim life.

So are they redundant? Yes they are. A bit like the extra pair of underwear you packed.
Are they useful? Yes they are that too, like the clothespins you stored away in case yesterdays socks did not dry fast enough on the line.
 
Printed books are expensive, but I love my growing collection of Camino guidebooks lined up in my bookcase with my other unrelated favorites, such as "Pillars of the Earth". I see them as any other collection of books a person enjoys and owns. I see the guidebooks differently than all the many helpful apps available in recent years.
 
A guide to speaking Spanish on the Camino - enrich your pilgrim experience.
I love my guidebook - the Village to Village maps-only version, thin and lightweight and with actual maps showing some detail and not just a simplified rough sketch. I make notes in it for next time, I can easily pull it out of my skirt pocket to check on the distance to the next place without using my phone, I can tell at a glance if the next stage has big hills, few villages, cash points ... I can show the map and info to other pilgrims, and quite often they are happy take a photo of the map and/or info rather than look it up online. I couldn't even begin to plan a new route with all digital devices, or storing my notes about what to see or do, where and what to eat and top accommodation tips on my mobile. I like to use Gronze.com, Godesalco.com and my Wise Pilgrim app for updates before I go, but on the ground I prefer to be able to see the route I will be taking, see the approx size of the next place, tell from the map if I should be crossing the road, which of the route alternatives is flatter/longer/in shade, where the next water is etc the old fashioned way. OK, so sometimes some of the info can be a little off, but in the main the route, distances and facilities will be the same, and my guidebook has never had a flat battery. YMMV.
 
Thanks for all the advice! Very kind of you all to take the time for it!

Although in software development myself, I have a deep respect for reliable, low-tech solutions. I actually only have a smart phone for a few months now - I rarely take it with me, but I can definitely see how it can come in handy when travelling solo abroad.

I want to properly prepare my itinerary and overnight stay for the first 2-3 days, I have slowly grown confident the rest will work itself out :)
 
Late April on the Camino Frances from Leon can be, as alluded to above, a case of following the rucksack in front. The route is very well waymarked. Pretty much everywhere that is going to be open for accommodation will be open. It may be a good opportunity for a digital-detox? A simple guidebook worked for me first time I walked the route in 2014 and it’s not changed.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
There is nothing better than a physical map. I like to know where I am in the broader countryside as well as just following the markers. On the Portuguese last year I left my guidebook at home and relied on the app. All good until days of rain got my phone wet and it shut down until I had a chance to dry it out.
 
I admit to being a fan of the Brierley guides and on the first Camino used the printed guide without support of any apps. In addition to the maps and other data, the short narratives describing the sights, history, etc. enhanced the experience for me.

But I am becoming a convert to digital technology. I used apps while trekking for a couple of weeks in the Alps this summer and they are hard to beat, especially when downloaded so they could be used without a cell connection. That said, I did have occasion to use a printed map and when I needed it, I was very glad to have it. At least for this pilgrim, the next Camino will be done using apps and maps. ;)

One aside: I had bought a new iPhone prior to my last trek. I went with the iPhone 13 Pro because I wanted the great camera and a few other features that I couldn't get with other models. For a month on the Camino, I do not think that I want this beast of a phone in my pocket. I will be looking for a smaller (i.e., lighter!) model before I set out for the next adventure.
 
Hi all,

I am doing the Camino Francés (my first camino!) from Léon to Santiago starting on April 22nd. I prefer to pack light so I was inclined to follow the recommendation to leave any books at home and just use the various apps and other online information to find my way, plan my route and search for places to eat or sleep.

I also encountered other recommendations saying that an up-to-date guidebook tends to have better information, the maps are very useful, you avoid staring at a screen, it can help discussing things with other pilgrims etcetera. So they recommend bring a guide book.

I can image that it also depends on how old the advice is. After all, in the realm of apps things can change quickly. Can people that have recently done the camino with or without such a guide book give me any advice on this? Of course, I can always buy it anyway and give it someone if I don't like the weight - but it's still good to know ;)

Thanks - Olivier
I've never carried a physical guidebook on my recent Caminos (in 1989 there were no apps - or phones to carry them on) although when I walked with my son he carried one until he accidentally left it behind at an albergue. I carried a mix of Kindle guidebooks and apps. And one should never forget websites like Gronze.com.

In general, I think apps are likely easier to keep up to date than paper books. Paper books cannot be more up to date than the date when the text was sent to the printer. Apps can be updated at any time. That's why paper books these days might say "check this URL for updates".

I'm not sure of the relative merits of staring at a screen vs a page. Either way, you are looking at text. A physical book can help with discussions with other pilgrims perhaps, but I never found the lack a challenge for those discussions. On the other hand, with an app you can see the map of the route (zooming in and out) and, most importantly, where you are, which can help if you go astray or want to see how far you have come.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I've never looked upon any book as redundant, lol. :D
I've walked multiple Camino's, multiple routes and still carry a guidebook every time and use it every time. I also have google maps on my phone, but to be honest I try my best to disconnect from the wretched electronic umbilical cord they have become and it stays switched off in my backpack or pocket 90% of the time. A sort of disconnect to connect to reality I suppose. Books never go out of style, and besides who wants to be that pilgrim walking with their nose buried in a device.
 
... and besides who wants to be that pilgrim walking with their nose buried in a device.
It is possible to use an app for directions but not while physically walking, just as one does with a book. It is also possible to walk with one's nose buried in a book (I've done that a lot when younger).

I'm not sure why having your nose buried in a book is so much better than having your nose buried in an device. (Speaking as someone who has more filled bookcases in his house than he can count and who was trained as a librarian.)
 
I tried splitting the difference between printed and digital guides on my Camino and took a copy of the Brierley maps guidebook along with two apps on my phone (Wise Pilgrim and Camino Ninja) that I used to preview my walk every day. I don't think I cracked the spine of the maps book more than once or twice, as the GPS on my phone always gave me a more precise location of where I was and where I was heading in the (very) few times I found myself off course, and there were plenty of online resources to consult on the backgrounds and histories of the places I passed through. The few guidebooks I bought before my walk turned out to be more useful for post-Camino reflections and remembrances after I returned home.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I am, perhaps, hopelessly old-fashioned, but while I have used both apps and books on Camino, I vastly prefer books.

They're less likely to break if when I drop them. They don't need to be recharged. I can underline and write notes in the margins. And having the physical object makes it easier to flip back and forth from one section to another.

But in this, like every other thing, it's mostly a matter of personal preference and how your brain works best.
 
I have to recommend the Scribd app - it does require a monthly subscription, but you could sign up just for one month and have access to so many books and audiobooks.

It has ebooks of several camino guides. When I was on the Camino in September it had Brierly's guidebook for the France, unfortunately that's not on it right now but it still has his book for Sarria to Santiago and a few others. Worked out a lot cheaper for me than buying the ebook on other sites.

It might be worth mentioning that the guidebook was not always up to date, especially for the prices it listed. I wouldn't rely on it for the lists of albergue's, prices, etc. But the descriptions of the day ahead and terrain were very valuable, and there are great passages on each town/city including all the historic points of interest. For albergues, I mostly used the Buen Camino app and this was also helpful for terrain and elevation, planning stages, etc.
 
I bought a digital guide book and never read beyond the third page. I remembered that I prefer to find my own way. The very few times that I left the marked track I had memorable adventures and met nice people.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I bought a digital guide book and never read beyond the third page. I remembered that I prefer to find my own way. The very few times that I left the marked track I had memorable adventures and met nice people.
To all the pro -tech mob, I have never used Gronze or Kindle. Books are at home on bookshelves to be taken down and read at leisure any time. Besides which, you cant get apps on the bookshelf! Nowadays as a kick starter I will look at the book FIRST and then check the apps on my phone. I still have paper maps as well to give me an overall view. Terrain doesn't change that much. I have a high tone hearing loss plus tinnitus and do NOT wear buds or anything else in my lugs! I use hearing aids so there isn't room for anything else! I am also under the Glaucoma umbrella and use medication for same plus I carry reading glasses. As I also have lung, heart and balance problems I use my Pacer poles to keep me upright as well as propelling me forward! I therefore prefer simplicity as my hands, eyes and ears are busy:) I can get seriously disturbed with high-tech being 84 nearly 85 and remember when people spoke to each other BEFORE smart phones etc were NOT the norm on Camino. Have fun kiddies and remember you WILL be crossing busy roads at some stage and you DO need to use your eyes and ears! Vaya con Dios amigos, and Buen Camino.

Samarkand
 

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