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There are only a few books about backpacking that I would recommend:

The Complete Walker III, by Colin Fletcher - This book packs a lot of entertainment and information.  He does not use particularly lightweight or high tech gear and the book contains a lot of tips for how to use ordinary materials and how to do without certain things.  Much of the book is told in the form of anecdotes.  Conceptually, I tend to look at things the same way he does, your tent being a house an so forth.  I thought that was dumb until I tried to live in the woods for weeks at a time.  Now I see the wisdom.

Backpacking:  Essential Skills to Advanced Techniques, Victoria Logue - The book I own and used, her "Backpacking in the 90's" is now out of print.  I'm fairly sure this is the updated version.  This is a great one if you camped as a kid, particularly if you were involved in scouting.  A lot of techinques, ideas and equipment that were acceptable then are just unthinkable now, and this will update you.  She and her husband have hiked the thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail more than once, so they've spent many a night outdoors.

Beyond Backpacking, Ray Jardine - Ray Jardine is the opposite of Colin Fletcher.  He is also a little bit crazy, but what he does do is explain the whole concept of Ultralight backpacking.  I've adopted a lot of his ideas and have my pack weight *way* down as a consequence.  I do not agree with him about modular sleeping systems and tarps require way too much fussing around for me.  Other than that, he's got some good ideas.

Make no mistake:  I own a lot of books on this subject.  I just think these are the most general.  Many are trail guides or are specifically for Appalachian Trail hikers, for instance.  And maps.  I love maps.

The best thing to do for maps is this:  contact the Unites States Geological Survey, and purchase the 71/2" maps for where you're going to hike.  If you're not lucky enough to live within driving distance to their map store, I pity you.  No, I'm kidding.  Mostly.  You can order your maps in advance of your hike.  If you have no idea what maps you need, you will need to order index maps for your state of choice.  I believe the index maps are free, but you'll probably have to pay for postage.  Most trail guides will tell you what maps you need for what trails, and if there's an REI near you, they will carry maps for nearby wilderness areas.  The nice people at Maptech also make map sets on CD for many popular areas, National Parks, etc, and you could print out what you need and carry them along.  I know my printer isn't big enough to do that, but maybe you're more inspired on that count.

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