Choosing a Guide

Editors Note: this is part two of a ten part series we are doing on overlanding advice.  Future PanAm overlanders this is for you.  They post each Sunday.

During our travels we utilized Church’s Camping Guide, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and Footprint guide books. They’re all useful and great for quickly learning a brief history on each place we visited and cover the popular highlights.  But most travel guidebooks are written for your fly-in, bus-riding, tour-taking tourist.  For overland travel, the information on accommodations and road conditions is inadequate at best.

The Shoestring Editions

We started out with Lonely Planet and their Central America (shoestring edition) book and thought it was a great value. Then again in Argentina and Chile, Lonely Planet books offer good information on roads and camping.  The countries in between and the South America Shoestring edition were not worth the cost.  Lonely Planet’s strong point is in their walking maps of downtown areas.  And as the travelers standard, they do a good job of introducing restaurants, bars and cafes, but even in that department we felt that Footprint had a better handle.

We found the Rough Guides South America book to be almost completely useless. They do a mediocre job including places with parking but that’s about their only strong point.

We found Footprint to be the best overall and most consistently recommended by other overlanders.  They always indicate when hostels have parking, lay out camping options, wifi availability, and contain good detail on overland routes and road conditions.  But even these guys miss most of the camping opportunities, and rarely list the campground amenities.

Routing the old fashioned way with our paper maps

Church’s Camping Guide to Mexico is different all together.  Their book is dedicated to camping. Church’s wins for mapping detail (down to the exact km marker), routing options, camping details (bush, organized, beachside, hidden gems, etc), as well as locations of gas stations and supermarkets.  We wouldn’t think of entering Mexico without it.

Aside from guidebooks, the absolute best way to seek out your camp south of Mexico is through the camping lists created by fellow road warriors. Adding to the lists by seeking out your own piece of land is truly what overlanding is all about.

These are a few of the camping lists (in English) we have stumbled upon. We’ve also translated a few camping lists not listed as there are countless options available online in German.

Nessie – Very recent with great bush camping
White Acorn – A classic list from 2009/2010
Dare2Go – A little older but another classic
PanAmNotes – Clearly the most awesome
Moon – Fewer locations but solid info on amenities
Tortuga – Tried and true, lots of info

Ultimately the guidebook is just a resource and the more often you find yourself tossing it aside in favor of a self inflicted lost on purpose adventure, the better.

Spots like this beat organized camping every time