Are questions like What are the most recommended guide/maps to bring on a PCT thru-hike? suitable for The Great Outdoors?

The meta question was also created to avoid excessive discussions about meta on TGO.

2 Answers 2


These type of broad "recommend a product" questions are not generally allowed in this type of Q&A — although I don't agree with the "short shelf life" reason given.

The problem is the author doesn't explain the problem they are trying to solve specifically. It would be like asking "what is the best digital camera?" Folks start posting their favorite opinions and there's no assumption of expertise that any answer is better than any other. That pretty much ignores the strengths of having this site in the first place. In short, the users are only left guessing what will actually help the author… specifically.

That's why we prefer very specific questions. If the author were to add a lot of detail about what problem they are trying to solve, including what type of information they are looking for, perhaps the users here could answer if one guide is more suitable than any other. But as it stands, this doesn't dig much deeper than a broad product recommendation.

  • I somewhat agree with your answer but I think it is missing the core of the issue. On a thru-hike, this is much more then a 'broad product recommendation'. Answering this question is not easy; only people with hands on experience are actually, in my humble opinion, qualified to answer it. I would love to see more long distance hikers using the Q&A format of SO. People experienced in the field of long distance hiking would more likely interpret the above question as a very specific question. Thanks for your reply.
    – ppl
    Apr 15, 2013 at 21:42
  • Concerning the lack of specifics in the question on what problem the author is trying to fix; The question is tagged with 'thru-hike'. However, it might have been better to specify the context (i.e., a 2700-mile thru-hike) in the question?
    – ppl
    Apr 15, 2013 at 21:57

One can imagine questions about equipment, at least, that would be acceptable. For instance, this question: Is it better to wear one pair or two pairs of socks while hiking? or this quesiton: How are sleeping bag temperature ratings determined?

both seem acceptable. At least, they're standard questions that beginning backpackers and campers often seem to ask.

My issue with that question you liked to, I think, is that is:

  • a broad question for general recommendations
  • a "plan my trip for me" question. We sometimes get questions that basically say "I'm going to X, what should I know about it before I go". Those seem like giant make-list questions.
  • Thanks for your answer David. What would you suggest to the author to narrow down this specific question? How specific should it be? I don't agree that the question is asking to 'plan my trip' as this question can be useful to anyone planning a thru-hike of the PCT.
    – ppl
    Apr 16, 2013 at 17:46
  • Maybe I shouldn't have put myself in the middle of this, I wasn't one of the people going back and forth... @RusselSteen's point seems valid. What you want is a very time-sensitive question (is a 3 year old guidebook still valid?), and the StackExchange sites are intended to be time-neutral. Also, I don't know whether this site as experts on the Pacific Crest Trail or not. Honestly, you may be get better answers if you found a forum populated by PCT hikers, they might have up-to-date info, and not have the concerns that a stack exchange does. Its a very good question, though.
    – DavidR
    Apr 16, 2013 at 18:30

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