I put two Camino guides on my wish list and got the Cicerone for a birthday present (Thanks Dad!). The other was the Wise Pilgrim book which goes with my favorite Camino App. My cousin got that one, so we’re covered either way!
The Cicerone book is very well put together physically (more on that below). It feels like it could take some abuse. I haven’t held the Wise Pilgrim guide in my hand so I cannot speak to that. I think I like Cicerone’s layout a bit better because it seems less crowded but it might also be lacking information.
The first 40 pages of the book are introductory and packed with helpful information covering the Camino’s history, routes, prepping, and general information that will be detailed inside. There are four main routes included in this guide: the Del Norte (Northern) beginning in Irun, the Primitivo (Original) beginning in Sebrayo, the Ingles (English) beginning in Ferrol, and the Finisterre add-on beginning in Santiago. When routes overlap, the book connects stages to each other to avoid repetition (this is why, for example, the Primitivo stages start with Sebrayo on the Norte split rather than Oviedo – its actual beginning.)
Each route is broken into stages which begin with a quick list of start/finish points, total distance, elevation ascent/descent, difficulty (both terrain and waymarking quality), plus a short of list of albergues. The stage is then given a summary description and then detailed beginning with a fairly high-level map. Text indicates turn-by-turn directions with occasional photos and points of information info boxes interspersed here and there. Albergue information is presented as they are reached.
One thing that concerns me is the usefulness of the guide if we do not follow its stage recommendations. I assume it would not be difficult to just bookmark a stopping point, but from that point forward it seems like it would be difficult to plan ahead very well. The Wise Pilgrim guide has no pre-determined stages, which might be helpful.
Size / Weight
OK this is kind of geeky info, but for those interested . . .
The Cicerone guide is (barely) small enough to fit in my back pocket (6.9 x 4.7 x 0.7 inches), and it’s hefty (12.3 oz. or 349 grams). By way of comparison, the Wise Pilgrim guide is it’s taller but also skinnier and thinner (7.3 x 4.5 x 0.4 inches) – it also weighs 1/3 less (8.2 oz. or 233 grams).
As to actual route content, we actually need less than half the book. Although I am no “Gram Weenie,” weight is weight and thumbing through pages is a waste of time. So, once planning is done, I may just remove these pages and bind them with tape or something to actually carry en route.
I am basically using these guides for planning purposes and hopefully won’t rely on them too much on the hike. Neither my cousin nor I want to become slaves to plans, so we’ll see how useful they are for that and likely rely more on arrows and advice once we start walking.