The proliferation of backpacking and general outdoors guides has made it possible for the boot-and-tent set to spend more money on books than equipment. Which is okay, because it's nice to read about hiking when you're not in a position or mood to be doing it.

But for the beginning backpacker or the libraryless veteran who is seeking new trails to conquer, there probably is no better single volume than Meves' new book.

The jacket claims it is "the only complete directory of all major backpacking areas," which even with the qualification "major" is something of an overstatement. What Meves has done is to cover the high spots once over lightly, sketching what's available and telling where to write for maps and details.

Meves, whose credentials include service as an outdoor recreation planner for the Interior Department, has left out more than he put in, which was inevitable if the book was to be both portable (248 pp.) and affordable (although overpriced, like everything else).

Even so the book is well organized and edited and compresses a remarkable amount of information into its brief descriptions; one gets the impression the author has indeed hiked most of the areas mentioned.

The guide could have been the index volume to American backpacking if only Meves had spend another half-hour on the bibliography, which is all the time it would have taken him to list the regional source books he obviously had at hand for his research.