Saturday, October 24, 2015

Subscriptions Go Live

While I don't expect this news to be greeted with thundering applause, CalTopo subscriptions are now live.  Based on feedback from y'all, I moved to a two-tier pricing model:

You can still create, share and print maps for free, but prints will be limited to 5 pages of 8.5x11 and KMZ and MBTiles exports will be size limited.

At the moment, the Pro level is simply everything the Basic level has, but bigger - maybe I should have called it "super size" instead.  Unless you really need large-format PDFs or large scale KMZ or MBTiles exports, I realize it may be a tough sell for $50 at the moment.  However there are some additional features slated for the Pro tier that I'm pretty excited about, and some of which will carry significantly increased costs, and I don't want to be stuck needing to raise prices in six months.

For the detail-oriented, there a few sneaker items in that table:

  • PDFs can now go to 48" instead of just 36".  Perfect for those with access to office plotters and ink purchased by the barrel.
  • The maximum PDF length is now 40 pages, but multipage PDFs are limited to 8.5x11 and 11x17.  If you absolutely need a 5 page 24"x36" PDF, you'll need to make five separate documents and combine them on your own.  That keeps my server much more sane.
  • The default PDF retention limit is now 7 days.  Most people don't need a linkable PDF longer than that, and PDF data was becoming a significant portion of my total DB size.
  • KMZs now go to 200 images instead of 100.  Be aware that most Garmin GPSs won't handle more than 100 images across all KMZs loaded on the device, because Garmin wants you to buy BirdsEye imagery instead.
  • MBTiles exports are now possible.  This has become the go-to tile storage format for smartphones, and I'm excited to offer it.  More on that in another post, but if you use an app that already licenses my map layers, such as Gaia or Backcountry Navigator Pro, you're generally better off downloading maps directly through them.
In addition to those user-facing features, I also upgraded (again) to a new server with twice the RAM.  For the second time in a year, CalTopo had started experiencing short, intermittent outages from running out of memory during heavy usage.

I've tried to keep nagging to a minimum and to avoid full-page "Upgrade Now!" popups.  I'm firmly convinced that CalTopo has a solid value proposition and that the site itself is my best sales tool.  Unavailable options are grayed out and have an upgrade notice nearby, but otherwise, there's plenty of opportunity for new users to discover why the site is so valuable, instead of me beating them over the head with it.

If you are signed in, and are not a subscriber, you will also see an upgrade link in the top menu:

To change your account status, or simply find out more about it, go to or click on your account in the left bar, choose the "Your Account" tab, and then the "Change Status" button.  You'll see something like this:

Payments are handled by Stripe; your credit card number goes straight to their server and I never handle or know it (other than the last 4):

Any problems, please drop me a line at  SAR members and people who have previously donated should contact me directly for a redemption code.


  1. $20 seems reasonable to pay for more than casual use of the site.

  2. Good decision. I just paid my dues. Even though I don't use the $50 level features, I subscribed at that level as a good-faith payment for the past few years of usage. In the future I'll probably drop to the $20 level and be happy. I'm very glad you are going this route, and I hope it plays out in a way that lets you enjoy life and concurrently provide a great service to users like me.

  3. Glad to see you are getting compensated for the great work you have put on this site.

  4. maaaan. I get it, but I print like 2 maps a year (13x19), and am dirt poor. I will miss it.

  5. Thank you Matt for working on ways to try to continue the service going. It is a great resource.

  6. Only reason I noticed the difference was when I was to save another map and when I went to print a 11x17 and couldn't. I was disappointed till I read this article, maybe with this support we can get you some better hardware so the PDFs render faster!

    Thanks for what you do and this program it has already saved me $1000 in maps, so a little $50 check is well worth it.

  7. The larger sized PDFs aren't just for those with plotters! They are, by far, the better way to go with apps like Avenza's PDF Maps, for use in the field. Lots more detail. Even the 13x19 option on the Basic level is gonna be a pinch for some hikes.

  8. I've tried several times to access the upgrade page over the last week and it keeps saying the page is not available. I've cleared my cache & cookies but still can't access it. Is the page down right now?

    1. It's visible to me and people have definitely been able to pay during the past week.

      Can you send me a screenshot to That would help me figure out what's going on.

    2. I'm having the same problem when I click on the Upgrade button! I get a message saying: The address wasn't understood ...

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  10. I just discovered your Caltopo and told a friend who is a diehard hiker. He mentioned that the topo maps are excellent but showing of hiking trails is only fair. Unless convinced he plans to continue using his REI maps. The REI maps show many more
    trails which is the main reason we carry maps.

  11. How can I subscribe without using stripe?