Friday, December 6, 2019

New Website and blog!

CalTopo fans and supporters!

We have migrated to a brand new (and very much improved) website and blog. We will no longer be maintaining or updating this blog going forward. All content (including comments) has been migrated to our new wordpress blog and you can find that at

The new website will be shown the first time you access and you can navigate to the content anytime at


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Motor Vehicle Layer

A brand new Motor Vehicle Use Map layer (MVUM) is now live on the site. This incorporates national BLM and USFS data sets to provide a single streamlined layer for offroad drivers and overlanders to utilize. This was a commonly requested layer and we're happy to have it live!

A bunch of random notes on this layer.

  • We went with different styling than the USFS or BLM maps so that we could combine those data sources seamlessly. The key is in a photo here, and available by clicking MVUM Info in the layer menu or the top right corner of the screen.
  • The layer hasn't been packaged for download yet, we wanted to look for errors or bugs with it online for 1-2 weeks first, then we will package it for download. It will be there for the final app release (and yes, available offline with a subscription)
  • We are still attempting to add additional data sets to the layer so if you have a favorite offroad system that is missing, feel free to send the data to us and we will do our best to incorporate additional data sets
  • We left the listed opening and closing dates off each road since they change season to season and based on conditions, instead we just note a seasonal closure road (so be ready for those upcoming winter closures)
  • We also do not have the backcountry camping information from USFS, they print this on their maps, but do not distribute it digitally so there was no way for us to add that information(bummer).

If you use this map, feel free to send feedback to

Monday, August 26, 2019

Optimizations to Subscriptions

We have been hard at work making the CalTopo Android and iOS apps a better experience. We recognize many of you haven't had a chance to try out the app yet, but based on feedback from our current beta testers, it's clear that using a data quota for mobile downloads is confusing. With that in mind we are switching from a quota based approach to a layer based approach for offline downloads.

The switch to a layer based approach only applies to offline use, while connected to the internet you will not see any changes at all to your subscription. This change will take place in approximately two weeks, from now until that time basic users can continue to download all layers. We will not be removing or restricting access to any data already on your device.
  • Basic users will be able to download a nearly unlimited quantity of standard resolution topographic maps including MapBuilder Topo. Scanned 7.5’ Maps, FSTopo, and the MapBuilder Overlay. You will still be able to use overlays and tools such as the slope angle shading layer and shaded relief.
  • Pro users will be able to download a nearly unlimited quantity of high resolution topographic maps as well as download a nearly unlimited amount of any aerial imagery layers including MapBuilder Hybrid and NAIP Aerial Imagery. You will also have access to all offline overlays and tools.
  • Desktop users will notice we renamed what was formerly the "offline" account level to desktop to avoid any confusion between the app and desktop. Access to the offline application for Mac and PC remains unchanged. Your account will include all the benefits of the pro subscription above for the mobile app as well as up to 300GB of data downloads for the Mac and PC app.
More information is available on the CalTopo website:
Thank you for your continued support of CalTopo. Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns to

Friday, August 23, 2019

App Updates for the Weekend!

Thanks to all your feedback and beta testing, just in time for the weekend, we are releasing an update to both our iOS and Android apps! On top of general usability and stability fixes this release includes huge improvements to the offline downloader, improvements in recording tracks (and recovery if the app crashes while recording), and a few UI tweaks. The biggest news is due to numerous requests this release includes access to the layer we are calling Weekly High Res (Sentinel imagery layer) in the app for all pro subscription holders. While available in the app, this is only available online at this point. On the web this layer is still available to everyone, but disclaimer this will be restricted to pro users on the web as well at some point in the near future. We still have improvements to make, but keep that feedback coming, many of you will see things you specifically requested in this release or in a release coming soon! If you already have the app, you should see the update push out based on your settings for updates (wifi, power, etc). If you don't have the app yet, Android app is in the play store. The iOS app can be downloaded here (you'll need to install Testflight from the app store first): #justintimefortheweekend #caltopo #mappingevolved #getoutside #exploration #maps #topography #adventures #mountains #hiking #backpacking #skiing

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Come work with us!

CalTopo is growing and looking to fill two developer positions!  These are full-time remote positions, but do require California residency for health insurance related reasons.

The following are not required but are considered pluses:

 * A CalTopo user or outdoor enthusiast.  This is a position where domain knowledge matters.

 * OK with occasional travel to Truckee, CA (potentially up to several days a month, generally less).  Although the position is remote, face time can be important for collaboration.

 * Familiarity with some portion of our stack (Java for the website backend and Android app, Swift for iOS, Javascript and JQuery along with a growing sprinkling of React and TypeScript on the front end, and Python / PostGIS / GDAL / Mapnik for map rendering).

While applicant dependent, a likely distribution of work is going to be that one developer will focus more on the Python stack and new map layer development, with the other developer working on the site and app.  We are open to all experience levels, but there's a preference for more junior candidates (0-5ish years), as our current development team of 2 is fairly senior, and less-experienced candidates would help even out the mix.

Benefits include health insurance (coming soon, thus the California residency requirement), generous PTO, not having to commute to work, and of course the opportunity to work on an amazing product that's widely used in the outdoor and first response communities.  How would you like to build the next revision to MapBuilder or add the next killer feature to the app?  CalTopo has big plans, come help us realize them.

For more information or to apply, email

This could be your new office...

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

iOS Open Beta + New Android Release

Better late than never, CalTopo's iOS app is now available for beta testing via TestFlight.  The Android beta has also gained significant new features to match iOS, and both apps will maintain feature parity going forward.  Changes include navigation, importing and exporting files, improved track recording, and additional map layers.  You may also notice our new logo!

To use the iOS app while in beta you will need to install TestFlight and then join the public beta. Directions and download are located at:

The app and most of its features are free and will remain that way, however in order to download offline maps you will need a CalTopo subscription; the basic subscription offers 5GB/year of offline map layer downloads for $20 per year. You can subscribe here: (

At this point the app's major features are complete, but there are still lots of improvements to be made, including around battery life.  You may find errors or glitches still.  We want your help working these out!  Please let us know if you run into any problems with the app, or you love or hate something about the app with as much detail as possible so we can continue to make improvements.

We're very excited to share this next development with all of you and can't wait to hear what you think!

A few screenshots from both Android and iOS:

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sentinel Satellite Imagery

Note: due to the costs of accessing this data, it may be restricted to paid CalTopo accounts at some point in the future - we're going to leave it public as a trial run and see how that goes.

It's been a long, heads-down grind here at CalTopo as we work on the app, and new desktop features have been put on hold for now.  Occasionally, however, something crosses our desk that's so exciting that we can't not work on it.  Sentinel imagery is one of those features, and I haven't been able to put it down since discovering it yesterday.

Thanks to the Copernicus program, its Sentinel satellites, and the Sentinel Hub aggregation site, CalTopo's low-resolution MODIS daily satellite imagery is now supplemented by high-resolution Sentinel imagery on a weekly update cycle (Sentinel-2 images the globe every 5 days, but to keep things simple, the CalTopo UI uses weekly blocks).  For now, the layer is named "Weekly High-Res".

As with MODIS, once you select the layer, there are some configuration dropdowns:

When it comes to pre-trip planning, I truly believe this is a game changer - and that's not a term that's thrown around lightly at CalTopo.  How good is it?

A major use case is checking snow coverage for spring or summer trips, for example Mt Whitney.  MODIS can often give you a rough sense of the snow level to +/- 1000', but here's what it looks like zoomed in:

By comparison, here's a Sentinel image taken sometime in the past 5 days:

Dialing the clock back two weeks (+/- the 5-day acquisition window) gives a sense of the melt rate.  For exact dates, you'd need to consult Sentinel Hub's playground.

Say you want to know how 2017 (another high-snow year) compares to 2019?  Setting the timeline to "2 years ago" shows slightly less snow than the most recent shot from this year, but given the melt rate and uncertainty around exact acquisition dates, I don't think you can draw any conclusions other than the years being roughly comparable:

If you're not familiar with the Whitney area, a satellite image alone isn't going to help orient yourself.  Here's MapBuilder Topo blended with false color Sentinel imagery, giving a good visual of snow coverage without obscuring the map features:

Beyond snow coverage, here's a pair of images showing how Lake Powell's changing elevation over the past two months has impacted a canyon (show in false color so that the water is easier to identify):