CalTopo Launches Off-Line App
With over 10,000 beta installs of their new mobile app for offline use, I think it’s accurate to assume that many are anxious for CalTopo’s launch of version 1.0 in January. (They are releasing both Android and iOS versions.) Fear not, digital map geeks: Version 1.0 has exciting new features, including access to Sentinel Satellite imagery, which I describe below.
Many professional and recreational skiers have depended on CalTopo to research and design tour plans. Unfortunately, it lacked offline mobile capability, requiring skiers to export routes into a mobile application like GaiaGPS, which enables your phone to have similar functionality of a traditional handheld GPS. Now, with the release of their own app, it will reduce tedious steps in the tour-planning process and provide a more seamless experience.
Ben Lantow, Business Operations Manager at CalTopo, told me during an interview in November that they were nearing the end of a long and tedious beta cycle. Lantow stated they were solving a few remaining stability issues and user-interface improvements, along with some minor tweaks and feature improvements.
To download the CalTopo Android or iOS mobile app, you can visit your respective app store. Prior to the January version 1.0 release, only beta versions will be available. Instructions for setting up and using the mobile app can be found in their knowledge base support section.
They will continue to offer a free version, but to obtain offline use you will need to subscribe to their basic or pro plans. Don’t get too worked up, though, since the price equates to a few ski straps and some wax at $20 and $50 per year, respectively. A breakdown of CalTopo’s pricing and subscription plans can be found here.
Here are a few notable features the pro version will include:
- Includes access to aerial imagery and all high-resolution imagery.
- All map layers are downloadable for offline use.
- Pro users can build customized mapping layers. Users can turn off, or on, mapping features, like roads, hydrology names, mining data, or change relief shading.
- Game-changer: One of the most interesting features of the pro plan is access to the weekly high resolution Sentinel Satellite imagery, which is part of the Copernicus program. The Sentinel-2 satellite images the globe every five days and provides impressive high-resolution imagery. As an example, you can use this imagery to obtain accurate detail on snow coverage, which will be extremely useful when planning spring tours. You can also blend the Sentinel imagery with their topo without obscuring the map features. For a more detailed explanation, visit this CalTopo blog. This feature is not available offline.
I’ve been using the iOS beta version for a few weeks. It’s buggy, but then again it is still in beta-testing phase. I’ve noticed improvements and patches added on a daily bases. Given CalTopo’s dedication to continually improving their product, I anticipate that eventually backcountry tour-planning will become a more seamless experience via the release of their mobile application.