Trip Planning in Topo Maps+ Part 1

If you are like me, you can’t go backpacking every weekend. When you do get out you want to make it the best outdoor experience possible. Maybe you want to see mountains, alpine lakes & meadows, go through high mountain passes, and still make it to camp by 4:30 so you can relax and enjoy camp in the evening.  If you try and hike too far or have too much elevation gain the experience just isn’t as fun. Instead of basking in the beauty and wonder of nature while you hike, all you can think about is getting to camp and falling into your bed.  On the other hand, if you don’t push yourself a little you might miss out on some amazing remote alpine lakes or lush meadows with snow covered peaks looming over them.

One of the biggest keys to having an awesome trip is planning.  When you take the time to plan out your trip, you are taking the first step towards creating amazing outdoor memories that will last a lifetime.

In this training video I will teach you how to plan your next outdoor adventure. Most of what I teach in this video can be done using the free version of Topo Maps+ on the iPhone.

Topo Maps+ for Mac Survey


I’m VERY close to finishing early access for Topo Maps+ on macOS.

I have been working on this for awhile, but I am finally going to wrap it up. I will be releasing early access next month.

If you are like me, you can’t go backpacking every weekend. When you do get out you want to make it the best outdoor experience possible. I want to see mountains, alpine lakes & meadows, go through high mountain passes, and still make it to camp by 4:30 so I can enjoy camp in the evening.

I spend lots of time planning every day for my backpacking trips. I want to know how far will each day be, what will the elevation gain/loss be, what will the terrain be like, and what will I see?

You will soon be able to do this on your Mac with Topo Maps+.  All of the planning you did with routes, tracks, trails, and waypoints will sync between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

HOWEVER, I need your help. Before I finalize everything, I need to make sure I have covered everything.

That is where you come in. Please take a few minutes to answer this super-short survey—there is really only one thing I want to ask you …

What is your #1 single biggest outdoor trip planning challenge? You can answer this question in the comments below.  I will read every response.


Mac TopoMaps+ 5



Managing Downloaded Maps

Topo Maps+ has a few different ways to delete any maps you have downloaded to free up more space on your device.

1. Delete individual maps regions

When you are downloading maps you can tap on already downloaded map regions to delete them.  This works well when you need to just delete one or two regions, but it can be tedious when you need to delete a larger area.


2. Select multiple regions

When you are downloading maps you can tap on “Select” in the upper left corner and then select all of the regions you want to delete.  If you have Topo Maps+ PRO you can zoom out and select larger regions as well.  Your selections don’t have to be areas that are fully downloaded.  When you then tap on the “Delete” button on the toolbar, all of the downloaded maps in the selected regions will be deleted.

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3. From My Downloaded Maps

You can see which maps you have downloaded and their sizes by selecting “My Data” and then “My Downloaded Maps”.  Here you will see all of the types of maps you have downloaded, how much storage each map type is using, and the total storage for all of the maps.  If you wish to delete all of the maps you can scroll down and delete all of the maps.

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You can select individual maps to see a list of downloaded regions for that map and to delete just that one map type.  You can select the individual downloaded regions to jump to their location on the map.


Topo Maps+ PRO

Progress on Trail

Navigation isn’t the only reason to use a map while hiking.  Often you want to get an idea for how far you have traveled and how far you have left to go. Should we stop for lunch now or wait until we get to the lake? How much farther do we have left until we get to the top of this brutal up hill? Should we stop here for the night or push on to the next campsite? While you could use the Topo Maps+ record feature to record your hike to know exactly how far you have come, it will not tell you how far you have left to go and if you are on an extended backpacking trip you probably don’t want to drain your battery with GPS constantly running to record your hike. Using trail segments along with progress along a trail now lets you easily answer these questions without recording your hike. It is awesome (and a bit magical feeling) to have this information while hiking deep in the backcountry. Honestly, this feature is pretty amazing to experience. So go out into the backcountry and try this out 🙂

Trail Segments

Topo Maps+ will automatically analyze a trail to create segments from trail junctions, waypoints, and photos.  A trail segment is a portion of the trail between two locations of interest on the trail.

Download Larger Areas

Sometimes you just want to zoom out and download larger areas. With Topo Maps+ PRO you can 🙂

My Photos Overlay

I don’t know about you, but I take a lot of photos while I am out hiking. They become an integral part of my outdoor experience and the memories I create while spending time slowing down, getting off the grid, and basking in the amazing beauty and magnificence of nature.  With Topo Maps+ PRO you can see where you took a photo, see what direction you were facing when you took the photo, and you can create a waypoint from the photo. If you need to remember a location to return back to it (i.e. where you parked your car or a maker for where you started bushwhacking) you can just take a picture with the camera on your iPhone and then later go back into Topo Maps+ to see where that picture was taken and to turn it into a waypoint.

Snap To Trail

Custom Routes

When you select a trail on the map you can also move the crosshairs at the ends of the trail.  You will be able to move these crosshairs over trails that connect to the trail that the crosshairs are on.  This lets you easily create new routes from existing trail networks.

Edit Tracks and Routes

Sometimes you need to edit routes or recorded tracks.  With Topo Maps+ you can easily edit a track or route.

Natural Atlas

Map Overlays

With Topo Maps+ PRO you can create custom maps by overlaying maps on top of each other.

Grid Overlays

With Topo Maps+ PRO you can add latitude/longitude or UTM grid overlays on your map.

Data Overlays

In Topo Maps+ PRO you can control which data overlays the map.  Maybe you just want to see the trails and waypoints for your current backpacking trip or maybe you just want to see the data you have collected for a single hunting season.


Sometimes the information you want to track on the map can’t be captured with just waypoints and routes.  For example, maybe you want to keep track of an area where you found good huckleberries or a property boundary that you want to stay in while you are hunting or a region where you have searched.  With Topo Maps+ PRO you can add regions to the map.

Keep your iPhone from dying in the backcountry.

I have brought my iPhone backpacking since I got my very first iPhone in 2008.  I can consistently get three days of usage with one battery charge.  Often I can make it for four days.  The one exception was when I decided to take this photo sphere on Hawkeye point in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.  Here are the tips and tricks I have learned to make my iPhone extend as long as possible in the backcountry.

It is important to understand what drains your battery.  There are some things that drain your battery much faster than others.  The big battery drains are powering the screen, GPS, and radios (cellular and WIFI).

  1. Airplane Mode. Put your iPhone into Airplane mode while you are out.  This will turn off the cellular and WIFI radios.  As of iOS 9, GPS can still work when you are in Airplane mode.  Toggle Airplane mode on and off is really easy.  Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or down on an iPhone X) and tap on the airplane icon.


  1. Limit GPS Usage. Go into the Settings app then select Privacy->Location Services and change all services to “Never” and only leave on the few apps you want to have access to GPS.  I only leave on the Camera (I want my photos to be GPS tagged) and Topo Maps+.
  2. “While Using” Permission. Go into the Settings app then select Privacy->Location Services and change all services to “While Using” (unless you have a good reason to leave one of them as “Always”). This way apps can only use GPS if you are using the app.  This gives you control over when GPS is used and when it is not used. You will see a blue bar from the app if it is using GPS and the app is not in the foreground. I also make this change for Topo Maps+. This way I know that no apps are using GPS when I don’t want them to. A lot of apps will check in with a server and update their location via GPS. Putting your phone into airplane mode and changing the permission to While Using won’t let apps do this.


  1. Don’t Record – Use Progress Instead. In Topo Maps+ I just check my location, I don’t record trips.  (I record day hikes, but not multi-day backpacking trips.)  Instead of recording your trip use Progress Along Trail to save battery and still find out how far you have come and how far you have left to go.
  2. Limit App Usage.  When I am in the backcountry I only use the Camera and Topo Maps+. I use both of them a lot, but I don’t use any other apps.  Plan ahead for which apps you plan on using and stick with that plan i.e. don’t play games 😉
  3. Screen Brightness. Turn your screen brightness down as much as possible.  I leave the screen brightness way down when I am taking photos and I turn it up a little bit when I am using Topo Maps+ for navigation.  You can also easily change this by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.  By default your iPhone will automatically adjust your screen brightness.  This means that even if you turn it down, the iPhone will turn it back up in bright sunlight.  You will want to turn this off so that you can have full control over the screen brightness and keep it lower than your iPhone will want to adjust it to.  In the Settings App Select “Display & Brightness” and then turn off “Auto-Brightness”.


  1. Start With 100% Battery. Start following these tips when you leave the house, not just when you get to the trailhead.  Don’t waste a lot of your battery while you are driving to the trailhead.
  2. Power Off At Night. At night power your phone all the way off.  Tap and hold on the power button and then slider over the power slider.
  3. Low Power Mode. In the Settings App select Battery and then turn on “Low Power Mode”. Do this, even when my phone is at 100% battery.
  4. Raise to Wake – turn off this feature so your screen doesn’t keep turning on every time you lift the phone.

I generally upgrade my iPhone every one or two years, so I don’t have old batteries.  As batteries get old they don’t last as long.  So if you have an older iPhone, your usage may vary.

Want to go even longer?

My wife bought me a GoalZero Nomad 7 solar charger for Christmas.  It is awesome!  Now I can use my iPhone for more than 3 days and I can take photo spheres.  It weights just a little more than a book and it is about the same size as a book.  Since I have the power, I now read books on iBooks, Olive Tree, or ESV (I had the privilege of working on the Olive Tree and ESV iOS apps) instead of bringing a book.  So if you bring a book backpacking you can swap it out for a solar charger with very little extra weight or space in your pack.

How I Use Topo Maps+ to Plan a Backpacking Trip

Routes For Each Day

First I break the trip up into which trails we will hike each day.  To do this I select the trails on the map and then change the end points on the map to find out how long and how much elevation that section will be.  When you select a trail on the map you can move the crosshairs at the ends of the trail to make a new route.  If there isn’t a selectable trail for where I am going, then I trace out the routes.


Click here to learn more about interacting with trails.

The Devil’s Dome Loop starts with a brutal climb, so I decided to make the first day a bit shorter.  When you save your new route you can see the total elevation gain, total elevation loss, and distance in the elevation profile view.  Once I have a route for the day I change the name for this custom route.

To make the route stand out on the map, I then generally change the color.


I will then do this for each day of the trip.  Now, when I zoom out I can see the full loop, with each day’s segment in a different color.

Waypoints For Points of Interest

Once I have the routes set up for each day, I add waypoints for points of interest on the map.  I do this so that those points stand out on the map, and because waypoints are automatically indexes for route sections in Topo Maps+ PRO.

To add a waypoint to the map simply tap and hold on the map, move the crosshairs to where you want the point, and then tap on Add.

You can customize the name and icon for the waypoint once you add it to the map.

Click here to learn more about waypoints.

Organize The Data with Categories

Next I create a category for the trip and add all of my data to the category.  This lets me keep all of the data for the trip organized.  You can access the Category from “My Data” -> My Categories.


Scroll down to the bottom of the Categories to add a new one.  You can give it a name and either choose a built in picture or add your own.


Next select “Add Items to Category” and select the routes and waypoints for the trip.  Alternately, you can select each item on the map, then select Add to Category, and then select the Category you just created.


Click here to learn more about working with Categories.

Sync My Data

Next I sync my data so that it is backed up and so that I can use all of this data on my other devices.  Often I will do these planning steps on my iPad and then use these data on my iPhone when I go out.

To sync your data just select “My Data” -> “Sync.


Click here to learn more about syncing data.

Check out Flickr Photos

I like to see what an area will look like before I get there.  With Topo Maps+ PRO I can look at public Flickr photos along a trail.

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Share With Friends

Once I have all of the data for the trip ready to go I share it with my friends that are going on the trip.  This lets them have this data in Topo Maps+ on their iPhones and for the ones that use Android it lets them import the data into the app they use.  While you can export the data, I generally share it.  When you share data it uses a custom Topo Maps+ share format that preserves more of the Topo Maps+ specific information and it lets me update the data and my friends using Topo Maps+ just get the updated information and not duplicate information.

From the Category for you trip, scroll down to the bottom and select “Share Category”.  Then select “Share Map Data with Friends”.  Finally, tap on the “Share” button.


This will bring up your iOS options to share.  Give this link to your friends.  Those who use Topo Maps+ can use the “Import into Topo Maps+” button on the web page.  The others can use the export to KML or GPX buttons.  Most mapping applications support importing KML and GPX files.

Click here to learn more about sharing data.

Download Maps

Now that I have all of the data for the trip, I download all of the maps for the trip.  Tap on Download in the toolbar and then tap on all of the grids you want to download.


Click here to learn more about downloading maps.

Print Maps

Finally I print out the maps for the area I will be visiting.  I never solely rely on technology so I make sure I have printed maps with me.  When you print maps from Topo Maps+ it will print the custom trails and waypoints you added to the map.  If you don’t have an AirPrint printer you can print to from your iOS device, you can email yourself the file to print and then print it from another computer.

To print a map, select “Prepare” -> “Print Map” -> “Print the map on my printer”.


Next pan and zoom the map to get the area you want to print inside the box.  The actual printed map will use zoomed in images inside the selected box.  Once you are ready to print the map, just select “Print” in the upper right corner or “Preview” to see what it will look like.  I generally print out multiple maps for larger trips like this one.

Simulator Screen Shot Aug 11, 2016, 10.43.59 AM  customMap

You can use the “Map Options” to change settings like the size of paper or to change to landscape.

Simulator Screen Shot Aug 11, 2016, 10.44.05 AM

After following these steps I have all of the data for my trip, the maps are downloaded and ready for offline use, and I have printed maps of where we are going.  Now its time to hit the trail and have a great time.

Syncing Topo Maps+ Data

In Topo Maps+ you can sync all of your created data (routes, tracks, waypoints, tags, regions, etc) as well as your purchased maps and subscriptions between all of your iOS devices and Mac.  Syncing your data lets you plan a trip on your iPad or Mac and then use that data on your iPhone.  Also, when you sync data, a copy of your data gets pushed to the Topo Maps+ servers.  This is a good way to make sure there is a backup of your data.

To sync your data, tap on the “My Data” button in the top left of the screen and then select “Sync My Data.”


To sync your data you must have a Topo Maps+ account, so if you are not yet logged into your account or if you don’t have an account you will see the login screen.  Fill in your email and password and tap on the “Login” button.


If you need to create an account just tap on the “Create Account” button, fill in your email and password, and then tap on the “Create Account” button again.


Once you are logged in, Topo Maps+ will sync your data to the Topo Maps+ server.

When you are hiking, most likely you don’t want Topo Maps+ using extra battery to keep your data in sync.  By default Topo Maps+ will automatically keep your data in sync when you are on a WIFI network (i.e. at home) and it will not sync your data when you are on a cellular network.  You can change this setting and the setting for automatic sync in the Topo Maps+ settings.



You can have as many of your iOS devices sync with the server as you want.  Devices sync with the server and not directly with each other.


What to do when Topo Maps+ stops working.

As much as I wish I could write perfect code all the time, the reality is that I can’t.  (Actually no one can.)  From the first time I took Topo Maps+ out backpacking I added protection against this.  If Topo Maps+ started to crash I wanted to be able to get it back to a state where I could at least have my offline maps and use GPS.  There are a number of settings for Topo Maps+ in the Settings App you can use to get it back into a working state.  Be aware that some of these will delete your data, but not your maps.

Before you head out on an adventure I recommend that you do a sync to backup your data.  You can do a sync by selecting My Data in the toolbar and then tap on sync.

If you are deep in the backcountry and Topo Maps+ starts crashing here is what you can do to be able to use your maps.

Open the Settings App and Select Topo Maps+.

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Start by toggling on “Reset Settings” and then try opening and using Topo Maps+  This will reset the settings for the app.  It will not delete your data, just the last location you were viewing, the map you were using, etc.  When you open Topo Maps+ the map may not be visible because you may not have the default map at the default zoom level downloaded.  To get back to your downloaded maps, tap on the map icon in the bottom right corner and select the map you were using.  Then tap on the location button in the toolbar and zoom in on the blue dot until you see the map.

If you are still unable to see the map you can tap on the Prepare tab in the toolbar and then select “Manage Downloaded Maps.”  This will show you a list of all downloaded maps.  You can select one to see it.


If doing a reset setting does not work, the next thing to try is to delete data.  There are two types of data you can delete.  You can deleted the selectable trails and you can delete your routes, tracks, and waypoints.  Any data you have sync’d will restore back to your device once you get back to WIFI and can do a sync.

To delete the selectable trails toggle on “Delete OSM Trail Data” in the Settings app and try opening Topo Maps+.


To delete your routes, tracks, and waypoints toggle on “Delete My Data” in the Settings app and try opening Topo Maps+.  Please note that this will also delete your map pass or Pro until you get back to WIFI.  While you are out in the backcountry you don’t need a subscription to view your high resolution maps, you just need the subscription to download new ones.  Once you have an internet connection Topo Maps+ will automatically check and see if you have purchased a subscription.  Also, once you have an internet connection you can do a sync to restore your routes, tracks, and waypoints.


While I am much better at writing in Objective-C and Swift (the programming languages for iOS) than English, bugs can still occur in Topo Maps+.  If you unfortunatly run into one of these bugs in the backcountry using  these three settings will hopefully get you back up and running with offline maps and GPS.

What’s New in Topo Maps+ 4.1

Topo Maps+ 4.1 is now live in the App Store with some great new features.


Do you ever need to remember something about a waypoint or route.  Maybe it is how to find an amazing huckleberry patch to make the perfect pancakes.  In Topo Maps+ you can take notes on waypoints and routes.  Read more here.


Dates for Tracks

When you view tracks you can now see the date for when that track was recorded.


Change to GPS Auto Center

When you turn on the setting to auto center the map on GPS updates, Topo Maps+ will wait until the new GPS point is at least 10 meters from the old GPS point to update the map.  This will let you scroll the map without auto center jumping you back to your current location.


Waypoint Popover 

When you select a waypoint on the map you now get a summary popover.  When you tap on the popover you get the full details for the waypoint.


Changes for Topo Maps+ on Apple Watch

  • Routes on the watch now show more coordinates so they don’t skip corners.
  • On the Apple watch, trail overlays don’t show up if they are turned off in the app on the phone.
  • Fixed zooming on Apple Watch

Performance and Bug Fixes

  • Performance fixes for scrolling the map.
  • Fixed a case where low resolution maps would render instead of high resolution even if you have an active map pass.
  • Fixed a few crashes that can occur while scrolling or zooming.
  • Fixed a case where trails picked up the wrong location when it was on a vertical line.
  • Fixed a crash with importing files.
  • Fixed sync progress not updating.
  • Fixed a case where the map can deadlock and freeze the app.
  • Fixed a case where the recording buttons would be faded out.
  • Fix for battery draining more with recording tracks.

Interact With Trails


Topo Maps+ 5 includes over 500,000 trails that can overlay the maps.  You can tap on any of these trails to see their distance and to get an elevation profile.


You can rename the trail or tap on the settings to customize how the trail looks on the map.

  Simulator Screen Shot May 25, 2016, 3.54.55 PM

In the elevation profile you can move the crosshairs to see the distance and elevation between any two points in the profile.  When you do this the trail on the map will highlight the section of trail that is between the crosshairs in the elevation profile.

When you zoom in on the map, it will show the distance between trail segments, right on the map.  As you continue to zoom in, you will see red dots at each of the trail junctions.

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When you trace your own rotes you will also see red dots where they intersect other trails and you will see distances between trail segments.  In these examples the brown route is a traced route.

Simulator Screen Shot May 25, 2016, 4.08.27 PM Simulator Screen Shot May 25, 2016, 4.05.01 PM

With Topo Maps+ PRO, when you select a trail on the map you can also move the crosshairs at the ends of the trail.  You will be able to move these crosshairs over trails that connect to the trail that the crosshairs are on.  This lets you easily create new routes from existing trail networks.

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If there is a gap in the trail network you add your own trace routes between any two trails to connect the trails.  Here is an example where the brown trail joins the two green trails.

Simulator Screen Shot May 25, 2016, 4.15.36 PM

To learn how to trace a route on the map click here.