GPS Navigation: Using CalTopo and Gaia GPS - 2024

Navigation Course

GPS Navigation: Using CalTopo and Gaia GPS

Join our beginner-friendly online workshop to unlock the potential for exciting and safe outdoor adventures using two empowering tools: CalTopo to create home-printable maps annotated with waypoints and routes, and Gaia GPS to guide you in the field along with your compass and altimeter. Curious? Listen to what the Blissful Hiker had to say after she took our class to prepare for a through-hike of the CDT, and get inspired:

This beginner-friendly class introduces the modern way to use both physical and digital/GPS-enabled maps—the core of wilderness navigation—in wilderness navigation. The class consists of two parts:

=== Click MORE for details on this course ===

  1. A self-paced online presentation with exercises that you must complete at home (approximately 4-6 hours). This is a serious time commitment, and we encourage the students to start early!
  2. A Zoom workshop (6:00 to 9:15 PM, optional introductions and social half-hour from 6:00 to 6:30 PM) that focuses on creating a customized home-printable physical map, and uploading this data to the Gaia GPS app on your cell phone. We will cover how to use the physical map in concert with the digital map (Gaia), a compass, and an altimeter (~2.5 hours).

Once you complete both parts, you will earn a Basic GPS Course badge.

Learning goals:

  • Understand that maps—both physical and digital—are the core of wilderness navigation and represent two of the five necessary tools.
  • Understand how to create physical maps to print at home specific to your planned trip, and how to upload these customizations in a GPX file for the basic operations of Gaia GPS.
  • Understand digital maps: how GPS works, the differences between digital maps, and how to download appropriate maps to Gaia GPS.
  • Understand what options are available for emergency communications:
  • Receive an introduction to the critical topics of Trip Planning, Workflow, Situational Awareness, and the Ethic of Self-Reliance.

Badges you will earn:

Course Requirements
Course Activity Date Availability Leader
GPS Navigation: Using CalTopo and Gaia GPS
Online Classroom
Wed, Jun 26, 2024
Registration closes Jun 23
22 participants
Required Equipment
  • Cell phone with the latest Gaia GPS app installed. You will need a premium (not free) Gaia GPS membership ($59.90/year). A one-year free Premium membership is available to all Mountaineers members (
  • An Apple- or Windows-based laptop or desktop computer. Tablets could work, but they are troublesome.
  • A magnetic compass, preferably with declination adjustment and a baseplate.
  • The following computer skills are required: The ability to download and upload files to your iOS/Android device and your computer via the internet, the ability to send and receive email, and the ability to install applications on your iOS/Android device.
Course Materials