Digital mapping tools like CalTopo and Gaia GPS can take your trip planning to the next level.

Learning to combine wilderness navigation skills with digital mapping tools can have a big impact on your backcountry experiences. For the high lakes angler, it can extend your reach to destinations and fishing you’ve only dreamt of.

If you haven’t ventured down this path yet, it’s a great time to start. The knowledge and training has never been more accessible, and record snow levels in the Cascades have provided us with extra time to prepare for the approaching high lakes season.

Option 1

Our March meeting featured a presentation on Modern Backcountry Navigation by Steve McClure of The Mountaineers. The organization is pioneering how to instruct navigation that merges ‘map & compass’ with digital navigation tools. In fact, Steve recently rewrote the chapter on wilderness navigation in their 9th edition of ‘The Freedom of the Hills‘, long revered as the “bible” of mountaineering.

If you missed the program, or would like to view it again, you’ll find the 2-part recording on the Hi-Lakers Vimeo page. There’s a lot to learn here regardless of skill level.

Part 1 – Learn about the 4 core principles of navigation, the 5 navigation tools, navigation workflow, and situational awareness. Steve then uses CalTopo to create and print a physical map, and demonstrates how to plan a trip to an off-trail high lake.

Part 2 – Learn about the Gaia GPS app, how to use GPX files, the 3 methods of GPS navigation, some tips & tricks, and a smartphone power plan. Steve ends the presentation with a look at The Mountaineers and their “Ethic of Self-Reliance”.

Option 2

If you’re ready to start planning your own adventures with CalTopo and want an in-depth tutorial, check out CalTopo for Trip Planning: Start to Finish. Taught by the CalTopo team and hosted by Steve, this 2-hour webinar covers the basics of planning a trip, including navigating the map tools, saving and sharing maps, working with layers and overlays, using CalTopo mobile app, creating routes, and more.

Option 3

If you prefer a hands-on approach, Steve leads a course titled GPS Navigation: Using CalTopo and Gaia GPS. This entry-level class introduces the modern way to use both physical and digital maps in wilderness navigation. The class consists of a self-paced online presentation and a live Zoom workshop that focuses on creating custom maps, uploading map data to the Gaia GPS app, and ties together how to use the physical and digital maps together along with a compass and altimeter. Note: May 19th is likely the last opportunity to attend this course until fall.

These are just a few of many opportunities out there to level up your navigation skills with modern tools. Have you discovered a helpful resource on the subject? Share it in the comments section and tell us how it helped you!