Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Have you ever grabbed your backpack and rushed out the door only to find out at the trailhead that you forgot to download your digital maps to your phone? When this unfortunate event happens, digital maps in the app appear fuzzy and out of focus as soon as you leave cell service. We have a solution for you: Gaia Topo.
Recently redesigned, Gaia Topo lets you download huge swaths of land in a matter of minutes without hogging up your phone’s precious storage space. Download an enormous wilderness area, a sprawling national park, or even your entire state — yes, the whole state — and never be caught without a downloaded topographic map again. Here’s how.
How to Download Gaia Topo for Offline Use
Downloading maps to your phone in Gaia GPS is easy and intuitive. Follow these steps to download your entire state, a park, or a wilderness area with Gaia Topo.
- Membership. Gaia Topo is free to use, however, downloading maps requires a membership. Make sure you have a membership to Gaia GPS to download maps.
- Select Gaia Topo as your map source. Open the Gaia GPS app. While viewing the map in the iOS or Android Gaia GPS app, click the Layers button at the upper right. Make sure to select Gaia Topo. Deselect all other maps sources for optimum download speed and size.
- Navigate to the area you want to download. You can simply pan the map by swiping or you can search points of interest or trails using the magnifying glass search icon. Simply type in a point of interest in the area you want to download, such as a peak, a lake, or a city, and select one of the suggested locations to direct the map to the area.
- Tap the “+” button at the top of the screen and select “Download Maps.”
- Select the area to download. After selecting “Download Maps,” you will be directed to the map, where you will see a red rectangle with blue dots at the corners. The area shaded by the red rectangle signifies what will be downloaded. Drag the blue dots at the corners of the red rectangle to make the area larger or smaller.
- Download a state, national park, or wilderness area. You can create one large box that covers the entire state or piece together multiple downloads to be more precise if the area you are downloading is not a perfect rectangle. The latter approach helps keep file sizes smaller and download times quicker, but it does mean you’ll have to repeat steps 2 through 6 until you’ve downloaded the entire area to your satisfaction. Don’t worry about overlapping the red rectangles — Gaia GPS will not download both areas after you’ve already downloaded one.
- Adjust the Max Zoom slide bar to adjust the detail level for the map download. The higher the zoom (1:12,000), the more detail the map will have but also the larger the file will be. If you’re running out of room on your phone, reduce the zoom (1:1,536,000) to make a smaller file size. Learn more about zoom levels here.
- Tap “Save” at the lower right side of your screen. A screen will pop up giving you the option to name your map and save it in a particular folder. Press “Save” again, this time in the upper righthand corner of the screen. The download begins, at which point the app goes back to the main map. To watch the progress of your download, tap on the Download Status spinning wheel icon toward the upper left of the main map in the iOS app. In the Android app, tap the Saved icon, then select Downloads from the menu.
Gaia Topo: Quick and Tiny to Download
Downloading maps is crucial to your adventure game because it lets you view maps and navigate in areas without cell service. Traditionally, downloading large areas of the map soaked up a lot of time and phone storage. But the completely retooled Gaia Topo takes the sting out of this process.
Hand curated and optimized for efficient downloads, Gaia Topo delivers minuscule download times and file sizes all while improving its style and detail. The chart below gives examples of download times and file sizes for large areas of the map. Of course, downloads speeds may vary depending on the size of the area downloaded, the zoom level selected, and internet speed.
Create Snap-to-Trail Routes from Anywhere
An added bonus of downloading the map for your entire state: you can now create snap-to-trail routes in areas without cell service. When you create a route in the field, snap-to-trail automatically follows the contours of the trail for you. This gives you the most accurate distance and elevation metrics available and builds your route quickly and precisely. Enjoy this seamless route planning tool with your Android and iOS devices, from anywhere at any time. No Wi-Fi or cell service needed.
If you’ve already downloaded the map for your entire state but would like to access snap-to-trail route planning offline, you will need to redownload the map. Here’s how to do so:
- Delete the map from your Gaia GPS account.
- Select the area you would like to download.
- Make sure “Include data to create and navigate routes offline” is toggled ON.
- Download your map, and you are good to go!
Ready for an Adventure Offline
Once Gaia Topo is downloaded, you will able to access the map even when your phone is completely offline and in airplane mode so you can locate yourself on the map, create routes, create and edit waypoints to mark important spots like campsites and water sources, and record tracks and follow them back.
Gaia Topo is free to use on gaiagps.com and on your mobile device through the Gaia GPS app. The free version allows you to view the map, plan a route, and search for trails all while connected to the internet. However, you will need a Gaia GPS membership to be able to download maps for offline use.
Try a Gaia GPS Membership to tap into a limited number of maps within the Gaia GPS catalog. The Premium membership grants access to the entire Gaia GPS map catalog, allowing you to layer and download multiple maps sources at one time. View the maps together to get a complete picture of the terrain you will encounter on your next adventure.
From Gaia GPS