Navigation Functions


in this lesson

Not only can you access your maps in the field but you can also use the mobile app to navigate! By utilizing your mobile device’s internal GPS and compass, the mobile app’s navigation tools allow you to locate and orient yourself on the map as well as navigate your desired course.

This lesson will cover how to use the navigation functions on the mobile app. If you are looking for information on how to configure navigation options (such as how to set your north reference), please refer to the Config Tools lesson.

Topics on this Page:

The First Time You Use the Navigation Functions

When you open the mobile app for the very first time after installing it, the app will automatically check your mobile device for an internal GPS. Your mobile device must have an internal GPS in order to use the navigation tools.

If an internal GPS is detected, then the navigation tools (compass icon and location menu) will be displayed. If an internal GPS is not detected, the navigation tools will not be displayed.

The first time you try to access the location menu, a dialog will appear asking if you want to allow CalTopo to use your current location. The mobile app will only use your location when explicitly requested to center the map or record a track. You must allow location sharing with the CalTopo mobile app if you wish to use any of the location or navigation tools.

Allow CalTopo to use your location if you wish to use location or navigation tools

Locating Yourself on the Map

Locate Me

You can use your phone’s GPS to locate yourself on the map by pressing the crosshairs icon to the left of the location menu.

Click the crosshairs icon to locate yourself on the map

The map will automatically center on your current location which will be indicated by a blue dot. If your mobile device has an enabled internal compass, the cardinal direction that the top of the mobile device is facing (hold it flat in your hand for the most accurate reading) will be indicated by a blue arrow. The crosshairs icon will turn blue and the numerical heading (direction the top of the mobile device is facing) will be displayed.

Your location appears as a blue dot with a compass arrow. Your current heading is displayed at the bottom of the map viewer.

After approximately 20s the blue dot will turn grey but the heading will still be displayed. After approximately 30s the blue dot and the heading will automatically time out and disappear. Keep in mind that GPS accuracy depends on a number of factors including the actual design and quality of the GPS receiver in the mobile device itself but is generally within ± 15 ft.

Keep Centered

To keep your location continually turned on and centered on the map, press the 4 dot location menu and then select Keep Centered. This setting will keep your location on and centered on the map as you move around until you manually turn it off. Please note: continually using Keep Centered can result in increased battery usage.

Keep Centered in the four dot location menu

To turn off centering, press the 4 dot location menu and then select Stop Centering.

Stop Centering in the four dot location menu

North Up Map Orientation

The mobile app always has north up on the map no matter what direction you are facing. This type of map orientation is referred to as north up. The blue compass arrow will move to indicate the cardinal direction the top of the phone is facing. To get the most accurate reading, make sure to hold the phone flat in your hand with the screen up.

Notice the blue compass arrow moves to indicate the direction the top of the phone is facing as it moves from east to west and back again. However the top of the map does not move- north is always up in the map viewer.

It can take a little bit of practice to get used to but one advantage of using north up map orientation is that you always know which direction you are headed which makes it easier to communicate that to others.

Some GPS devices and apps allow course up (also called track up) map orientation. In course up, the map rotates so that the direction you are facing is up on the map. Depending on what direction you are facing, up on the map may be north, east, south or west. At this time, north up is the only option for map orientation in the CalTopo mobile app; you cannot change the map orientation to course up.

Navigate Tool

If you are looking for more guidance, look no further than the Navigate tool. You can use the Navigate tool to:

Straight line navigation is a good choice for finding and navigating a bearing for a specific point, such as a trailhead, hut, or other point of interest. However, keep in mind that straight line navigation is shown as the crow flies. It does not provide specific details such as the presence of switchbacks in the trail that may deviate from the straight line path and add to the actual distance. If you are looking for more precise navigation, then navigating along a map object, such as a line snapped to an already existing trail or a previously recorded track, may be a better choice for you.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of navigation.

Straight Line Navigation

To get straight line navigation to a specific point, long press on that point in the map viewer and select Navigate To from the dialog that appears. A straight as-the-crow-flies green and white line will appear from your current location to the point you long pressed on. In addition, a navigation dialog will appear on the bottom of the map viewer with a heading arrow indicating the direction you need to travel if necessary, the remaining distance and the bearing of your course.

You can also get straight line navigation to a marker that is already on the map. Click on the marker and then select Navigate To in the dialog that appears. As with long pressing, a straight green and white line will appear from your current location to the marker and a navigation dialog will appear at the bottom of the map viewer.

Navigate Along an Existing Map Object

You can also navigate along an existing line (including lines, range rings and bearing lines) or polygon object (including polygons, buffers and sectors).

To navigate along a line object, click on the object and select either Navigate (forward) to navigate the line in the direction it was drawn or recorded or Navigate (reverse) to navigate the line in the opposite direction.

Line dialog

Navigating a polygon is similar to a line object. To navigate a polygon, click on the object and select either Navigate (clockwise) to navigate the perimeter of the object in a clockwise direction or Navigate (counterclockwise) to navigate the perimeter of the object in a counterclockwise direction.

Polygon dialog

Whether you are navigating a line or polygon object, the green and white line will appear from your current location along the length of the line object or the perimeter of the polygon object. If you are not on the line or polygon already, a straight line will extend from the object to your current location. Similar to straight line navigation, a navigation dialog will appear on the bottom of the map viewer with a heading arrow indicating the direction you need to travel if necessary, the remaining distance and the bearing of your course.

Navigation Dialog and Stopping Navigation

Whether you are performing straight line navigation or navigating along an existing map object, the navigation dialog provides the same information and functions in the same way. Clicking the navigation dialog that appears will expand the dialog to include the direction you need to travel (straight, right, u-turn or left) as well as your bearing and north reference. Clicking the expanded dialog will further expand the dialog to include the coordinates of the point you are traveling to, your next waypoint if applicable and the remaining distance.

Navigation will continue until you have arrived at your destination or you manually stop it. To manually stop navigation, click on Finish in the most expanded navigation dialog and then confirm that you want to Stop Navigating in the dialog that appears.

Stop Navigating dialog

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