You can use the mobile app to record a track as you travel your route. Any track recorded with the mobile app will be automatically saved to your account and can be saved to a specific map. While you record your track, you can display information such as elapsed time, distance and elevation gain. You can also view data about previously recorded tracks such as the elevation profile as well as navigate the track in both forward and reverse directions.
This lesson will cover how to record and manage your tracks using the mobile app. In addition we will also discuss GPS accuracy since we frequently receive questions about this topic from users.
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Remember if you plan to record a mobile track in an area without a data connection, you will need to download base layers for that area ahead of time in order to view your track on a map while you are offline. Please refer to the previous lesson for instructions on how to download base layers for offline use.
You can record a mobile track using the CalTopo mobile app with or without a saved map open. If you wish to save your mobile track to a particular map, it is easiest to have the map open before you start recording your track. The screenshots below show the steps for recording a mobile track with a saved map open. If you did not have a saved map open, the process for recording a mobile track would still be the same.
To begin recording your track, click the 4 dot location menu in the lower right corner of the map viewer and select Record Track.
The Create Track Recording dialog will appear. By default, the track name will be today’s date. You can change your track name if you wish. If you don’t have a saved map currently open, the track will save to your account only. However if you do have a saved map open (as in the example below), you can use the Save track to drop down menu to set the track to either save to your account only or your account and the map that is currently open. Click Record Track and the track will begin recording.
The map viewer will center on your current location which will be indicated by a blue dot and compass arrow. As you move, your previous track will be indicated by an orange and white line. If your track is being saved to the map then your track will appear in the App Tracks folder on the Map Items page while it is recording
As long as you have a data connection, anyone viewing the map will be able to see your track. If you don’t have a data connection, the track will save locally to your mobile device and then automatically sync once a data connection is reestablished.
A Recording dialog will also appear in the bottom of the map viewer with the elapsed distance traveled and time as you move around. Clicking the Recording dialog will bring up a Track Information dialog with the track name, elapsed distance traveled, elevation gain and time as well as options for making changes to or finishing the track.
Click Edit to open the Edit Track Recording dialog. You can change the track name as well as where the track is saved. Click Update Track to update the current track with any changes.
Click Show on Map to toggle the track visibility on and off.
Click Finish to end the track recording. The Finish Track dialog will open and you can choose to either discard or save the track. If the track is set to save to the map, it will appear on the map and move from the App Tracks folder to the Lines & Polygons folder on the Map Items page.
If the track is only saved to your account, it will disappear from the map viewer and it will not appear in the Lines & Polygons folder on the Map Items page.
Whether or not you save them to a specific map, all tracks recorded with the mobile app will be saved to your account in Your Tracks (on the web) or Tracks (on the mobile app). At this time you can’t import gpx tracks from other devices or apps into Your Tracks.
To view tracks saved to your account on the web, click on your account name in the upper left corner and then select the Your Tracks tab.
Click on a track name to open up the Track Details page for that track. An interactive image of the track as seen on the map, the track name, start and end time, total distance, elevation loss and gain and options for exporting the track will be displayed. You will also see an elevation profile along with terrain statistics such as slope angle, land cover and tree cover for the track.
To add a track from Your Tracks to a map, you need to export the track from Your Tracks and then import it into the map. At this time there is no way to add a track directly from Your Tracks or the Track Details page to a map.
It is possible to view and add tracks in a particular area directly to the map using the Your Tracks overlay. For more information on this process, please see the Overlay Descriptions lesson.
To view tracks saved to your account on the mobile app, click the three bar main menu and select Tracks.
The Tracks page will open with all your tracks displayed. You can click the sync arrows icon to sync your tracks with your account and you can click the Edit link to show, hide, export or share tracks.
The eye icon to the left of each track name indicates whether a track is currently visible in the map viewer.
Clicking the eye icon shows the track in the map viewer. Tracks will appear as an unlabeled orange line. Currently it only shows where a track is on the map; there is no way to add it to the map as a map object or otherwise interact with it.
The information icon to the right of each track name opens the Track Details page. This page displays the track name, track URL (caltopo.com/t/xxxx…), last update and options for changing track visibility, sharing and exporting.
Tracks cannot be deleted from your account on the mobile app at this time. You can only delete tracks from your account on the web.
Users often ask about the accuracy of recorded tracks with the mobile app. Some users point to how track length and elevation recorded with the CalTopo mobile app may differ from planned routes or tracks recorded by other GPS devices or apps.
It's important to remember that many factors can influence GPS accuracy, such as satellite geometry, signal blockage or reflection, weather and climate conditions, and the actual design and quality of the GPS receiver in the mobile device itself. In addition, raw GPS data can be messy, and so some programs use techniques to smooth the tracks when recording or importing them, such as applying a smoothing algorithm.
At this time, CalTopo does not do any smoothing when recording tracks in its own app. This, along with a huge range of other outside factors, can cause the resulting recorded track to differ from the planned route or recorded routes from other GPS devices or apps.
Although the overall accuracy is still incredibly good, these differences are expected and are a normal part of the experience of using any GPS product. Check out this blog post for a more in depth discussion of GPS accuracy as well as the results of an interesting experiment comparing 4 different devices!