Field Team Readiness

about this training

This is a training unit that you can use with your team to prepare field team members for using the CalTopo app when responding to a mission. It covers the basic requirements and skills needed to be effective with the program as a field responder. This training is meant to be implemented by someone who already has a solid understanding of SARTopo.

This training assumes you have a team account subscription and all field team members are connected to that account. If you don't have a team account, please visit the user guide to learn more about how to share maps.

Goal: Prepare field team members to respond to a mission using SARTopo for navigation and track recording.

Team members should be able to complete the following tasks by the end of the training:

  • Open a team map in the mobile app and add markers and tracks to that map.
  • Download the appropriate base layers and use the mobile app effectively offline.
  • Turn on and off location sharing settings.
  • Enter given coordinates, add a marker, and navigate to it.

Estimated Time: 1-4 hours, depending on field site selection.

Equipment Needed: Team Account Subscription with all participating members added, Smartphones with CalTopo app installed.

Prep Work:

  • Read the entire training plan before implementing it. You will need to plan a scenario and set field clues ahead of time.
  • Depending on the setup you choose, some field prep work may be necessary to set clues and/or to get your team ready to function offline.

References/Topics that are covered in the User Guide:

There are two versions of this training: one that can be done online on a platform such as Zoom, and one that can be done in the field as a group.

Field Version

1. Choose and communicate a training location:

Consider if you will have good cell coverage or wifi at the meeting point. If not, field team members will have to do more prep work ahead of time in step 3 before meeting in person, and they may need some guidance.

2. Develop your scenario:

Create a SARTopo map to go with the scenario and put it in your team maps bucket. Keep it simple to start with. All you need is a marker for the LKP, and maybe one for the meeting place.

3. Prep the team:

  1. All team members should download the CalTopo app and login to sartopo ahead of time.
  2. If no cell coverage is available at the trailhead or meeting point, or is questionable, instruct team members to download base layers from home or in cell service before coming to the meeting site.
  3. Make sure your map from step 2 is in the team account, and let the team know the map name. Team members should open the map before arriving in the field to make sure it syncs.
  4. Don’t forget your usual training prep - including safety plan and expected gear.

4. Deployment:

  1. Communicate your Mapping Expectations:
    1. Team members should record a track to the training map. Before they leave the meeting point, have them start tracking, and tell them exactly how to name their track.
    2. Have team members turn on shared location if practical (ie if there is some or full cell service.) If no cell service, consider practicing with using inReach tracking and shared locations.
    3. Explain what and when team members should add markers to the map, and what to communicate via radio.
  2. Field Exercises:
    1. Navigate to LKP on the map while recording a track to the map. Report arrival via radio. Verbally communicate coordinates in two different coordinate systems.
    2. Provide a new set of coordinates over the radio, or via a clue at the LKP if you can go there and set it ahead of time. Team members should enter the coordinates into the app, add a marker and name it, and navigate to it. Radio in.
    3. If cell service has been available so far, team members should go into airplane mode to simulate using the mobile app offline. Repeat step ii with a new set of coordinates. Radio in.
  3. Return to base. Finish and save tracks. Turn off location sharing.


  1. What went well?
  2. Did anyone have trouble with a certain step?
  3. Were tracks named and saved correctly?
  4. How can you improve the process within your team?
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    Additional Skills:

    Leaders who are well-versed in CalTopo and SARTopo can consider training field team members on the following skills also. Just keep in mind that if your team members are very green, adding too much in their first training will mean they don’t get the repetition of basic skills that are most necessary for deployment. All topics are covered in the User Guide:

    • Using line bearing.
    • Turn object display on and off.
    • Change coordinate display.
    • Use layers and overlays to learn about the terrain.
    • Adding a bookmark.
    • Switching maps to view other data, even while recording a track to the original map.
    • Viewing their own previous tracks.

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    Adapting for Online Training

    This class can easily be taught online and even recorded for members who are unable to attend it live. Below is a list of suggested adaptation and strategies so you can still get your team up to speed and ready for the field.

    • Have team members watch the training via their computer, but have their smartphone with the CalTopo app ready to go.
    • You can still set one team map for the training, and share it as you normally would.
    • Team members can practice recording a track to the training map by walking around their house.
    • While they won’t be navigating all the way to a point after entering the marker into the app, they can still practice entering the coordinates and turning on the navigation function, or thinking about how they would get to that point.
    • Have team members add a marker at their location. Have them look up the coordinates and send them in the meeting chat to show they know how to find the coordinates.
    • Go through the training online, but then give team members a week to go out into the field and perform various tasks, such as recording a track to the map, navigating to a point, etc.

    Additional Resources to Prep Your Team

    Here are a couple of short videos you can ask your team members to watch in order to prepare for your training.

    Mobile Layer Download

    How to download background base layers to prepare to work offline.

    Marker at GPS

    How to find and set your location and add a marker to the map at that point.

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