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Pune/ India, Irvine/ CA, now Boulder/ CO
Welcome to my blog! I'm Hrishi from Pune, India. I am an earth system scientist currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at CU-Boulder. Here I mostly write (though not as frequently as I hope to) about my travels, landscape photography, scientific computing, book and film reviews, fitness, cooking, and science communication. Feel free to navigate based on the labels below. My website: hrishikeshac.wix.com/hchandan

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Navigation while hiking: 2. Printing a map from caltopo.com


      Smartphone-based navigation (introduced in the previous blog-post) is not very smart if its battery gets discharged, or it gets wet or falls off a cliff (more so, while still being inside your pocket). Hence, carrying a printed topographic map is a 'smart' idea.

      There are many ways to get a map, but the most cost-effective and yet customized way, I have found, is to print a map yourself using Caltopo.com within 5 minutes.

      1. It is free
      2. It lets you choose from tens of different map layers! It has an excellent map layer called MapBuilder Topo. Not only does this layer have trails and topographic contour information, it looks super pretty. It also has a 3D look to it.
      3. You can add more layers to it. My favorite is Gradient Slope Shading. This layer shows terrain slope below 20 deg, 28 deg, 40 deg, 55 deg, and 60 deg. Experiment with different layers. If you have multiple members in a group, that's great- you can mix and match layers!
      4. You can import your custom trails (say downloaded from hikingproject.com, for example)
      5. You can create your own route! And creating it is super easy as it guides you through its own database of trails. So drawing a trail is not 'freestyle' and would not look like a 3-yr old's work.
      6. You can manually place markers along your routes. These can be, for example used to mark approximate camping spots or simply to count miles.
      7. Once you import or create your own trail, it can also provide information on its slope/ gradient.
      8. Finally, the default printed map shows important map features such as declination (Needed if you would pair the map with a compass), scale etc.

      So, here is the short pictorial tutorial to printing a map from caltopo.com.

        Base layer: This is what the MapBuilder Topo layer looks like. It has info from 7.5' Topo Maps, Forest Service, satellites etc. The layers can be selected from the right-side window, by selecting a baselayer, and adding more layers to it. 

      Additional Layers: The map showing two of my favorite layers: 40ft Contours (which adds contour labels more frequently than the default layer), and Gradient Slope Shading. This layer negates slope estimation using contours and makes for a speedy, color-coded read of the terrain. For most casual hiking, you want to stick to Green and Yellow areas (~ below 28° slope).  

      The trail: A trail file (.gpx, .kml, or .kmz) can be imported (Top Menu bar). Alternatively, a custom trail can be quickly created. Add New Object> Line. Then the trail database becomes highlighted as yellow, and you can just start dropping points while keeping the 'Snap to' option to 'OSM'. Tada! You can also change the color, width, and other properties of the trail line. Here I am creating a trail for Four-Pass Loop in Colorado by roughly tracing over the highlighted, yellow lines.  
      Trail details: By clicking on the trail and selecting 'Terrain Statistics', you get a graph showing how the elevation, slope, as well as the land cover changes with distance along the trail. This is immensely helpful in planning your hiking pace, rest and camping stops, etc.



      Print settings: Finally, for printing, you can specify the paper size, format (Jpeg vs pdf), orientation (landscape vs portrait). I would recommend keeping the scale as 'not fixed'. This will enable printing your map for your given paper size, while keeping the scale variable. 


      Finally, here is how the final downloaded jpeg file looks like! :)

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