Meet Zach Irvin

Zach first came to Gaia GPS as the primary Adventure Support staffer in early 2014, but more recently switched over to working with the engineering team, doing QA on app releases.

Zach wanders around Texas testing Gaia GPS, and also creates and executes manual test plans. Zach’s work is a key step in the QA of Gaia GPS, which also includes automated unit tests on the source code, and a thriving beta test community that vets each release of Gaia GPS for iOS and Android.

Zach earned his bachelors degree in English from Sam Houston State University, and joined the PhD program at Texas A&M University. Zach is currently on deferment from A&M, while he raises his new daughter. Zach lives in College Station, Texas with Hazel and wife Ruthie, another Gaia GPS staffer we’ll profile in the weeks to come.


Gaia Team Profile: Aashima Talwar

Aashima Talwar joined Gaia GPS as a software engineering intern this summer.​

Her main project has been to revise, update, and improve the style of the Gaia Vector Topo Map. This has bridged a wide variety of skills, including writing CartoCSS, working with Postgres, working with Git, and more. Aashima has also spent time learning more about writing Javascript, and developing websites.

Aashima earned her Masters degree in IT from India. She previously worked at Microsoft (Redmond) and AtosOrigin (Singapore) doing mainly database development and provided business intelligence solutions.

She lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter.

New Appalachian Trail Unsupported Record

Yesterday, Heather “Anish” Anderson completed her southbound hike of the Appalachian Trail, and set the unsupported speed record. The trail spans 2,189 miles, which Anderson covered in 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes, averaging 42 miles per day.

appalachian trail unsupported record

Anderson as the finish Line on Spring Mountain in Georgia

Anderson is currently the PCT unsupported record holder as well, and is the first person to ever hold both records at the same time. Matthew Kirk set the previous unsupported record, completing the hike in less than 59 days.

Another hiker, Scott Jurek, set the “supported” thru-hike record last month. A supported hiker doesn’t carry much gear, and receives assistance along the way. An unsupported, or self-supported, hiker carries their own equipment for the entire length of the trail.

You can read more about Anish’s historic hike at Fans followed her journey on the Anish Hikes Facebook Page:

Welcome Ashli Baldwin

We’ve been remiss in introducing everyone over the years, so we’re doing short profiles on the folks at Gaia GPS. We introduced Aileen Gardner last week, and going chronologically backwards in time, we’re featuring Ashli Baldwin today.​

Ashli brings serious outdoor cred to the Gaia team, having recently thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. She spends her weekends outdoors and weekdays with Gaia GPS. Ashli joined the Gaia GPS Adventure Support team about 6 months ago, and her work spans user support, Gaia GPS documentation, marketing, and much more.

Ashli also has her own outdoor blog, Tentside, and she also writes articles for the popular Appalachian Trail blog Appalachian Trials. She has a degree in music from York College of Pennsylvania, and is an avid musician and expert flautist.

Ashli Baldwin - Gaia GPS Adventure Support

Gaia GPS for Android update – v6.0.3

You can download the new release of Gaia GPS Android (v6.03) from the Google play store, or update your device.

Most noticeably, we fixed the lagging display of waypoints/POIs when panning the map. Check out the release notes here for full details, and you can also view release notes in the app.

Send us your comments and bug reports to If you have any feature ideas to improve the app, submit them to the Idea Forum, and get notified about progress and community comments.

android POIs

POIs and waypoints will show smoothly on the map again.


Expanded coverage for elevation lookups

The Gaia GPS elevation lookup service, which is used when marking waypoints, and when planning routes, now includes worldwide coverage, going from 80°S to 80°N. The elevation data previously included some gaps, which could result in incorrect results in some areas, these gaps have now been corrected.

Map of elevation coverage
These updates were made possible by Nasa’s recent release of 1 Arc second SRTM digital elevation models, and by the addition of ASTER GDEM elevation models to cover the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Test it out now at

Use Your GPS Tracks to Update OpenStreetMap

In a recent blog post, we showed you how join OpenStreetMap and help build an open map of the world, alongside millions of other map editors. That post focused on editing the map by comparing to aerial imagery.

This new article covers how to use your GPS recordings (such as those you might make in Gaia GPS), to edit roads, landmarks, and other information into the map. Remember, OpenStreetMap doesn’t just mean roads – it includes trails and everything else of interest to hikers.

Record GPS Tracks and Waypoints

First, you need to go take a hike or something similar, and record tracks and waypoints. With Gaia GPS:

    • Download maps (iOS/Android) of the area you plan to explore ahead of time so they’ll be available without a strong internet connection. 
    • Start recording (iOS/Android) your track. 
    • It’s easy to add photos along your route (iOS/Android); the app will automatically geolocate or “attach” them at the proper locations. 
    • After you’ve finished recording your track, you’ll see a waypoint pin at the location where the photo was taken. Simply tap the pin to see your photo.
    • You can use your photos to contribute to OSM too, but we’ll leave that for another post.

        Completing Your GPS Track

        Once you’ve finished recording your track, you’ll have the option to customize the name (iOS/Android) and add it a folder (iOS/Android). If it’s one of several trails you plan to hike in Yosemite, for example, touch the folder icon to add the track to a new “Yosemite” folder.

        Gaia GPS will save your track and edits automatically, so there’s no save button on this screen. When finished, use your Android’s built-in back or undo button or tap done on an iOS device to exit the window and go back to your map.

          • Next, export the GPX file for your track. You can do this from within the app (iOS/Android), or by downloading the file from By default, your data will sync to anytime you launch the app when connected to the internet.

        Uploading Your GPS Track to OpenStreetMap

        While OSM won’t automatically convert your track into a trace on the map, contributors can use it as a guide to add it manually. You can either trace over the path yourself, or make it public so other editors can access it.

            • Click GPS Traces at the top of the screen. You’ll see a list of the most recently uploaded traces.
              • Click Upload a trace at the top of the screen.

        Openstreetmap, gaia gpsClick on GPS Traces at the top of the screen to upload your file to OSM.

        openstreetmap, gaia gps

        You’ll see a list of the most recently added traces. Click Upload a trace to add yours.

          • On the next page, browse to select the location of the GPX file on your computer. You can also include a description, add tags, and set its visibility to Public. Click what does this mean? next to the visibility drop-down for more information on visibility types.
            • Click upload (the upload button is hidden by the dropdown in the screenshot below).

        openstreetmap, gaiagpsSelect and describe your file, then set its visibility.

        You’ll receive a confirmation of your submission, and a message saying that you’ll be notified by email once it’s been added to the OSM database. This usually happens within a few minutes. When you receive the email, click on the link to see the OSM page for your trace.

        openstreetmap, gaiagpsYour track’s page on OSM. Click edit to start editing the map at that location.

        Using Your Trace to Edit OpenStreetMap

          • Next, click edit to view your track superimposed over aerial imagery within the default editor. The track is so detailed that it may seem difficult to trace. But not to worry – OSM actually has three editors. One of them, Potlatch, will automatically smooth out and simplify the line.
            • To view and edit your trace in Potlatch, click the down arrow next to the Edit button at the top of the screen, then select Edit with Potlatch 2 (in-browser editor). You can also follow these steps to access Potlatch directly from your file’s OSM home page.

        openstreetmap, gaiagpsYour track is superimposed on top of imagery in the default OSM editor.

        While Potlatch looks different from the default editor, it works in much the same way. OSM displays basic instructions at the bottom of the screen.

        openstreetmap, gaiagps

        The trace is simplified in the Potlatch 2 editor.

        Simply click on a blank (unmapped) area of the map to start drawing a new way. Since your trace isn’t officially part of the map yet, OSM considers it a blank space.

          • Click on your track’s starting point to begin tracing over it, and click to add nodes where it begins to turn. The Potlatch editor makes this process much easier. Since Potlatch smoothes out your track, you’ll need fewer nods and less time to trace it.
        openstreetmap, gaiagps

        Follow your track to add it to the map as a new feature.

          • When you’re finished tracing, press enter on your keyboard (or double-click on the last node).
            • Next, you’ll need to add tags on the left. While the left panel may seem a bit crowded and complex when compared to the default editor, the idea is the same, except that Potlatch uses icons to offer a quicker, more visual way to tag features.
              • Set the feature type. Click Unknown, then choose Paths, then Footpath.
        openstreemap, gaiagps

        Tag the new feature.

        There are several tabs in the left pane; the first two are the most relevant to my path through Ringing Rocks Park.

          • After adding basic information on the first tab, click on the second tab and add a tag for the Surface field. In the example below, I’ve tagged the trail as an unpaved surface.
        openstreetmap, gaiagps
              • Feel free to explore the remaining tabs and add more information.
                • Click the Save button at the top of the screen to save your edits.
                  • You’ll be prompted to add a description of your edits for the community. For example, I wrote: “Added the trail/footpath that goes through Ringing Rocks Park.”
                    • Be sure to tweet or Facebook your edits to get your friends mapping too.

        Check back a bit later, and voila, your travels are now on the map for all to see!

        image (6)

        Your track is now mapped and visible to millions of users.

        Learn More about Uploading GPS Traces to OpenStreetMap

        Recording, uploading, and using your GPS tracks to contribute to OpenStreetMap is really quite simple and fun. You may just find yourself wanting to know more. Here are a few resources:

        We’re looking forward to seeing your traces on OpenStreetMap!


        Welcome Aileen Gardner – Adventure Support

        We’re delighted to welcome Aileen Gardner to the Gaia GPS team. She’s been training with us the last two weeks as the newest member of our Adventure Support team, and she’s already jumped in with thoughtful editing and other contributions to writing and marketing.​

        Aileen adds another smart and outdoor-focused person to the Gaia GPS roster. She earned her B.S. in business administration from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She once did a 4-month roadtrip, replete with backpacking and mountain biking, and now spends all her free time exploring the mountains and trails around Portland.​

        Fun fact: Around this time next year, Aileen is likely to be answering your adventure questions from an off-grid tiny house in the mountains of Central Oregon. She is currently hashing out design details for a 150-200 square foot eco home, and construction is due to start next summer. Living a fairly simplified life already, and spending the majority of her time outdoors, it seemed only natural for Aileen to venture further off-grid, into a smaller space.​

        adventure support

        Caption: From Aileen’s weekend hike on Mt. Hood on

        Technical Post: Generate test cases for geojson rendering

        We render lines on the map in Gaia GPS, like when you record or import a track. It’s a tricky problem to do this perfectly, where the tracks always look smooth and precise.

        Recently, I wanted to generate tests cases that would clarify bugs in our line rendering, to make it easy to isolate and remove bugs.

        This Python script generate GeoJson spirals and sawtooth waves, which I used to expose bugs in our rendering.


        2 Sawtooth shapes

        Gaia GPS User Poll Results

        We conducted a poll to find out how people use Gaia GPS in last week’s newsletter.​

        We have never done this before, so we found the results both interesting and eye-opening. We expected people to be more heavily hiking/backpacking oriented, but instead we found a very diverse crop of hikers, off-roaders, hunters, firefighters, search and rescue technicians, and more.​

        With over 450 people responding, this poll probably has some statistical significance, but we won’t make any scientific claims about the data. ​

        If you have another cool story to add, email us at You can also add #gaiagps on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and we’ll share your adventures with the Gaia GPS community.

        "I use Gaia GPS when training for and racing in ultra-marathon events."

        “I use Gaia GPS when training for and racing in ultra-marathon events.”

        Gaia GPS Poll Results

        • Hiking/Backpacking (42.6%) – Conceived and built by avid hikers, Gaia GPS was created for this purpose, so it’s no surprise this is the top category.

        Gaia GPS Poll Results

        • Jeep/Off-roading (23.2%) – A lot of off-road Gaia users prefer tablets, even mounting them into their vehicles and using the large screen to navigate. Gaia GPS has become the go-to app for off-roaders, and we’ve often seen Gaia GPS crop up places like, and a dozen other vehicular websites.
        • Hunting (13.7%) – A large percentage of GaiaPro users are hunters and use specific map sources to view property boundaries.
        • Search and Rescue (4.4%) – SAR technicians use Gaia to plot and navigate to precise locations using GPS coordinates.
        • Research (2.9%) – Biologists, Geologists, Archeologists and other research professionals use Gaia for collecting location data in the form of waypoints and photos.
        • Flying (2.9%) – Pilots use the guide me feature to navigate between waypoints, and use Gaia GPS for reconnaissance missions.
        • Other – (10.4%) – Over 10% responded that they use Gaia for a different purpose. We wanted to know what, so we asked people to write in and tell us exactly what they use Gaia for.
        Alma Helicopter Base, CA

        Alma Helicopter Base, CA


        One of the top categories that we were reminded of was cycling. It’s no surprise that cyclists use Gaia from roads to trails–most often doing one of these things:

        • Bike-packing
        • Bike touring/Long-distance biking
        • Mountain Biking


        As mentioned above, some people use Gaia GPS for professional endeavors such as Biology, Archaeology, and Search and Rescue. ​

        Woodland firefighters and SmokeJumpers use Gaia to help plan escape routes, mark fire lines, and track the fire’s progression.

        People also use Gaia GPS to do land and property surveys.


        Gaia users are athletes. Here are some of the sports that users wrote in about:

        • Ultra-distance trail running
        • Cross-country skiing
        • ATVing
        • River Rafting
        • Sea Kayaking
        • Horseback riding
        • Adventure Motorcycling

        Creative Exploration

        The hobbies people use Gaia GPS for don’t stop there. People pursue many passions with Gaia GPS.

        • Cave documentation
        • Trail documentation
        • Nature Photography
        • Metal detecting 
        "I use Gaia GPS for Mountain biking, Nature photography, and Hiking."

        “I use Gaia GPS for Mountain biking, Nature photography, and Hiking.”

        And of course, people  use the convenience of Gaia GPS  maps while traveling abroad, where they can’t get an internet connection, and need some offline maps of even a city.