Use Google Drive off-line to store trip documents


This tip comes from Alpinesavvy reader Tim Donner, thanks Tim!

Disclaimer: this tip is not directly related to alpine climbing, but it's pretty handy, so here it is.

Say you’re planning a climb or backpack trip. Useful documents for pre-trip study and field use could include:

  • .pdf map(s) made in Caltopo, perhaps at a couple of different scales covering your entire route, ideally with a GPX track file of your route drawn on it

  • a .gpx track file of your route

  • a scan or photograph of guide book pages

  • Google Earth screen grabs, ideally with a KML file of your route drawn on it

  • If you're leading a larger group, perhaps: 1) a roster of trip participants, with personal and emergency contact info; and 2) a general info document (prospectus) for participants with all needed trip details

Here's a convenient way to store all the documents you might need for a hike or climb off-line on your phone, and have access to them when you’re outside cell coverage.

A few notes:

  • The instructions below are for iPhone; Android peeps, I'm sure you can follow along.

  • I find it easiest to do this on a desktop computer.

  • This method uses the cloud on Google Drive, so to do this, you need a free Gmail account. It’ll probably work on other types of cloud storage like Dropbox, but I'm going to stick with Google drive for this example.

Here’s how to make files available offline in Google Drive:

  1. On your desktop computer, open Google Drive and make a folder for your trip. For example, “Rainier climb 2019”.

  2. On your desktop computer, click and drag all relevant files into this Google Drive folder.

  3. Open the Google Drive app on your phone, and navigate to the folder.

  4. Tap on the “three little dots” icon to the right of the file name, and tap “Make available offline”. You need to do this individually for every file in the folder, but it just takes a second or two for each one.

  5. Done! Now, all these files stored on your phone, available when you’re outside of cell coverage.

  6. To test it, turn off Wifi and turn on airplane mode. (Doing this turns off all incoming data and simulates being in the backcountry with no cell coverage.) Try opening all of the files in that folder, you should be able to do so.

  7. One more bonus, you can share this Google folder with everyone else on your climbing team, so you all have the same documents. To do this, tap the three dots icon after the name of the folder, choose “Share”, and enter the email of anyone you want to share the folder with.

A few screen grabs of the process. . .


In Google Drive on your phone, tap the “three dots” icon next to a file name . . .


Then tap “make available offline” for each file.