Who's behind OffTheGridMaps?
OffTheGridMaps.com was started by Ryan Dalton, a professional cartographer living in Whitefish, MT. He, his wife Jane, and their faithful pups Driggs and Charlie, spend most of their weekends outdoors camping, fishing, hiking, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, visiting hot springs, and Driggs' favorite, pheasant hunting.
How did it start?
Ryan graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Geography, and has been working professionally with spatial (GIS) data for over 20 years. But it wasn't until he got his puppy, Driggs (an American Brittany bred for "pointing" at upland game birds) that he started making hunting maps for personal use. The first time Ryan went bird hunting (ever... in his life!), he realized he wanted a map that was easy-to-use and read, could be GPS-enabled on his smartphone, and worked offline (no cell service). Most importantly, he wanted a map with more detail than was provided by FWP on the area(s) he was going hunting. That way he could not only see where he was, but also where he wanted to go next.
Fortunately, Montana has a great history of sharing publicly available geographic (GIS) data. Being familiar with many of the sources of data throughout the state, Ryan set off on a quest to locate the best available sources of upland bird hunting map data. After compiling all of the map features into one system, it was time to start designing the map.
Ryan's goal was to keep as many of the recognizable features people expect to see on a map, but break some of the rules and only include the most relevant map features in order to make OffTheGridMaps clean, crisp, and highly readable. When friends started asking for maps of areas they were traveling to next, Ryan realized there wasn't an easy way for people to get maps that were zoomed in to just the locations and showed and recreational activities that were important to them. And so began OffTheGridMaps.com.
Going into business
What changed OffTheGridMaps from a hobby project to a business came when he found his first customer, Hilary Hutcheson of Lary's Fly and Supply in Columbia Falls, MT. In 2016, Ryan stopped in the shop to pitch the idea of selling maps to fisherman. Her staff had been hand drawing simple maps to get their customers to FWP Public Access sites along the North Fork, Middle Fork, and main stem of the Flathead Rivers, and OffTheGrid River Maps were just the ticket. We kept iterating until we eventually had all the public lands, river miles, important put-ins, take-outs, and public access sites. They were our first, and still our best customer, selling hard-copy maps in the shop for 5 years now! And their customers love the maps, because when they buy the printed map in the shop, they get to download the GPS-enabled maps for free.