What is Orienteering?

What is Orienteering?

It’s a sport that involves finding your way across unfamiliar country with the aid of a map and sometimes a compass. Orienteers navigate a set course between control points, usually marked by orange and white flags, using their skill in map reading to choose the best route and their running ability to get there as quickly as possible.  The map is the central focus of orienteering and map reading is the central skill.  Orienteering maps differ from conventional maps in that they show a great deal of detail.

Do I need to be fit?

Orienteers may walk or run, alone or in a group.  Fitness is not a necessity, although it does help, particularly in serious competitive orienteering. You may treat an event as a race or simply as a stroll, with the search for controls providing an extra element of interest.  Some agility is useful at most orienteering events - you may need to cross a fence or clamber through bush.

Who goes orienteering?

The sport can involve the entire family.  There are courses to suit all skill levels so everyone may participate at their own level of skill and fitness.

Competitors range from 8 years old to 70+.  To reach the top, you need to be extremely fit and a first class map reader and navigator; but most regular orienteers do it because they enjoy the challenge, the exercise, the fresh air and the opportunity to visit new places.

Don’t I need a compass?

Once upon a time people were taught that orienteering is all about compasses, and people learned to use a compass but still couldn’t read a map.  Nowadays, with better quality maps, map-reading is the vital skill.  Compasses become useful only after basic map reading has been mastered.  The compass is seen as an aid to navigation and too much reliance on the compass usually leads to navigational problems.  Most Clubs offer compasses for loan to use at events if you wish to use one.

What do I wear?

Just wear clothes suited to walking or running in farmland or city parks.  In wet weather you may have to contend with mud. Experienced orienteers who intend to run fast wear special studded shoes, like stronger versions of cross-country shoes. But any kind of running or walking shoe will be OK to start with.

Shorts and T-shirt are OK for parkland events, but most orienteers wear full body cover for forest and farmland venues.

What does it cost?

Around $5-$20 for adults and less for youngsters at regular club events.  If you choose to run as a group and use only one map, or run more than one course, you pay for only one entry.  Club members pay a little less.  Major events will cost $25-$45 each, because they use newer maps and offer more services, like marking the course on your map for you.

How long does it take?

This depends entirely on your fitness and ability; the terrain and the map; and the course you choose to run.  Every event offers courses of different distances and with different technical challenges. The longest course at major events is usually designed for skilled athletes who are prepared to spend an hour or two in the forest.  Novice orienteers on these courses would have a thoroughly rotten time and probably never orienteer again! However, the shortest course is designed specifically for 10 year olds, who will take 40 minutes at the most, usually less than 30 minutes.

You and I can run on one of the courses that fit in between.

What do I do at the event?

Full instructions are displayed on the notice board at each event. If you have any difficulties, just ask someone who looks as if he/she knows what they’re doing. You will need to choose a course; always choose one shorter than you think you can manage until you have got the hang of everything. 

Once you select your course, pay at registration and optionally ask for help getting started. We are happy to help. 

Events either use electronic timing, known as SPORTident Cards (SI Cards) or manual clipcards.

Manual clipcards are used at most SummerNav events and they will be provided at registration along with your course map. Manual Clipcards have space for you to record your name, start time,  finish time, and time taken to complete the course. Some people like to copy their course control descriptions on to it for reference when running.  

At other events using SPORTident electronic timing, the SPORTident Card records the time you visit each control. Be sure to download at the end to receive your result printout. The map is usually picked up at the start. Ask for a demo of how SPORTident works if you haven't used it before. 

You will start at a separate time from everyone else on your course. Visit each control in order and punch each control - checking it is the correct control for your course.

When you finish you can compare and discuss with others to see how you went on your course.