What is Orienteering?

The aim of orienteering is to navigate your way around a course with a series of checkpoints called controls.

The course is marked on a map provided by the organisers. The controls are placed on definite features such as track and creek junctions, a fence bend or a distinctive boulder.

The control site is marked with an orange and white flag which has attached a device to record your visit. The recording device can be electronic, a pin punch or a code to enter on a card with a pencil. Use of the recording device proves you visited the checkpoint. (When you enter an event the officials will confirm the recording method.)


  • Orienteering maps are specially prepared to be clear and easy to read on the run.
  • The map scale is usually 1:15000 (1cm = 150m) or 1:10000 (1cm = 100m).
  • Sprint events are becoming popular with special maps at 1:5000 or 1:4000.

Choose your own route

  • The skill in orienteering is choosing the best route between checkpoints.
  • Courses for beginners are planned to be easy with little route choice.
  • As you develop navigation skills you move up to more difficult courses with more route choice.
  • You will learn to decide whether it is better to go over a hill or take the longer route around it.
  • The accurate "tortoise" is quicker than the "hare" who darts off and makes mistakes in navigation.

Who goes orienteering?

  • Orienteering events provide a range of courses to cater for all participants.
  • The courses are graded by age, length and the degree of navigation difficulty.
  • There are short, easy courses for beginners and juniors to long difficult courses designed for the fit and navigationally challenged.
  • Orienteering caters for all ages and for social and recreational participants as well as elite competitive athletes.
  • There is a course at every event for all members of a family. Family members and friends can enjoy the challenge of a course participating as a group.
  • Every course is different, presenting its own unique challenge.

What do you need to start orienteering?

  • To start you can wear jeans and a t-shirt with a pair of volleys (remember to bring a change of clothes, as well as a bottle of drink and a snack).
  • There is a small entry fee which includes the cost of a special orienteering map. Bring a clear plastic A4 protector to keep the map clean and dry.
  • For easier courses in well-defined terrain you probably do not need a compass. Ask the organisers on the day. A compass is available for hire if needed and you will be shown how to use it.
Remember - the whole point of orienteering is to have fun in a health promoting way!

Read More: The 5 Key Skills; Compass Skills


what is orienteering