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New to Orienteering?

What is Orienteering?

Last edited: Mon 13 Feb 2017

If you haven't tried orienteering before or are not very experienced the following links will help you get started.

Orienteering is a challenging outdoor adventure sport. The aim is to navigate between control points marked on a special orienteering map and decide the best route to complete the course in the quickest time. It does not matter how young, old or fit you are, as you can run, walk or jog the course and progress at your own pace.

Orienteering can take place anywhere from forest and countryside to urban parks and school playgrounds.

To start orienteering all you need is a sense of adventure and a pair of trainers. It's a great sport for runners, joggers and walkers who want to improve their navigation skills or for anyone who loves the outdoors.

The British Orienteering (BOF) website has excellent resources for newcomers.

The challenge of the sport can come as a surprise even to those newcomers who are very sporty or adventurous - read this posting on Mudstacle.

The health benefits are detailed here

Attending an Event

Select your event from the events list. Note that many orienteering events are in obscure rural areas so plan your journey to the event carefully. You can arrive at any time within the start time range, but to avoid being under time pressure, novices are advised to arrive early.

On arrival novices will be able to get lots of help and advice from those at registration.

Please bring:-

  • Comfortable clothes and footwear for walking or running in, that you don’t mind getting dirty. We do not recommend wearing shorts as you could get cuts and scratches
  • A compass if you have one - not strictly necessary but will make navigating much easier.
  • A whistle is a useful safety measure if you get lost or injured.
  • Money to pay your entry fee

When you arrive you will get:-

  • A map
  • A "dibber" or a control card - a dibber is an electronic device that records when you go to a control, a control card is a manual equivalent
  • Control descriptions - but these are really only used by experienced orienteers

Registration to Finish

The registration routine used will depend on the system used to record your passage around the course. ie.

Electronic Punching - you carry an electronic punch which you use to record your visit to each control point on the course. This system has almost completely taken over from...

Manual Punching. - You carry a control card and a pin punch is provided at each control point to enable you to punch your control card and thereby record your passage round the course. (Each punch has a different pattern of pins!!) We use this for most junior events.

Irrespective of the type of punching used the basic routine is -

  1. Decide which course you want to run, details at Registration.
  2. Fill out your registration slip
  3. Show your completed slip to the registration team and pay for your entry.
  4. If electronic punching, hand in your registration slip to the computer people and collect your electronic punch.
  5. You are now free to start your 'run' anytime between courses opening and closing. Only at bigger events will you be given a designated time to start.
  6. Go to the start. The start official will ask you to clear then check your dibber using the electronic boxes provided. This wipes any old data on the chip.
  7. Run your course, looking for your next kite each time and recording your arrival at each control point by dibbing electronically (or punching your control card if you're at a lo-tech event).
  8. Hand in your Control Card or download the information on your electronic punch. With electronic punching the record of your run is immediately available and the course results are usually available before you leave the event. With Control cards overall results will take a day or two to work out. Final results are usually available on the net within a couple of days.

Safety

When you have visited all the controls you visit download to have your electronic dibber "read".

Even if you don’t find all the controls it is important that you report to download so that we (and your friends) know that you have finished and are not lying injured in the forest. If you lose your dibber you must tell the people at the finish / download.

Event Types

There are several forms of Orienteering events: Colour coded events - These are the most common type. Several courses will be on offer with different colours to show how long and difficult each course is. For each colour a separate map is provided. The map will show a sequence of controls which must be visited in the order given. The fastest to correctly complete the course is the winner.

Score events - In a score event a large number of controls will be shown on the map. The idea is to visit as many as possible within a time limit. The "score" is given by the number of controls visited less any penalty for being over the time limit.

Junior, or "Come and try it" events - These are aimed specifically at children or families who are new to the sport. These are on a more informal smaller scale, and are less competitive.

String course - These are for the very young. Follow the string to find the controls.

Relay events - A team event. There are several different types of relay but they usually involve several individual runs being combined into a single score.

Competitions

The QO Forest League, or QOFL - our main series of events usually in forest areas. All are colour coded with courses from white to blue. Suitable for all from novices to experts, and children to experienced adults. Plenty of advice available. The league runs from Autumn through to Spring.

The Galoppen - similar to a QOFL but this is part of a regional league and hence draws a bigger attendance. Colour coded courses from white to brown. Still suitable for all from novices to experts.

QOADS, or QO After Dark Series- "score" events held on dark Saturday evenings during the winter. You need a bright head torch.

Club championship - an annual competition is held to find the club champion. Usually a score event with an age handicap applied to give everyone a fair chance of winning!

Course Standards

The table below gives an idea of the relative difficulty of the colours. Precise guidelines can be found in BOF Rules. Although the age of children has been used as a guide for some of the easier courses even the adult beginners would benefit from going round an easier course first just to get the idea of map scale, symbols etc.

ColourTechnical difficultyPhysical difficultyRemarks
White 11 Suitable for young children of 7 to 8 who should be accompanied. All on paths
Yellow 2 2 A doddle for experienced 12 year olds. Some route choice all on paths.
Orange3 3 Controls on features a little way off paths or on line features. Adult beginners shouldn't attempt anything harder.
Red3 3 to 4 Not often provided. Basically a long Orange.
Light Green4 3 Transitional course for improving skills.
Green5 3 For those with good navigational skills but with limited energy or running speed
Blue5 4 Longer than Green and shorter than Brown!
Brown/ Black5 5 For very fit and competent navigators who are usually 16 plus.

A good orienteer in good physical condition will travel at somewhere between 6 and 10 minutes per kilometer depending on the terrain.

Improving

We have some schemes in place to help you progress!

One of these we are trialling is a buddying scheme. If you need any help getting to grips with orienteering ask the club for a Buddy by filling out a quick questionnaire and sending it to Angela or chat with Judy and they'll help you.

See our dedicated training section

Archived under these categories:

Next level

Glossary of Orienteering terms

Permanent Orienteering Courses