A Brief Introduction to Orienteering

What is orienteering?

According to British Orienteering, the National Governing Body for the sport of orienteering in the United Kingdom,

Orienteering is an exciting outdoor adventure sport which takes place in varying terrain over various distances. The aim is to navigate in sequence between a set of control points marked on a unique orienteering map and decide the best route to complete the course in the quickest time. The standard orienteering distance is known as a ‘classic or long distance’ race however modernisation of the sport has introduced the ‘middle distance’ race and ‘sprint distance’ race.

Orienteering can take place over any kind of terrain, urban or rural, from your local park or forest to remote wilderness, on tarmac or open countryside.

Orienteering Control Flag. Source: Flikcr by Glutnix
Orienteering Control Flag. Source: Flikcr by Glutnix

Control points are normally marked with a special white and red flag. Attached to the flag is a hole punch which is used to stamp a hole in a competitor’s record card, confirming that the competitor has been to that point. Electronic devises are also used for the purpose.

What Outdoor Gear do I need for Orienteering?

This will depend upon the exact nature of the orienteering race that you are taking part it. Generally speaking you will need cross-country running shoes or trainers, shorts or lycra tights and T-shirt or baselayer. For orienteering races in the open country you might wish to take a lightweight waterproof, windproof or softshell jacket.

You will also need a map and compass. It is also a good idea to take an emergency whistle and a high energy snack.

For more information on choosing outdoor gear see our trail running advice page.

Are there any Organised Orienteering Events?

Yes, there are many local orienteering clubs whose contact details can be obtained from the British Orienteering website. In addition to organised events, local orienteering clubs may be able to provide orienteering maps for permanent orienteering courses in your area.

National Orienteering Events

The 2009 British Orienteering Long Championships and Relay Championships will take place in the New Forest on 28 February / 1 March 2009. Entries for these events are now open. These events are organised by British Orienteering and more information can found on the British Orienteering Championships website.


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