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If you love outdoor activities, then you may want to try out orienteering.

Imagine running through beautiful and unfamiliar terrains competitively with only a compass and a map.

It’s an adventurous sport that combines navigation skills with some exciting challenges.

The purpose of orienteering is to boost your map reading, navigations skills, and endurance levels.

Initially, it originated in Sweden as a military training exercise but later spread to the civilian public.

It suits people of all ages and gender since it can occur in different places, be it in a forest or a playground.

Here is an informative guide to help you understand the sport better.

Overview of orienteering

Orienteering encourages people to make significant decisions based on references. Please note that the success of your team on the game highly depends on your ability to collaborate. Besides, the game best suits those who enjoy spending time close to nature.

So how does orienteering work? Well, the sport involves navigation on foot between predetermine points in a course drawn on a map.

The game requires you to use your intellectual and physical abilities to go all through the areas needed in the right order as fast as possible.

The competition aims at testing your running skills and concentration levels as you explore remote terrains.

For fairness purposes, you only receive the map when the game begins. You aim at finding the fastest route to get to the controls in the specified order.

Orange and white flags denote these checkpoints, and once you get here, you indicate that you visited the right control point. You can do this manually or with an electronic timing device.

Additionally, each race starts with a half a minute interval. It ensures that the players perform their navigation without having to follow those in front of them. The organizers will then record each players beginning and end time, and the quickest orienteer wins.

In most cases, you will find well-separated classes based on participants’ age or different experiences and abilities. The game begins with subgroups creation where participants set themselves into teams.

Further, you receive briefing explaining the rules of the games. You then receive the necessary materials, and the competition begins. Finally, there is an appreciation for the winning teams. Please note that you need to check-in at the finishing point, even if you didn’t finish the challenge. Therefore, the number of returnees at the end of the game needs to match the initial. It helps keep the sport safe and fun.

Equipment needed for orienteering

The sport doesn’t require that you buy special Equipment. You only need to prepare some quality running shoes or any other sturdy footwear.

Additionally, put on light tracksuit bottoms that protect your legs in the challenging terrain. You will then receive the appropriate tools needed for the game.

They include:

The Map

At the beginning of the competition, you will receive a detailed orienteering map. The starting point appears in a triangle, double circles for the finishing line and single circles for the checkpoints.

The map contains a scale of 1:15000 or 1:10000, which describes the distance in reality.

Additionally, it features various landmarks like water features, cliffs, rocks, and trails to help identify the control points quickly.

As a beginner, please take note of the colors on the map.

Yellow represents open land, white for an easy to run forest, light green for thicker forests and blue for water.

Control description

You will also receive control descriptions alongside the map, which gives you more precise information about the checkpoints. They expound on the mapped features giving you finer details to help locate the control flag location.

The compass

It’s another essential tool that helps you figure out which direction you need to follow. Most orienteers prefer the thumb compass, which appears more comfortable to operate.

However, the wrist compass works well in the case of multi-sport or mountain biking orienteering.


It’s a good idea that you carry a whistle for safety purposes to call other orienteers for assistance. Besides, some events will require that you have one as a compulsory requirement.

Rules of orienteering

Due to the nature of the game, the participant doesn’t receive close monitoring. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you promote fairness in the game and abide by the rules and ethical considerations.

For safety purposes, please note that you have the responsibility to aid any injured participants in the course. Also, observe all the traffic rules when crossing railways or roads.

Further, wear protective clothes based on the terrain and carry a safety whistle. Ensure that you report to the finish official and hand over the map at the end of the race.

So what are the rules of orienteering? Please keep reading to gain more insight.

The players shouldn’t damage, remove, or hide the controls during gameplay.

The orienteer shall respect the property and the public in the area. The participants shouldn’t damage any property, be it gates, Equipment, or fences in the course. You should comply with any requests made by the landowner, tenants, or agents. Further, you shall respect any individual in or near the competition area.

You shall not pass areas marked on the map as out of bounds. The existence of the map doesn’t give you the right to access all spots. Before the competition, the organizer should seek permission from the landowners for any section they plan to use. If they fail to obtain approval for a specific part, they must mark them as impermissible on the map.

Competitors and officials must promote environmental conservation. You shall not trespass through gardens or fields with newly planted crops. Besides, you shall not litter the environment but make all efforts to ensure that you don’t damage the surroundings. Also, the participants will remain quiet as they navigate through various terrains to minimize disturbance.

You must visit the controls in the specified order. In each event, organizers avail predetermined checkpoints. You should use your map for a comprehensive evaluation to find the best path to visit the controls as required.

You will only use the provided maps and a compass. Please note that you shouldn’t use your phone or GPS devices to help you navigate through.

Any participants must not seek an unfair advantage over other competitors. You shouldn’t seek any course-related information from the officials or other players during the competition. Further, the spectators or unauthorized individuals won’t enter the course during the game.

All persons shall behave reasonably with great honesty. As a competitor, you shall show respect to others, including officials and spectators. Besides, you shall maintain a friendly and sporting attitude. You should not follow other participants intentionally to profit from their skills.

Moreover, you shall not collaborate in any way with other competitors to discuss the course in any way during the competition.

Main objectives of playing orienteering

The main goal in orienteering is to help you learn about various navigation techniques. After getting your answers to the question, how does orienteering work it would be best to understand the game’s objectives.

Generally, the game’s primary goals are:

• Sharpening decision-making skills.
• Building relationships.
• Boosting knowledge.
• Entertainment.
• Improving exploration skills.

The sport aims at teaching you how to think and act rightly, even under pressure. During the game, you will make decisions under competitive pressure and fatigue.

Through this, you become robust mentally, which will help solve day to day problems adequately.

Additionally, you will learn how to identify various parts in a compass and understand its operations. Further, you will know how to read a map and become familiar with multiple navigation terms.

Moreover, the sports take place in private lands, giving you a chance to explore various valley, woodlands, and terrains. It helps improves your skills in bearing taking, pacing, and compass use.

You will, therefore, learn about various traditional and modern navigation techniques.

Besides, the sport lets you explore nature to become an experienced navigator, which gives you skills for life.

The sport also creates a great way to socialize while competing since it aggregates people with a common goal together.

It, therefore, helps to build relationships and coordination, especially in team versions.

Besides, it’s a thrilling and very entertaining sport, where participants run or walk through forests and fields in different topographies.

If you love competitions, the game measures how fast you can go as you enjoy nature’s calming sensation.

Featured image credit: Image ID: 1103503763