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Orienteering has been a popular sport across the U.K. and Europe for decades and is becoming more popular in North America by the year.

One of the main reasons for the success of orienteering is the fact it can be done in almost any environment that can be controlled by the course planners and marshalls.

Orienteering can be completed in a cityscape or the great outdoors where the terrain can often be difficult and require the purchasing of specific equipment.

One of the first things most people taking part in an orienteering contest will look for is the course guide that will include flags giving information about the difficulty level of the course.

What do the orange flags represent in orienteering?

When you are looking to take part in an orienteering contest, you want to make sure you are able to complete the course without it being too difficult for you.

One of the simplest ways of doing so in North America is to take a look at the different colors used to signify what type of course you are about to embark upon.

When you arrive at the course, you will be handed a course guide that will include a lot of information about the type of orienteering course you are going to be using.

At the top of the guide, there will be a color with flags often used around the course to show what level of orienteering course you are undertaking.

If the course has “orange” as its main color, you can be sure you are going to be taking part in an orienteering course that is designed for intermediate-level members of the community.

The distance of a course signified by orange flags is medium which means it will not be too long for those who are unsure of their abilities.

Different flags for different courses?

When you are setting out on your orienteering challenges, you will find you are facing several different flags and colors designed to signify different levels of difficulty.

The range of flags used at orienteering courses can include:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue

A course designed to be used by beginners that will not be too long in duration is the white flag course.

This course is generally used for young people and families who will be able to enjoy the short walks between the control checkpoints to make sure every person is safe throughout their orienteering journey.

The yellow flag usually signifies a course that is between one and two miles in length with control points that are farther apart than those seen with the white course.

The challenges of the yellow course include the use of landmarks and geographic features to guide players to the next checkpoint.

What do the orange flags represent in orienteering is a question that is often answered by those who take part in these races at an intermediate level.

The length of the course marked by orange flags is often longer than those used on yellow courses with between two and three miles the common length.

The orange course usually includes some difficult terrain that takes competitors off pathways and roads into the rural environment where the terrain will include climbs and valleys.

Red flags are often described as long orange courses that are similar in intensity levels as orange but over a longer course.

After moving into the green and blue colors, you will find yourself working towards a long-distance orienteering course that moves the competitor along around four miles or more.

Control Flags

The use of orange flags to change the way we view a course for orienteering is just one of the ways flags are used in the sport.

When you are making your way around a course you will often find yourself moving through the control checkpoints around the course where you prove you have visited specific areas of the course.

A control checkpoint is used along with a punch that will have a specific shape or design on it to prove the competitor has visited every control position on the map.

On many courses, the use of orange markers and flags is a common sight for those who make their way to specific control locations marked by an orange flag.

The use of orange flags is a common way of showing a competitor in an orienteering event that they are on the right track as they move towards the course markers they need to pass through on the course.

Reading an Orienteering Map

When you arrive at an orienteering event you will be handed a map that could be extremely detailed or relatively simple to look at, depending on the difficulty of your event.

When you set out on your orienteering course you will find yourself needing a compass that will allow you to make sure you are always moving in the right direction.

The map will be marked with a range of symbols that will help you move through the course by orienting the map with your compass to make sure you know exactly where you are moving to at all times.

When you are looking for orange flags that mark a control location, you should start your move by looking on the map for a physical feature that will help you find the control sector.

By using a physical location you will be able to identify where a control location is positioned within a group of trees or behind rocks and other physical features.

The difficulty of your orienteering event is easy to understand when you know the different colors that are being used to differentiate between different courses.

Understanding where the different landmarks are on your map is a good option for keeping yourself on the right track throughout an orienteering event course.

You may find the different markers, flags, and symbols difficult to cope with at first but as you gain more experience you will enjoy these events even more.

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