Orienteering, known as the “thinking sport”, involves finding your way from one checkpoint to another, generally in a park setting. Checkpoints, called controls, are circled on a specially prepared map, and you decide your own route between them. At each control is an orange and white flag with an electronic box to record that you’ve visited. It’s easy to learn and no special equipment is needed. Orienteering appeals to all ages and fitness levels and is ideal for families.
An orienteering “course” is a series of consecutively numbered points shown on a detailed map. The object is to choose routes, which can be both on and off trail, that will help you find all the points in order and get back to the finish in the shortest amount of time. The choice is yours whether to take a leisurely walk in the park, or run a competitive navigational race.
Orienteers use only map and compass to navigate, but compass knowledge is not needed to get started. In fact, the primary skill in orienteering is reading the map and relating it to the terrain. The compass aids in orienting the map to the proper direction and for locating controls that are away from trails and other distinctive features.
Orienteering clubs hold events called “meets” in local parks. At each meet there are separate courses for different ability levels. These courses are referred to by color names.
Brown, Green, Red, Blue: Advanced
Beginner courses are shorter in length and generally stay on trails. As the level of difficulty increases the courses are longer, possibly steeper, and the flags are located farther from trails and major features. Course lengths are measured in kilometers as the crow flies. Your actual distance on the ground will be longer, and will depend on your route choices.
On the maps and courses symbols are defined for the Map Symbols Legend, and Control Descriptions the are used on orienteering maps.
Check out the Local Meets page to see more detailed information about what to expect at your first meet!