What is orienteering?

Orienteering is an outdoor sport that exercises both your body and your mind. The aim is to navigate yourself from point to point round a course using a specially prepared orienteering map. You can take part in a group or as an individual. Around 40% of orienteers are women and age isn't a barrier either: there are babies being pushed or carried round their first courses and the oldest members of the British Orienteering are in their nineties! In fact, a fairly high proportion of orienteers only start as adults. You set your own pace and competitors range from speedy elite runners, to regular fitness-orientated runners, to weekend warriors, and those just out for a walk. There is a course for everyone: short to long, and easy to difficult.

Have a look at this video by multiple British Champion Graham Gristwood Start Orienteering - a Newcomer's Guide to see what to expect.

For your first event, dress as you would for a walk or jog in your local park. There will always be someone available to help you choose a suitable course and explain the basics to you to get you started.

There are different ways you can try orienteering:

Orienteering is fun exercise where you need to think about what you are doing and where you are going. Read about some of the health benefits of orienteering.

Choosing Your First Event

The best event to attend is the next one that's happening! Our Fixtures page lists SMOC's events and shows links to events nearby.

If there's a Keyne-O coming up shortly, that's ideal. There will three courses: 3km Amble, 5km Trot, and 7km Run. The Amble course will have the easiest navigation and any road crossings will be marshalled. But if it's the wrong time of year for Keyne-O, all events have introductory courses on offer. Most events offer a range of courses coded by colour to indicate length and technical difficulty (TD1=easy, TD5=difficult):

Colour Level Description Length
White TD1 Easy and short - all on paths, mostly used by under 10 year olds and family groups 1.0-1.5 km
Yellow TD2 Slightly less easy and a little longer - uses simple linear features (paths, walls, streams, etc.), mainly under 12's and families. Try this one if you like a Keyne-O 'Amble'. 1.5-2.5 km
Orange TD3 Not all on paths, and longer again. Progressing to basic use of the compass and route choice, ideal for novice adult orienteers. Similar to Keyne-O 'Trot'. 2.5-3.5 km
Light Green TD4 Navigation skills needed; longer again. The technical ability requirements begin to increase, crossing terrain using simple contours and 'point' features. Ideal for improvers. Might not be as long as Keyne-O 'Run' but a bit more technical. 2.5-3.5 km
Green TD5 The shortest technically difficult course. Uses contour features, 'point' features. Used mostly by experienced under 18's, and adults wanting a short but challenging course 2.5-5.0 km
Blue TD5 Technically difficult but a longer and more physically demanding course in comparison to green. The distances are more varied between controls 5.0-7.5 km
Brown TD5 Physically demanding and technically difficult. For experienced adults only 7.5-10.0 km
Black TD5 A gruelling opportunity for elites to show their friends how tough they are 10-15 km

Entering the event

There are three key things to check prior to the event.

Once you've got there, the event team will explain everything else. You'll need some way of showing that you got to each of the controls. This usually involves hiring an electronic "dibber". You may also be given a list of control descriptions, which tell you what you're looking for: a boulder, stream, path. These use international standard symbols which can be rather baffling at first. Don't let them worry you: on a simple course, they are unlikely to be needed and you can learn them as you go.

Once you get going, life gets much simpler. You just have to find the controls. Please remember that whether you visit all the controls or not, you must always report to the finish. This is the golden rule of orienteering, preventing the organisers from having to spend the afternoon searching for you and maybe calling the police.

After the event

Event results are usually online on the day of the event. After checking how you did, it's time to plan for your next adventure.