Orienteering - Explained! :)

Navigation tools including maps, compass, GPS, computers, software, and other forms of navigation.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:54 am
Call Sign: KI6YXP
Location: Pasadena, CA

Orienteering - Explained! :)


Post by Nadir_E » Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:14 am

Hi Everyone,
At the behest of cruiserlarry I'm jotting down some notes about a sport called Orienteering.

It is basically a race (against the clock) with map and compass in a State or County park. You'll be provided a map by the organizers (and will find it both lower scale (1:10,000 or so) and much more detailed than your traditional 1:25,000 USGS topo map). On it will be a series of numbered circles connected with straight lines. There will also be a table on the map with "clues" describing where, in each circle, the "control" is located (e.g. west side of a large tree, bottom of a cliff, where trail & stream intersect, etc.). The circles are about 50 feet in diameter, so if you're close, it's not usually that hard to find the control, but that *is* part of the fun.

The circles are connected with straight lines and they dictate the *order* in which you need to find the controls, but not the *route* you use to get from one to the other - that's up to you, and THAT is where this develops your skill set for reading and understanding what the map is telling you. This translates *directly* to any other outdoor activity you choose to undertake - whether hiking or wheeling or anything else where you're off-road.

Courses are rated for difficulty and length, using colors as identifiers. They can be run as individuals or as teams - up to you.

White is the easiest and shortest (a compass isn't usually necessary, and if you can read a street map you're set since most controls are next to trails or roads).
Yellow - same difficulty as White, just longer.
Orange - Intermediate level - biggest hurdle here is that the clues aren't in English anymore, they're in internationally recognized orienteering symbols (they can provide a sheet that translates them)
Long Orange - just like it sounds; very popular among the Adventure Racing crowd
Brown - shortest advanced course
Green - longer than Brown
Blue - longer than Brown & Green
Red - longest of the advanced courses

White and yellow are very easy and one can typically accomplish both in a single meet - these are great skill and confidence builders for the beginner. I've done a few of the advanced courses but it's most fun for me to hang out in Orange / Long Orange. Courses are measured in "straight line" distances between controls - actual distance covered will be higher as you can rarely follow the straight lines. The straight-line distances range from just over a kilometer (1/3 mile) to over 8 kilometers (5 miles). Depending on terrain, advanced courses can be quite a work-out.

Sample Beginner Map:
The triangle on the map is where you start, the double-circle is where you finish. You need to get, in order, from circle 1 to circle 2, etc. finding the control in each one before moving to the next.

This is a "control" (what you need to find in each of the circles):

While it's indeed a race, you'll find all levels of competitors - from those who do the whole course at a flat out run to those who walk it, enjoying a day outside. Because it's a race against the clock, you're never shoulder-to-shoulder with competitors at a start line - in fact, they stagger starts so that there's always four or five minutes between competitors.

Here are links to various California-based clubs:
Los Angeles Orienteering Club - http://www.losangelesorienteering.org/
San Diego Orienteering Club - http://www.sandiegoorienteering.org/
Bay Area Orienteering Club - http://http://baoc.org/wiki/Welcome
Sacramento Area Orienteering Club - http://www.goldcountryorienteers.org/

Each has their own description of what orienteering is, results from previous meets, and schedules of upcoming events. As far as I know all of them vary their venues from month to month so you get a wide variety of terrain types. I know LA rents compasses so you don't even need to have one to give this a try. Cost is generally $7-$9 for your first event of the day and $2 for any others you care to try (again, LA figures - not sure what the others charge).

I'd be happy to teach folks how to read maps and use a compass at one of these events - I've done it many times and can assure you that you'll come away with new or improved skills.

-Nadir - sounds like "ladder" KN6ELF

Post Reply

Return to “NAVIGATION”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest