Each orienteer is given a 1:50,000 topographic map with the various control points circled. Each point has a flag marker and a distinctive punch that is used to mark the scorecard. Competitive orienteering involves running from checkpoint to checkpoint. It is more demanding than road running, not only because of the terrain, but because the orienteer must constantly concentrate, make decisions, and keep track of the distance covered. Orienteering challenges both the mind and the body; however, the competitor's ability to think under pressure and make wise decisions is more important than speed or endurance.
The orienteering area should be on terrain that is heavily wooded, preferably uninhabited, and difficult enough to suit different levels of competition. The area must be accessible to competitors and its use must be coordinated with appropriate terrain and range control offices.
a. The ideal map for an orienteering course is a multi-colored, accurate, large-scale topographic map. A topographic map is a graphic representation of selected man made and natural features of a part of the earth's surface plotted to a definite scale. The distinguishing characteristic of a topographic map is the portrayal of the shape and elevation of the terrain by contour lines.
b. For orienteering within the United States, large-scale topographic (topo) maps are available from the Defense Mapping Agency Hydrographic Topographic Center. The scale suitable for orienteering is 1:50,000 (DMA).
What is Orienteering?
Orienteering is a competitive form of land navigation. It is for all ages and degrees of fitness and skill. It provides the suspense and excitement of a treasure hunt. The object of orienteering is to locate control points by using a map and compass to navigate through the woods. The courses may be as long as 10 km.
This site aims to inform you about the sport of Orienteering, you can find that information at the left under "The Sport." We also have information on learning how to read maps and peform land navigation using such tools as a compass. This information is based off U.S. Army training and is what you need to know to be an orienteer.
Orienteering began in Scandinavia in the nineteenth century. It was primarily a military event and was part of military training. It was not until 1919 that the modern version of orienteering was born in Sweden as a competitive sport. Ernst Killander, its creator, can be rightfully called the father of orienteering. In the early thirties, the sport received a technical boost with the invention of a new compass, more precise and faster to use. The Kjellstrom brothers, Bjorn and Alvan, and their friend, Brunnar Tillander, were responsible for this new compass. They were among the best Swedish orienteers of the thirties, with several individual championships among them. Orienteering was brought into the US in 1946 by Bjorn Kjellstrom.
The challenge for the course setter is to keep the course interesting, but never beyond the individual's or group's ability. General guidance is to select locations that are easily identifiable on the map and terrain, and accessible from several routes.
a. Those who set up the initial event should study a map for likely locations of control points and verification of the locations. Better yet, they should coordinate with an experienced competitor in selecting the course.
b. There are several forms of orienteering events. Some of the most common are route, line, cross-country, and score orienteering.
(1) Route Orienteering. This form can be used during the training phase and in advanced orienteering. In this type of event, a master or advanced competitor leads the group as they walk a route. The beginners trace the actual route walked on the ground on their maps. They circle the location of the different control points found along the walked route. When they finish, the maps are analyzed and compared. During training, time is not a factor. Another variation is when a course is laid out on the ground with markers for the competitor to follow. There is no master map, as the course is traced for the competitor by flags or markers. The winner of the event is the competitor who has successfully traced the route and accurately plotted the most control points on his map.
(2) Line Orienteering. At least five control points are used during this form of orienteering training. The competitor traces on his map a preselected route from a master map. The object is to walk the route shown on the map, circling the control points on the map as they are located on the ground (Figure F-1).
Figure F-1. Line orienteering.
(3) Cross-Country Orienteering. This is the most common type of orienteering competitions. It is sometimes called free or point orienteering and is considered to be the most competitive and intriguing of all events (Figure F-2). In this event, all competitors must visit the same controls in the same order. With the normal one-minute starting interval, it becomes a contest of route choice and physical skill. The winner is the contestant with the fastest time around the course.
Figure F-2. A cross-country orienteering map.
(a) After selecting the control points for the course, determine the start and finish locations. The last control should be near the finish. In describing each control's location, an eight-digit grid coordinate and a combination of two letters identifying the point (control code) should be included in each descriptive clue list that is normally given to each competitor at least two minutes before his start time.
(b) There are usually 6 to 12 control markers on the course in varying degrees of difficulty and distances apart so that there are no easy, direct routes. Instead, each competitor is faced with many choices of direct but difficult routes, or of indirect but easier routes. Each control's location is circled, and the order in which each is to be visited is clearly marked on the master map. The course may be a closed transverse with start and finish collocated, or the start and finish may be at different locations. The length of the course and difficulty of control placement varies with the competitors' degree of expertise. Regardless of the class of event, all competitors must indicate on their event cards proof of visiting the control markers. Inked stamps, coded letters, or punches are usually used to do this procedure.
NOTE: The same orienteering range may serve in both cross-country and score events. However, a separate set of competitor maps, master maps, and event cards are necessary.
(4) Score orienteering. In this event, the area chosen for the competition is blanketed with many control points (Figure F-3). The controls near the start/finish point (usually identical in this event) have a low point value, while those more distant or more difficult to locate have a high point value. (See Figure F-6 for a sample card.) This event requires the competitor to locate as many control markers as he can within the specified time (usually 90 minutes). Points are awarded for each control visited and deducted for exceeding the specified time. The competitor with the highest point score is the winner.
Figure F-3. A score orienteering map.
(a) Conducting a score event at the start is basically the same as the cross-country event. The competitor is given a map and an event card. The event card lists all the controls with their different point values. When released to the master map, the competitor finds the circles and numbers indicating the location of all the controls listed on his event card. He copies all the red circles on his map. Then he chooses any route he wishes to take in amassing the highest possible point score in the time available. The course is designed to ensure that there are more control points than can possibly be visited in the allotted time. Again, each control marker visited must be indicated on the event card.
(b) It is important for the competitor to take time initially to plot the most productive route. A good competitor may spend up to 6 minutes in the master map area while plotting the ideal route.
(c) There is no reward for returning early with time still available to find more points, so the good competitor must be able to coordinate time and distance with his ability in land navigation in running the course.