Orienteering is a navigation sport!
It is often a race but can also be done “just for fun”.
Checkpoints are circled on a specially prepared map, and you decide your own route between them.
“Should you go straight, through the forest and up the hill? Or perhaps take the longer but flatter trail for a while?” These are the kinds of decisions that run through an orienteer’s mind.
Orienteers use only maps and compasses 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, and you can do that with just your sight.
What is the attraction of orienteering?
Some like orienteering to get outside and explore nature.
Some like orienteering to do an activity with their friends and family.
Some like orienteering to learn navigation skills.
Many like orienteering because it helps us learn to make decisions and solve problems under the pressure of time.
Parents like orienteering for their children because it gets them outside, getting exercise, and learning to think for themselves.
A novice-level course laid out on an orienteering map.
Triangle = Start, Double Circle = Finish
Notice between 5 and 6 the competitor can choose to go farther on the road or take a more direct route through the forest. The direct route is shorter in distance but often there is a larger risk of going off course.
Scroll down for the typical map legend of features found on an orienteering map, and what the various colors on an orienteering map represent.