New to Orienteering?

Navigating through the woods

Navigating through the woods

Last Updated: Sun 4 Feb 2018

Orienteering is an outdoor adventure sport that combines map reading and running. The aim is to navigate between checkpoints marked on a map and decide the best route to complete the course in the quickest time.

It's a fantastic sport for all ages and levels of fitness and for anyone who loves being in the great outdoors.

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions. For further information you can email, or just come along to a local event where someone will happily show you the ropes.

Where do you orienteer?

Anywhere! From forests, moorlands and open fells to urban parks and city centres. Races take place across the country every weekend, often on weekdays and even some nights!

What are the maps like?

Orienteering maps are very different to Ordnance Survey maps. They are more detailed and larger in scale, showing fences, bushes and small depressions in the land. Different colours are used to show different types of vegetation or undergrowth and how dense they are. You just have to decide whether to take the short cut through the heavy bracken or go the long way round on the path!

An orienteering map

An orienteering map

Are there different courses to choose from?

Every event offers courses of different lengths and technical difficulty so there should be something to suit all ages and levels of experience. The easier courses stick to paths, while the harder ones require more complex navigation and advanced map reading skills. If you're unsure just ask one one of the club volunteers who'll be happy to recommend a course for you to try.

How fit do you have to be?

You can walk, jog or run a course and progress at your own pace. Top competitors will often be national road or cross-country runners, but the mental challenge of orienteering is equally important, so you need excellent navigational skills to win.

Do you get lost?

Everyone gets lost sometimes. As you become more experienced and your navigation improves, you'll spend more time heading in the right direction and less time wondering where you are!

Do you run on your own?

Experienced orienteers run on their own, but it's absolutely fine to run in a pair or with a group of friends. Youngsters and beginners can also be followed or 'shadowed' for coaching.

Finding a control

Finding a control

How do you know when you’ve found the right checkpoint/control?

Each control is marked by a small orange and white kite and has a unique number that you can check to make sure you’ve found the right one.

How do you record your run?

Everyone carries an electronic chip (a dibber) that they register at each control to prove they’ve been there. When you finish you get a printout of your ‘splits’ so you can see how long you took between each control and have fun comparing your times with other people on your course!

What sort of kit do you need?

You just need suitable clothes for walking or running in forests or towns. Long leg cover may be required if the event is in the woods. A compass is very useful, particularly on the more difficult courses and some races may require that you carry a whistle for safety. You can cheaply hire a dibber at each race and your entry fee will include your map and a print out of your splits. More info on specialist orienteering equipment can be found here.

Where and when can we give it a go?

Southdowns Orienteers put on many events throughout the year. See our Events page for full details. There are also a selection of Permanent Orienteering Courses which you can use anytime to practice your skills.

The Finish

The Finish

Your First Event

Local Southdowns Orienteers events, known as SO Gallopens (SOGS) are friendly club events where children and newcomers are very welcome. A range of courses are available to suit all levels of fitness and ability and volunteers will be happy to help get you started. 

Coaching

Our monthly coaching sessions are open to everyone. If you are brand new to orienteering then these sessions can be a great way to get started. Juniors, their parents and other adults are most welcome.

Event Types

Orienteers attend a wide range of events from local Level D SOGS to major Level A events and from urban sprints to long forest relays. Many travel overseas to events in Europe and beyond. We're a dedicated bunch! 

Popular Events

Many Southdowners travel further afield and take part in a wide variety of sociable multi-day events and alternative format races. Here are a few suggestions from around the UK.

Links & Videos

There are loads of videos, books and articles out there to inspire and inform newcomers, juniors and seasoned orienteers. Here are just a few to get you started. Some of these videos have been made by members of the SO junior squad. Further useful links can be found in the information section. 

Photo Gallery

click/tap photos for a larger version

Navigating through the mud

Navigating through the mud

In the thick of it

In the thick of it

Looking for a control

Looking for a control

Fantastic views!

Fantastic views!

Learning the ropes

Learning the ropes

Racing through the woods

Racing through the woods

Checking the map

Checking the map