What is Orienteering?

Orienteering is finding one's way across country using a detailed map, usually with the help of a compass. It can be enjoyed by both young and old, as a relaxing recreation or as a competitive sport.

An orienteering course involves visiting a number of locations in the bush in the correct order. These locations, called controls, are marked with orange and white flags. Some typical control features are track junctions, creek bends, and boulders.

At the start of the course, the competitor is given a map on which the course is marked. Orienteers have to find their way to each control, taking whichever route they choose.

Typical route choice decisions involve deciding whether to go over or around a large hill, to follow tracks all the way in comfort, or to strike out through the forest taking a short cut to save time.

Naturally most people choose different routes, tailoring the course to suit their preferences.

To complete an orienteering course may take as little as 20 minutes for a short easy course, or up to 3 hours for a longer difficult course.

Who goes Orienteering?

Anyone! Well, all types of people that is. Orienteering is an activity which is well suited to people of all ages and physical abilities.

A typical orienteering event may have half a dozen courses to enter on the day. These vary greatly in the difficulty of navigation, from the very easy, following fences, paths and creeks, through moderate navigational and physical difficulty, to the very difficult. This allows for a gentle introduction to orienteering with plenty of opportunity also for improving orienteers.

The lengths of the course vary greatly too, from about 1.5km for the shortest course, suitable for children as young as 5 or 6, through to about 18 km for the longest course for elite athletes.

Although you don't have to be a member of a club to participate in orienteering events, some benefits of joining a club are:

  • reduced fees at some events;
  • you receive the OANSW Newsletter and "The Australian Orienteer" containing details of coming events, results and articles of interest on orienteering in NSW and Australia;
  • Club newsletters and social activities.

See the Membership page for a membership form and further details on how to join a club in your area.

NB: In general, dogs are not permitted at orienteering events as they may disturb native wildlife or stock. Dogs are welcome when it is specifically stated that they may be brought to an event.

What happens at events?

Most events in New South Wales are organised by one of fourteen clubs affiliated with the Orienteering Association of New South Wales (six based in metropolitan Sydney and the other eight in regional NSW). Events are usually completed in one day but are occasionally held with races on two consecutive days.

A key feature of orienteering is that you should find your way around your course without help from other orienteers. Competitors on the same course therefore have different start times, usually at 2 minute intervals. You may choose your own start time on the day, within the time specified by the organising club (usually between 9:30am and 12:30pm for Sunday events).

You should arrive at an event in time to be able to register, mark up your course on your map if required and get to the Start location before the latest start time given. As a rule of thumb allow 30-45 minutes for this.

If you are new to orienteering, coaches are available to help, just ask at the Registration desk, or look for someone wearing an 'Ask Me' vest or armband.

Once you have chosen a suitable course from those listed on the day, you register your entry and start at your preferred time. Make sure that you finish by the latest time given in the event instructions, or if you can't finish in time, make your way directly to the Finish location so the organisers can bring in the controls and go home.

When you have finished your course, your time will be calculated and hung up on the Results Board, usually within 5-10 minutes of finishing.

Now is a good time to set up the barbecue, make a start on lunch and have a drink, relaxing in the clean forest air away from the stress of the city.

Further Information