What is Orienteering?
Orienteering is a sport in which the participants use an accurate, detailed
map to find points in the landscape. It can be
enjoyed as a walk in the woods or as a competitive sport.
A standard orienteering course consists of
a start, a series of control sites that are marked by
circles, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be
visited, and a finish. The control site circles are centred
around the feature that is to be found with each feature also being defined
by the control descriptions.
On the ground, a control flag marks the
location that the orienteer must visit.
To verify a visit, the orienteer uses a punch
hanging next to the flag to mark his or her
control card. Different punches make
different patterns of holes in the paper.
The route between "controls" (i.e. the flags or the sites)
is not specified and is entirely up to the orienteer. This
element of route choice and the ability to
navigate through the forest are the essence of orienteering.
Most orienteering events use staggered starts to ensure that each
orienteer has a chance to do his or her own navigating, but there are
several other popular formats, including relays and score events in
which the orienteer must find as many controls as possible within a
The material on this page (and its links) was derived from Heather Williams' site
"What is Orienteering?". The original can be viewed at