Orienteering is a sport that exercises both the mind and the body. To learn, all you need is a love of the great outdoors and a sense of adventure.
Orienteering is often called "the thinking sport" because it requires map reading, problem solving, and quick decision-making skills in addition general physical fitness.
A world-wide sport, orienteering means finding your way to specific checkpoints on a course in the woods or park using a special detailed map. A compass is helpful for more advanced courses. You may stroll, walk, jog, or run. The checkpoints, called controls, are marked by large orange and white markers, so you know you have found the right place. Controls are placed on distinct mapped features such as trail junctions, a boulder, or a marsh.
Many people consider orienteering a competitive sport and they run through the course in the least amount of time possible. Others, however, see it as a mentally challenging physical activity and are not focused on how long it takes them to complete their course.
Families, groups of friends, scout troops, and school groups often participate. Athletes enjoy the competition. Young children enjoy the search for the controls. Many people just enjoy the walk in the woods looking for controls.
Orienteering is easy to learn, yet always challenging. As you move to advanced courses, the object is to choose the most efficient routes - both on and off trails - to find all the points and get back to the finish. If you are competitive, you may want to finish in the shortest amount of time possible. But everyone is welcome to take all the time required, as long as your report to the finish within the time limit for the course.
Orienteering is enjoyed by a wide range of people - hikers, kids, adventure racers, runners, scouts, family groups - anyone interested in fitness, the outdoors, and a mental and physical challenge. Every orienteering event offers a choice of courses that vary in length and difficulty, from easy trail walks, to technical courses with plenty of off-trail navigation required.
Courses vary in length and difficulty. There are several offerings at every event. Beginner courses are typically 1 to 2 km long, with navigation almost entirely along established trails. More advanced courses can be 3 to 10 km long and require extensive cross-country navigation skills. The length of a course is not a measure of the difficulty level.
Choosing the right course for your skills and abilities is important to having fun. You may start on trails, but as you become more experienced, you may discover the quicker way is straight through the woods.
If you are looking for a new adventure which mixes the great outdoors with a bit of a scavenger hunt, orienteering is for you. If you already enjoy hiking, trail running, geocaching, adventure racing, or just leisurely walking, come and join us for an event.
When you arrive at an orienteering meet, you'll need to check-in at the Registration table to sign our standard liability waiver, pay your entry fee, and get a safety card to complete. If you need Beginner Instruction, tell the person at the Registration Table. You will be told where to find the Instructor. The instructor will help you decide which course to choose.
When you're ready to start your course, be sure to Clear and Check your e-punch. Otherwise, your results may not show up correctly. Check in with the Start/Finish Timer with your safety card completed. Orienteering participants usually self-start, staggered at intervals from others on the same course.
Find your way to each control location -- in order -- using your map, compass, and clue sheet as a guide. When you arrive at each control location, check the control number to confirm that you're at the right control. (Remember, there are multiple courses and you may see controls that are not part of your course.) After confirming you're at the right control, insert your e-punch in the corresponding box. Proceed to each subsequent control in the order indicated on your map.
Return to the finish when you're done. Download your e-punch with the Start/Finish Timer so they can record your time. At a busy meet, there may be a line to download results. Be patient!
For safety reasons, remember to always check-in at the finish, even if you don't complete your course.
Everyone is welcome, and membership is not required.
Membership will, however, allow you to save money on meet fees if you should find yourself coming out to events regularly.
All UNO local meets charge a nominal fee. Members of any recognized orienteering club pay just $5 regardless of which course they run. Non-members are charged $10 for intermediate and advanced courses.
Small groups of family and friends may orienteer together using a single e-punch for one entry fee. Group members may purchase additional maps for $2 each.
Parents and children under 18 can all choose different courses with a family maximum of $30 for an event.
We do not charge for e-punches, but do ask you leave your car keys or other security against the return of the e-punch. Lost e-punches carry a $40 fee.
What should I wear?
In general, you should dress as if you were going for a hike in the woods for an hour or two:
- Sturdy shoes that can get dirty,
- layers if you get hot or cold,
- reading glasses,
- and a sense of adventure.
You will want your hands free, so anything you plan to carry should be in a backpack or waistpack.
Many people prefer long pants or knee-length gaiters to protect their legs from scratches. This is more important on the more advanced courses than for beginners.
What Should I Bring?
The only piece of equipment you really need to go orienteering is your brain. However, the following may also be useful:
- Compass: Helps you orient the map to North and take bearings. We have them available to borrow if you don’t own one.
- Suitable footwear: Light hiking boots, running shoes, or any sturdy shoes you might wear on a trail. We caution that they may get wet or dirty.
- Clothing: Dress for a hike that might take you through brushy areas. The beginner (White) course sticks to trails, but other courses may go through fields and forests.
- Water/snacks: Water is almost always available, but you might want to bring your own for convenience and to drink on the course.
- Pack: You will want your hands free for your map and compass, so put anything you bring into a backpack or waistpack for easier carrying.
- Reading glasses: If you need them to read the map comfortably, please be sure you bring a pair on your course.
- Cash: Unfortunately, we only accept cash payments at our events.
Note that you should not bring a GPS unit. Orienteering is a map reading exercise, and GPS is neither used nor allowed. There are no coordinates on the map, so a GPS unit wouldn't be useful anyway.
How can I join Up North Orienteers?
Annual fees, for one calendar year, are just $20 for an individual and all household members. We cannot allow organizations to be members.
Members receive discounted fees of just $5 for any course at our local events. They also receive email notice of events, and notice of other club activities. They are allowed to vote at our annual business meetings.
Just click here to go to a page with the application form. Print it out, complete the form, and send the application with a check for the membership fee to the address on the form.
Or contact Deb Humiston with questions for an application form.
Unlike other organizations, this is the only sales pitch you'll get. We won't interrupt your orienteering enjoyment by asking for contributions every few minutes.
What kind of training or practice can I do?
Here are a few tips for improving your fitness and skill level for orienteering.
- Learn map symbols (Click here for a PDF of international clue symbols)
- Train for fitness – walking, running, and lifting weights are all helpful
- Practice reading a map while running or walking
- Practice pace counting or timing your distance
- Watch YouTube videos of the experts
- Browse OUSA's collection of informative and fun videos.
- Attend as many orienteering events as possible
- Utilize any permanent orienteering courses near you
- At events, compare routes with other orienteers.
Can I bring my dog?
UNO doesn’t have any specific rules about dogs.You should check the website of the park or meet location to be sure. Park regulations may not allow dogs or have strict leash laws. When in doubt, it would be best to leave your furry at home.
Can I bring my kids?
Children of all ages are welcome at every meet.
We often put out a “String-O” for the youngest children. They have a simple map, follow a line, stop at controls to choose a sticker to put on their map, and return to the starting point.
Other children enjoy the treasure hunt aspect, and being outdoors where they can run and explore. Some want to complete their own course, initially with an adult shadowing.
Children as young as 10 have their own class in international competitions. Orienteering teaches map reading, decision making, and problem solving skills. If children are interested, there are US teams that compete internationally.