CLOK logo


CLOK logo

For more information, click on one of the following links.

Why orienteering is different

Map and compass

The seven point plan

At a control

Between controls

At the Start

Compass bearings

Getting lost .... and found again

Punching at the wrong control

Return to the main About Orienteering page

Return to the CLOK home page

Map and compass

The tools that you use to find your way round an orienteering course are a map, a compass and your brain!  This Basic Navigation section covers the use of all three of these.


Orienteering uses specially-produced maps that give a huge amount of detail about the terrain that you're passing through.  There are a number of aspects of these maps that you need to be aware of.

First, they are very large scale compared to other maps that you will have used.  Orienteering maps are generally at a scale of 1:10,000 or 1:15,00.  For comparison, an Ordnance Survey map for walkers will be at a scale of 1:25,000, 1:40,000 or 1:50,000.  If you're used to using Ordnance Survey maps then when you start using an orienteering map you'll get to places sooner than you're expecting to, and you'll tend to over-shoot.  Over the first part of your course pay some attention to getting used to the scale of the map.

Second, on an orienteering map runnable forest is white and open land is yellow.  This takes a bit of getting used to.  It's done this way because in Scandinavia, where orienteering started, most of the terrain is covered by forest and it made the maps clearer if this forest was shown as white.

Third, orienteering maps use a comprehensive set of symbols to show everything from paths and walls to individual boulders and small pits.  It wouldn't be realistic to expect you to become an expert in all of those symbols before your first run.  Fortunately, it's not necessary.   If you start off on the less navigationally challenging courses there's a much smaller set of symbols that will be important to you.  Before you set out on your course make sure that you are familiar with the symbols for:
      (1)   Track.  Path.  Ride.
      (2)   Wall.  Fence.  High fence.
      (3)   Stream.  Ditch.
      (4)   Boulder.  Crag.
      (5)   Knoll.  Hill.
      (6)   Pit.  Depression.

Also, be aware that different colours denote different types of forest.  As I mentioned before, open runnable forest is shown as white.  Forest that is a bit thicker - so that you can still run through it, but more slowly - is shown as light green.  Beyond that, the thicker the forest the darker the green.  As a general rule, avoid forest mapped as dark green - it's called "fight" and usually lives up to its name!

Go back to the previous page. Go on to the next page.

Go back to the main About Orienteering page.