Orienteering Event Types

Orienteering courses can be set in any environment where an appropriate map has been made. The standard format is a point-to-point race: A course of controls that must be taken in a specific order. Length varies from a few kilometers for beginners, to ten or more kilometers for experts; the level of difficulty also varies, from staying entirely on trails (White course) to advanced navigational challenges (Brown, Green, Red and Blue courses).

However, orienteering is so much fun that a number of variations have been developed! Here are some other event types you might encounter:

Line Orienteering
Maps are marked with a line indicating the exact route to be followed. Participants mark their map where they find each control. This is a great training method for improving map-reading skills.

Motala (individual relay)Night Orienteering
Participants do a loop of several controls and return to the start. They then continue to do all of the other loops. Excellent for schoolyards and small areas.

Night Orienteering
Variation of point-to-point or score orienteering conducted at night. Controls are typically marked with reflective tape and participants use headlamps or flashlights. A U.S. championship is held in night orienteering.

Relay Orienteering
Each team member does a course and tags the next team member. A mass start is usually used. A U.S. championship is held in relay orienteering.

Score Orienteering
Participants try to find as many controls as possible in a given amount of time. The route and number of checkpoints to visit is up to the competitor. Controls sometimes have different point values depending upon distance from the start and the difficulty of navigation. Penalties are often assessed for overtime.

String OrienteeringString Orienteering
Used with preschoolers and primary grade children, checkpoints are placed along a string between controls. Level of difficulty may be varied.

Trivia Orienteering
Answer a question about the control site to prove you reached the checkpoint. This event type is useful in urban settings and public buildings (malls, museums, etc.).

Source: Ed Hicks, Orienteering Unlimited

Photos: Michał Krupiński, Cath Chalmers