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A Beginners Guide to Orienteering

I’ve seen an event advertised, what do I do next?
Look at the information about when and where the event is as it may be a few weeks away. Also look at how you need to enter the event and when you need to do this by.

How do I enter?
Look at the event details as there are different ways to enter depending on each club and the particular event. Sometimes there will be entry on day (EOD) where you can just turn up on the day and enter. Due to COVID most clubs now require pre-entry and there will be links to the entry system being used by that club for that event. Pre-entry systems will require you to enter some basic information about yourself including your name, age and the course you want to run. Some entry systems require payment by card immediately for the entry to be processed. Others will require you to make a payment to the club bank account and others will require you to pay on the day of the event by card or cash.

What course should I choose?
A range of courses will be offered at all events to cater for all ages and abilities. Orienteering courses are classified by their Technical Difficulty (TD) ranging from 1-5 where TD1 will be entirely following paths or other obvious line features such as walls, fences and streams and TD5 requires complex navigational skills including map interpretation, understanding complex contours and use of accurate compass bearings. At terrain events courses are usually colour coded with the following colours being used – White (TD1), Yellow (TD2), Orange (TD3), Light Green (TD4), Green (TD5), Blue (TD5), Brown (TD5), Black (TD5). The TD5 courses get progressively longer and more physically demanding from Green through to Black. At urban events courses are usually grouped into age classes and the TD is generally easier although will require quick decision making to choose the optimum route. Sometimes a Score course is offered which is where you have a map with lots of controls on it and the aim is to find as many controls as you can, in any order, in a specified time limit.

Course Distances and Climb
Course distances and climb are measured by the straight line route but you will never be able to run exactly on the straight line route. Even on a White course the paths may wiggle about. On the harder courses there will be obstacles to avoid and the fastest route will not be along the straight line. At some events it will be impossible to follow the straight line e.g. the terrain may be too rough, there may be a lake/river to cross, there may be buildings in the way. You can always expect to go quite a bit further than the quoted course distance and even more if you make mistakes!

What is a BO and SI number?
Regular orienteers will be members of British Orienteering (BO) and will have a membership number (BO number) however beginners will not have this for their first event. An SI number is the unique number on a Sportident (SI) electronic timing chip, often called a ‘dibber’ which is used at all events in the Yorkshire area. Most BO members will have their own dibber however beginners will need to hire or borrow one.

What do I need to bring?
You need to wear comfortable clothes and shoes to run or walk in. Clothing needs to be appropriate for the time of year and possible exposure of the area. Shoes with good grip are preferable and you may get muddy so make sure that whatever you wear you don’t mind if it gets dirty. Shorts are not permitted at terrain areas for safety. At some events it may be mandatory to carry a cagoule and whistle. A navigational compass is useful to ensure you orientate your map correctly but it isn’t essential for TD1-3 courses.

What do I do when I get there?
Unless you have your own dibber or have borrowed one then you will need to go to ‘Registration’ or ‘Enquiries’ to collect your hire dibber. If you already pre-entered and paid you will then be able to go to the start. If you need to pay your entry fee or the event is entry on day then you will need to go to Registration first before you go to the start. If you have been given an allocated start time or block then you should aim to get to the start for that time. Check before the event how far the start is from parking to make sure you allow enough time to get there. If you need any help or are in anyway unsure then please ask an event official for help.

Can anyone help me?
Yes, there will be people who can help you on the day. If you know beforehand that you will need help then you can email the organiser before the event so they can arrange for someone to already be available to explain things to you on the day.

How does the timing chip (dibber) work?
The dibber has a small finger strap and most people carry it on the index or middle finger, whatever is most comfortable for the individual. In the pre-start area there will be a ‘clear’ and ‘check’ box to clear off the previous entry onto the dibber and then check that this has worked. At the start lane there will be a ‘start’ box that you insert the dibber into to activate your time. At each control there will be a box to put the dibber in to record you have been there and finally when you finish there will be a ‘finish’ box that will then stop your time. Every time you insert the dibber into a box it will beep to give feedback that it has worked. You may notice some orienteers using dibbers that they don’t need to insert into the control boxes but just waft them close to the top of the box. These are contactless dibbers (SI Air or SIAC) however hire dibbers are generally not contactless ones so they need to be inserted into the box to register that you have been to that control.

When do I get my map?
You will pick up your map from a box labelled with the course you are doing (e.g. Light Green, Blue) after you have activated your dibber at the start box and your time has started. The course will be marked on your map. The triangle depicts the start location then the controls are marked with numbered circles and the finish is a double circle. Controls must be visited in the correct order starting at number 1. The only exception to this is a Score course where controls can be visited in any order with the aim to find as many as possible in a defined time limit.

How will I know I am at the correct controls?
Each control has a unique number on it. On your map there will be a description list which tells you what the number will be at each control and a description of what it will be on, e.g. No1. 126 Path Junction, No2. 104 Stream End, No3. 141 Fence Corner etc.

What do I do after I have finished?
After you have finished your course you must go to Download, even if you did not complete the course. This is essential so that officials know you are back safely and don’t activate a search for you. When you download you will be given a printout of the time it took you to get to each control and your overall time for the whole course.

Will there be results?
Yes, after the event the results of everyone who did a course will be uploaded to the website of the club hosting the event. For EPOC events this is www.eastpennineoc.org.uk and you will be able to see how long everyone took who did the same course as you.

Further Information about beginning orienteering can be found by looking on the British Orienteering website

January 2022



© East Pennine Orienteering Club
Page updated: December 18 2022
Any comments regarding this website will be thoughtfully received!