Try out Orienteering!

compassmap So, you have learned a bit about what orienteering is all about and are now ready to give this exciting sport a try! The easiest way to get started is to find a club in your local area. There are many orienteering clubs across the world, in particular Europe, where the sport is very popular.

This website is dedicated to encouraging the growth of orienteering in North America, and so will focus on finding clubs and orienteering opportunities in either Canada or the US.



Find a Club

For a list of all active clubs in North America, please check:

Orienteering Canada

Orienteering USA

All active orienteering clubs will typically offer one or two events (usually on a weekend) a month that are always open to the public. Newcomers to the sport are always welcome, so all you have to do is browse their event schedule and choose a date that suits you. Another great way to get started is to do one of many 'permanent' or Do-it-yourself (DIY) orienteering courses that have been set up in community parks or urban areas. For a list of these and more information about them, please check here:

Orienteering USA - Permanent Courses


Attending and Registering at your First Event

Registration will vary a bit between clubs. You may need to pre-register online to attend or simply show up at a scheduled event. Usually a small fee (approx $10) is charged for the event, which will include your map. For insurance purposes, you will also need to become a club member. By becoming a club member, you will also receive access to bulletins on upcoming events in your area.


Beginner Instruction

Most clubs will also offer a bit of beginner instruction just prior to you heading out to get you acquainted with the equipment and basics of how to get started. Just identify yourself as someone new to the sport during your registration. You may also wish to review this useful Orienteering Beginners Guide, to help you get started. For more detailed information on orienteering skills, please visit the Basic Skills pages in this website.


Here is a video produced by Orienteering Australia, that illustrates registering for your first event:



Personal Equipment

Make sure you are ready to attend by wearing outdoor clothes suitable for walking or running forest trails and bring a whistle and baseplate compass. If you don't have have a whistle or compass yet, it is likely you can purchase an inexpensive whistle at registration and also borrow a compass for the event. So, basically you just need to bring yourself, a positive attitude and willingness to try something new!


Choose a Course

This is the most exciting part! Clubs can offer a variety of exciting and varied orienteering opportunities. Usually you will have a choice between two common formats - point-to-point or Score O. These were desribed in orienteering basics. If more than one course is offered, it will be important to choose the course most suited to your abilities. Don't judge a course by its length alone! Some advanced courses can be short in length but still be very technically challenging depending on the terrain. The following chart will help you get familiar with common course categories. It is best to start with the beginner courses (C1, C2, White or Yellow) until you get a feel for the sport and are ready to challenge yourself by moving up to a more difficult course.

Category Canada US* General Description Competitor




easy navigation, all control flags on trails and at all decision points, average distance 1-2 km great for beginners, and adults introducing young children to orienteering

Advanced Beginner/Novice



easy navigation, all control flags on trails, or large feature just off-trail, spaced to offer more decision making, average distance 1.5 - 2.5 km
great for adult beginners, older youth with some experience




more route choice, mix of on and off-trail control locations on large features near trails requiring more precise navigation, average distance 3-4 km great for adults and older youth with experience in using a compass

Advanced - short



more route choice, mostly off-trail control flag locations requiring compass bearings and detailed navigation, smaller more subtle control features, average distance 4 km+ great for experienced adults, older youth with well-developed navigation and compass skills

Advanced - long



same difficulty as above, but over a longer distance, typically an average distance 5 km+ as above, looking for a greater physical challenge

Note: the US also has red and blue courses generally associated with an even more higher level of difficulty intended for championship races.


Let's Get Started

Here is another excellent video presented by British Orienteering, that will give you a good overview of what to expect when you first start orienteering. Orienteering is an international sport so most info is very similar to how the sport is presented in North America.

You should now have a good overview of orienteering.

If you are ready to expand your knowledge, go to the Basic Skills Section.

Next Topic: Orienting the Map