What is orienteering?
It’s a sport in which you navigate between control points marked on a special map. You decide the best route to take – there’s usually a choice. That makes it a mental as well as a physical challenge.
Courses come in a variety of lengths and navigational difficulty levels so you can choose the course that’s right for you and run, jog or walk it at your own pace. It does not matter how young, old or fit you are.
How does it work?
To get round a course, you pick up a map at the start. First you’ll need to find the triangle symbol on the map – that’s where you are now. Then you’ll need to choose your route from the triangle to control number 1 on the map.
When you find your control there will be an orange-and-white marker flag, and an electronic box. You ‘dib’ the box using your electronic memory stick (called a dibber). Then you’ll need to choose your route to control number 2 on the map, and so on.
The finish is marked on the map by a two-ring circle, and on the ground by a banner and flag. After you’ve dibbed the finish, go to the download to get your results and tell the club you have finished.
We do our best to help beginners. If you’ve never orienteered before, just explain this at the assembly or download desk and we will talk you through the process. You can also email the event organiser in advance.
This video by another orienteering club shows you what orienteering looks like.
How do I get to an event?
Most of our events take registrations online in advance. The entries are only available until a week or so before the event.
A few entries are usually available for newcomers on the day: first come, first served. We recommend booking in advance.
The page on our website for the event (see the list of Future Events) will tell you how to register for it, and how to get there. Many are accessible by public transport.
When you arrive, we will be pleased to see you! We do our best to help beginners. If you’ve never orienteered before, just explain this at the assembly or download desk and we will talk you through the process.
What should I wear?
On your feet you should wear trainers/walking shoes with decent grip.
You will usually need to wear long trousers/running tights. This is in order to prevent getting scratched by brambles and undergrowth in the countryside. You can wear a t-shirt or long sleeved top.
For urban events you’ll be running mainly on pavements and through parks so your regular running/walking gear is fine. You will not need to wear long trousers for these.
A compass is very useful, particularly for the more difficult courses (you can use a smartphone compass). At events in the countryside you will be asked to carry a whistle.
At some events, particularly in the winter, there may be additional requirements such as carrying waterproofs; this will be mentioned in the event details.
What do I need to bring?
A compass is very useful, particularly for the more difficult courses (you can use a smartphone compass). At events in the countryside you will also be asked to carry a whistle.
At most events, you register at each control using an electronic memory stick (called a dibber). If you don’t already own one, you can hire one from the organising club. This will be an option when you enter the event.
Which course should I enter?
Children should generally start on the White course, then move up to the Yellow course, then the Orange course and beyond as they build up their confidence and navigation skills. Children are allowed to be ‘shadowed’ by their parents/guardians but this is not mandatory.
White and Yellow courses are all on paths.
If you are an adult and have no previous navigation experience we recommend you enter Yellow. If you have some navigation experience, perhaps from hill walking, then Orange would be a good choice. If you are a runner and have more previous navigation experience we would recommend Light Green.
We would not recommend you enter the Short Green, Green, Blue or Brown courses if you have not orienteered before; build up your navigation skills and confidence on the easiest courses first.
If you are not sure which course to enter, you can always email the event organiser (their address will be on the event’s web page).
I already run, why should I try orienteering?
Orienteering works your brain as well as your body as you have to keep a cool head as well as quick feet to get around in the fastest time.
Since you are usually on your own, competing against the clock, orienteering is a personal challenge.
It allows you to go much further off-path than you would in trail or cross-country running.
You have detailed maps that let you cover ground you probably wouldn’t tackle in any other sport.
Don’t you get lost all the time?
No. Everyone gets lost sometimes, but you work out where you are sooner or later.
Orienteering controls are closely spaced, so you can always retrace your steps to the previous control.
After a few events you’ll spend less time making mistakes and can progress to more challenging courses.
This video has some good ideas about relocating when you lose your way.
Is orienteering suitable for children?
Orienteering is an excellent activity for building a child’s confidence and sense of independence.
Children should generally start on the White course, then move up to the Yellow course, then the Orange course and beyond as they build up their skills. Children are allowed to be shadowed by their parents/guardians but this is not mandatory. For pre-teens it is probably best to begin with.
This means you follow them around the course, being there to help them when they are not sure what to do. Older children may still appreciate being shadowed on their first course or want to orienteer in pairs. If an older child is confident, and so are their parents/guardians, they can also go on their own.
Are there any permanent orienteering courses?
NATO and the surrounding clubs maintain a number of permanent orienteering courses in the North-East. These are always available (when the venue is open), so can be a good way to start or practise orienteering.
This video explains more.
Do I need to be a member?
You don’t need to become a member to come to our events. Newcomers normally join a club after about 3 events.
Where can I find out more?
If you have any questions about attending our events or about the club then please use our contact page.
If you have questions about a particular event, please contact the event organiser (their email address will be on the event’s web page).
If you are interested in joining our club, see the membership page.
If you would like to learn more about orienteering in general, British Orienteering have a guide on their website.
Where are the event results pre-2021?
All event results from before 2021 are archived here NATO Results Historical Results Archive 2003 – 2020