Your First Orienteering Event

Getting started, orienteering is super easy and quite inexpensive!

  • Find the Club closest to you and check their schedule for an upcoming event. Register in advance (most common) or show up a few minutes early to register on-site (if available).
  • Depending on the club’s policies, you may need to purchase a club membership.


Once you have chosen an event to attend, there are a few things you should know:

  • Clothing and footwear: Wear clothes that are comfortable for hiking or running and suitable for the current weather. Wear some sturdy shoes: runners are ideal. Hiking shoes or boots can work too.
  • Equipment: Bring a compass if you have one. Bring a water bottle. You may want to carry it if you choose a long course. We also recommend that everyone have a watch or cell phone so you know the time and will be back before the official end time of the event
  • Event details: Any important details for that particular event will be on the event page so please read it carefully.

At The Event

When you get to the event site, look for the registration/information table.

  • Go to the information table to sign in and find out the latest info about the event.
  • Let the volunteer know you are new to orienteering. They can help you to answer your questions, help you decide which course is the right level of difficulty for you.
  • Get your course map. Borrow or rent a compass and a timing chip if needed.
  • Ask the onsite volunteer if there is a beginners clinic available on-site (there likely is). During the clinic, an experienced orienteer will give you a brief introduction to orienteering including:
    a) give you an overview of the basic map reading skills to get you started,
    b) review the course on your map with you,
    c) explain how to use your timing chip,
    d) Ensure you understand the golden rules and
    e) show you where the start is.

The Golden Rules of Orienteering

  1. You MUST sign in and sign out so that we know you are safely back.
  2. Don't take longer than the maximum time allowed. Come back to the finish even if you haven't found all the controls if you are still out at the course closing time.
  3. Understand how to get back to finish / registration desk in case you don’t know where you are on course.

At The Start

If the event is using electronic timing:

  1. Start by inserting your timing chip in the electronic unit labeled CLEAR. You will need to hold your chip in the unit until it beeps or flashes. This erases previous data from the chip. Then insert your chip in the unit labeled CHECK. This confirms that all data has been erased and you are ready to go to the start.
  2. When you are ready to start insert your timing chip in the electronic start unit. When it beeps or flashes your course time has started and you should head out on course.

Other orienteers will be out on course at the same time. They may or may not be on the same course so stay focused on your own map.

At The Finish

The FINISH checkpoint/control is generally close to the registration area and often marked with a finish banner. Insert your timing chip in the FINISH unit and go to the timing table to find out your time. Orienteers love to talk about how their course went. Stay and chat with others afterwards and you may pick up a tip or two.

(adapted from content from Orienteering Ottawa)

Find an Event Near You!

We can't wait for you to join us.