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Orienteering

Orienteering is a running sport involving navigation with a map and compass. The traditional form (sometimes referred to as "Foot Orienteering" or "Foot-O") involves cross-country running, though other forms have evolved.

The competition is a timed race in which individual participants use a special purpose map and a magnetic compass to navigate through diverse terrain (often wooded) and visit, in sequence, control points that are indicated on the map.

Some wicked courses contain interesting obstacles like river crossings. If you read you map well you might find a rope across. Otherwise you can simply swim across. Keep your map dry.

The course of control points is kept a secret from competitors before the start, when they are provided with a detailed topographic map on which the course is marked.

Competitors start at staggered intervals, are individually timed, and are expected to perform all navigation skills on their own. Standings are determined first by successful completion of the course, then by shortest time on course.

Equipment

The basic equipment required for orienteering is usually listed as a compass, appropriate outdoor clothing and, in some countries, whistle. The whistle is for use in emergency situations. Competitive orienteers usually use specialized equipment, such as a "thumb compass". GPS and other electronic navigation devices are not normally allowed.

Competitors may also use a "punch-card holder" for hands-free orienteering. A modern variation on the punch card is electronic punching, where a small plastic 'punchcard', also called a 'dibber', which straps to a competitor's finger, is inserted into a special, battery-operated station at the control point.

The time at which the control was punched is recorded. Some electronic punching systems have stations that beep and/or flash a light to notify that the punch is OK. For important events there should be some kind of independent backup available in case of equipment failure.

Recommended Clothing

Participants sometimes wear visors to keep rain, dust and twigs out of their eyes. Purpose-made lightweight nylon or lycra suits provide full body cover for racing in areas with undergrowth. Gaiters are also often worn. Lightweight studded (and often cleated) orienteering shoes are commonly used.