Frequently Asked Questions

What is orienteering?

Orienteering is an outdoor adventure sport. It involves using a map of an area, and sometimes a compass, to find a series of checkpoints (known as controls), that are shown on the map. It suits all ages and fitness levels.

Where does orienteering take place?

Orienteering can take place in forests or woods, open hillside, parkland, urban streets, school playgrounds and university campuses.

Do I have to be fit?

Orienteering suits all ages and fitness levels. You can choose to run, jog, or walk around an orienteering course. At an orienteering event you select a course that suits you. In competitive orienteering, the aim is to get around a course as fast as possible.

How can I try orienteering?

The easiest way to try orienteering is to go to an orienteering event. To find out what events may be happening near you check out Orienteering Ireland’s fixtures list. The fixtures list has information on how to register for an event. Most orienteering events are suitable for beginners and newcomers. They typically take place on Sundays, and also some evenings during the summer. Usually, you can register a few days before the event, and it may also be possible to register at the event itself.

What course should I choose at an orienteering event?

Orienteering events offer a range of courses for you to choose from. Most events have courses suitable for those new to the sport. Some orienteering events have short (best for beginners), medium and long courses. Other events have colour coded courses e.g., yellow (easiest – best for beginners), orange (also suitable for beginners), green, light green, blue, brown (hardest).

How do I register for an orienteering event?

You can register online for an event through the Orienteering Ireland fixtures page. Online registration is usually available up to a day or two before the event.

Most events use an electronic timing system called SportIdent (SI). It has its own electronic timing cards (SI Card) that you can hire for the event, for a nominal amount, when you register online.

Can I do an orienteering course with somebody else?

Yes. You can choose to do a course by yourself, with family members, or with friends.

What do I do when I get to the orienteering event?

Once you have arrived and parked at an event location, find the registration – this is often in a tent or a car.   

If you have already registered online, you can collect your timing card (SI card) from here.

The people at registration will help you with any questions you may have.           

If you have not registered online the people at the registration will help you choose the best course for you. You pay the event registration fee and a small hire fee for the timing card (SI card).

Once you have your SI card, which you put on a finger, follow the signs to the start. The start may be a few minutes walk away.

At the start, there will be somebody there to show you how to use the SI card. They will also show you where to collect your orienteering map for the course you are doing.

The orienteering map has the course marked on it in purple. It shows you where the start (triangle), finish (double circle) and controls (circles) are on your course. The map also tells you in what order you must find these controls.

The map also has a box with control descriptions. These descriptions give information about each control site that you must find on the course, including each control’s unique code. The descriptions are in written words for easier courses, and as symbols for the more difficult courses.

How do I get around my course?

You use your orienteering map to help find your way to each control, and in the right order. It’s up to you to decide which route you will take between controls – this is one of the challenges of orienteering.

Controls are marked with an orange and white flag, or kite. There is a timing box with a code at each control. The code on the box should match the code in the control descriptions. You will use your timing card (SI card) to dip into the timing box at each control. Your SI card will beep as it records the time at each control.

Continue from control to control until you reach the finish (double circle on the map). You also use your SI card in the finish box to record your time at the end of your course.

After you have finished your course follow the signs from the finish to the download station. There you will get a printout of the time it took you to get around the course.

What equipment do I need?

You do not need any special equipment to try orienteering.

Wear comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for being outdoors. Choose your clothes based on if you want to walk, jog or run. When the orienteering event is taking place in the woods wear leggings or long trousers.

You may get a bit wet and mucky, so consider bringing a change of shoes and clothes.

As you become more experienced you may need to invest in a compass.

As you do more orienteering events you may want to buy your own SI timing card.

How do I get to an orienteering event?

Information on where the event is and how to get to it can be found in the event information from the Orienteering Ireland fixtures list.

Sometimes orienteering event organisers will post last minute details, including directions, on the Orienteering Ireland community forum during the week or days before an event.

When driving to an event, look out for orienteering signs and arrows once you get close to where the orienteering event is taking place. These signs will lead you to the event location and parking.

Can I practice orienteering without going to an orienteering event?

Yes. There are a number of permanent orienteering courses around the country that you can do at any time.

There are also MapRun courses in parks around the country, that you can access on your Smartphone anytime.

Where do I find my local orienteering club?

The orienteering clubs in Ireland, with links to their contact details, are listed on the Orienteering Ireland website. You can also meet club members from different clubs at the various orienteering events.

Orienteering in Ireland
  • Orienteering Ireland
    Irish Sport HQ
    D15 DY62