Orienteering Ireland Experiments in GPS

Orienteering is a sport based on old-fashioned navigation skills (map reading, compass work, pace counting, observation, etc.) so it would appear to have no place for GPS. However, GPS can be useful before and after races:

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  1. Mapping. Some people have produced O maps with the aid of a GPS. I hope to add a case study sometime in the future.
  2. Training. Track your route with a GPS. Draw your route (or what you think is your route) on the map and overlay the GPS. Did you really go the way that you thought? Routegadget is the perfect way to do this. A great training tool for juniors.
  3. Route Display. There are many different pieces of software that allow you to print or display your route on top of the orienteering map. You can show it to your friends and compare with their route choices. Ór and Routegadget are probably the most suitable programs to use but some others are listed below.
  4. Route Comparison and Analysis. Route choice has always been an important part of orienteering. However, it can be very difficult to gather the data required to improve your decisions. Now, using a GPS and, say, Routegadget, you can easily compare your route to that of your friends. Not only can you see that your friend gained time on you over a leg, now you can see why.


The topics in this GPS page describe some of the ways that GPS has been used to improve the orienteering experience.

If you would like to contribute, please email marcus.geoghegan and martinflynn, both at gmail.com.


Buying GPS Equipment for Orienteering

I have had many enquiries about this so I have produced a GPS Gear wiki page. It is accurate as of August 2008. As time goes buy, new equipment is produced and prices change.

Ór Splitsheets

Ór is a results program written by Martin Flynn. It is designed mainly for SPORTident events. One extra feature that it provides is the ability to automatically print the orienteering map overlayed with the course and route taken by a competitor when he downloads. It also shows the usual split sheet data (name, club, split times, lap times, time taken …) along with some extra information such as the distance travelled and average minutes per kilometer (travelled). You will find more details on the Ór home page

Below are some samples of the splits sheets produced. Please note that they are a couple of years old and some improvements have been made since.

Split Sheets from the Curragh 2006

Produced by Ór

Marcus Geoghegan

Martin Flynn



RouteGadget is software that displays your Orienteering route, either, manually, by clicking on an online map or by uploading a GPS track. The easiest (and best) way to add an event to RG is to use Ór as your results software.

For competitors, it is very easy to upload a GPS track or to draw your track manually. In fact, it is a good training exercise to do both and to compare the two.

Once you have added your route (a track in GPSspeak is a route in orienteeringspeak) you can compare your route with that of others. You can even see an animation of you racing against other people.

Note It is very important to point out that you do not need a GPS to use RG. Using a GPS adds a little to the RG experience, but you can still get most of the benefit by drawing your route manually.

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GPS display of Orienteering tracks
A number of Irish Orienteers have been experimenting recently with GPS route tracking. We can report that the accuracy is excellent and usually gives a very precise replay of your Orienteering route.

One way to display and replay your track is to use OTrack as follows:

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  1. log your orienteering route using a modern GPS receiver. We have used both the wrist-mounted Garmin Forerunner 305 (http://www.garmin.com/products/forerunner305/) and the Garmin GPSMap 60CSx (http://www.garmin.com/products/gpsmap60csx/) in a Silva night-O battery backpack. While both methods work very well, the Forerunner 305 will also log your heart-rate. Both of these are new products that use the SiRFstarIII chipset which claims to work well under leaf cover and in areas of poor satellite coverage. However any GPS receiver will do as long as you can save its track as a GPX file (this is always possible somehow).
  2. Download Otrack from www.o-ware.com
  3. Scan your map as a jpeg. If it is bigger than an A4 page, I use the Adobe Photoshop Elements’ photo panorama function to stitch multiple scans together into a big jpeg. Presumably other photo manipulation packages have a similar function.
  4. Open your map and track files and calibrate the map using Otrack’s red/blue anchor technique (it only takes a few seconds to do this).


You can now analyse your performance and replay your run. If multiple people have logged their tracks on the same course you can play them off against each other.

For Internet display Otrack produces an exe file that anyone can run to view your route. However for better clarity and functionality it is better to view your route within the software. We have placed some examples of exe files below and have also included the source Otrack files for one of the Inishbofin days.

Marcus Geoghegan, August 2006


MRA Navigation Challenge

open this ZIP file and double-click on the .exe files to see animations of Marcus Geoghegan’s routes from all three legs of the 2006 IMRA Navigation Challenge, organised by Joe Lalor in Wicklow. Note that leg 3 stops displaying after 180 minutes – this is a limitation in the software


Swiss 6 Day 2006

all of these show Marcus Geoghegan vs Brendan O’Brien




Ticnock Training

here is an animation of me racing against myself and I on the same route in Ticnock on three separate days; my blue persona wins hands-down showing that training does pay off.


Inishbofin 2006

Day 2, Irish 3-Day 2006, Inishbofin Island (includes the source Otrack files – better than the .exe for viewing performance)


Other Software

The programmes described above are orienteering specific. There are literally hundreds of other GPS programs which can be very helpful.

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  • QuickRoute QuickRoute for analysing your performance
  • GPS Babel Unfortunately, GPS data can be stored in dozens of different formats. Most programs will only support a small number of them. GPS Babel will convert your data between these formats.
  • Sporttracks Sporttracks downloads, stores and shows tracks on a Google map. It’s very handy and easy to use.
  • Ozi Explorer Oziexplorer is a very comprehensive GPS system. It has too many features to mention. It is also quite tricky to use and some features require the non-free version.
  • GPS Map Explorer GPS Map Explorer is very useful if you were at an event with no Routegadget. You can scan the O map and overlay your track on it. You can even view an animation of your run. However, it is a bit tricky to use, especially as it uses a non-standard GPS format. You will need GPS babel too.
  • OSI Trailmaster You may purchase Ordnance Survey Ireland maps and aerial photos of various parts of the country. These come with their own viewer, Trailmasterfor PC and PDA. This allows you to overlay your track on top of the map/photo. You can even get a 3-D view and fly along your track.
  • Garmin Training Center This comes with the Garmin Forerunner and other similar units. It forms a very good training diary and allows things like speed and heart rate to be viewed graphically. It also shows the track on a map. However the map is very basic. Sporttracks is better for mapping the track but Training Center is best for analysing your training.
  • Trekbuddy This is a program for mobile phones that support Java. TrekbuddyTrekbuddy uses a bluetooth GPS receiver and displays your position on a pre-loaded map. For example, you can scan OS maps or O maps and load them onto your phone. So, it’s the best way to cheat at orienteering:-( It can be handy if you don’t have a satnav for your car.


Orienteering in Ireland
  • Orienteering Ireland
    Irish Sport HQ
    D15 DY62
  • fixtures@orienteering.ie
  • info@orienteering.ie