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Orienteering 101

Orienteering is an activity in which a map and compass are used to find a specific, predetermined point or points on a map. Some enjoy orienteering as a way to enhance a hike (this was originally known as "wayfaring"), while others are quite competitive and take it very seriously. It isn't limited to hiking; orienteering can be done on skis, bicycle, boat, automobile, or just about any vehicle. For our purposes and the obvious "slant" of the slackpacker website, we'll concentrate on the pedestrian form.

According to Heather Williams' Orienteering site, the "sport" aspect is described thusly:

"A standard orienteering course consists of a start, a series of control sites that are marked by circles, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be visited, and a finish. The control site circles are centered around the feature that is to be found; this feature is also defined by control descriptions (sometimes called clues). On the ground, a control flag marks the location that the orienteer must visit."

Once the orienteer finds the "control flag," they use a paper punch hanging at the flag to punch their "ticket." The punches are usually special shapes (stars, exclamation points, check marks) to preclude cheating. No special routes or directions are given for finding the control flag. The individual or team of orienteers is left to their own devices, which is the whole point of the exercise.

  • Introduction to Orienteering Website This is about the best site we've found for explaining the sport of orienteering. Covers the basics, equipment used, a "how-to," instruction, and much more. Well written, straightforward, and quoted above. Site prepared and maintained by Heather Williams.


Bay Area Orienteering Club


Canadian Orienteering Federation

Great Britain

British Orienteering Federation

Washington State

Seattle Area -- Cascade Orienteering Club
Bellingham Area -- Chuckanut Orienteering Club
Walla Walla -- Sacajawea Orienteering Club

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