Survival Guide for the First Time Orienteer

An O-event is similar to a running or biking race in that there is a place to register, a start, a finish, results and awards. However, there are quite a few differences that may surprises first-time Orienteers.


Preregistration is highly encouraged. It speeds up the registration process on the day of the race, helps us to determine how many maps are needed and helps keep club costs down. Instructions for preregistration are on the event web page.

Day of Race Registration and Check-in

Registration is where you check-in, pay your event fees and turn in your liability waiver. You can download the waiver from the NTOA website and have it already filled out. You will receive a "punch card" that has your identification, course information and a sequence of numbered squares. We'll talk more about what you will do with the punch card below.

Beginner's Clinic

There is a Beginner's Clinic before every meet at approximately 9:30am that lasts about 15min. They will present example maps, clue sheets, and punch cards. They will also discuss how to read the map and some strategies for getting around the course.


After registering proceed to the start area where you will receive at start time. Because participants are to navigate on their own (except for Groups), everyone starts at 1 min intervals. You may receive a start time of 10:10am or, if there are a lot of participants on your course it may be 11:10am. Clue sheets that contain useful details about the location of the controls are also obtained at the start area.

You will receive your map for your appropriate course when you start. Don't be in too big a rush to run off for Control 1 (C1) -- you might run off in the wrong direction. Take a moment to oriented yourself.

Incidentally, preregistration ensures you will get a map with a preprinted course. We always bring extra but if there appears to be a lot of race-day registratants, then we will ask the latter to draw their course on a blank map.

On the Course

  • Navigate from control to control around the course from C1 to C2 to C3, etc.
  • The control location is identified by an orange and white control bag.
  • When you arrive at a control, check your clue sheet to make sure you are at the correct control. Each control has a unique identifier number that has been included on the clue sheet.
  • If you are at C1 use the red plastic punch attached to the control bag to punch square numbered 1 on your punch card.
  • Now reorient yourself and proceed to C2.


When you finish turn in your punch card. We will check that you have made it to all of the controls and compute your time. There is a 2 or 3 hours time limit (depending on the event) for course completion. Even if you don't make it to all controls, or you decide to leave the course, it is important that you check in at the finish and turn in your punch card. We keep track of who starts and want to make sure everyone finishes. If we spend a couple of hours looking for you and find that you are already home watching the ball game, you may be visited later that day by a bunch of tired and irate orienteers - you don't want that.

Results & Awards

Results will be posted on a results string. However, final results and the awards take a bit of time to compile. We have to wait for everyone to finish. You may have started at 10 am and finished by 11 am. However, this may may before others have even started. When you finish we have to check your punch card and compute your time.

Health Tip

If you are allergic to poison ivy, treat your cloths and shoes like they are highly contaminated articles. Wash your hands as soon as possible and do not sit in your car in contaminated clothing.

Note, the details regarding how the event is organized apply to NTOA's single day, C-meet events. Organizational details will be different at the larger two day B- or A-meet events.

Listen to a podcast about Orienteering

Steve Sergeant, the producer and host of the outdoors audio podcast, did a two part show on orienteering. It is another good introduction to the sport.

Wildebeat Audio on Orienteering (Part One)
Wildebeat Audio on Orienteering (Part Two)


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