Types of Orienteering

The primary activity we do at Navigation Games is a sport called orienteering, where individuals or groups use a map and compass to find a series of checkpoints in various environments. It's like a scavenger hunt, only bigger and more fun!

There are many different ways to orienteer as well. The most common way is to visit a series of checkpoints in sequential order as quickly as possible, but there are other versions as well such as score-orienteering, relay races, and even vampire orienteering. Below are the various orienteering events we run at Navigation Games.

Animal Orienteering

Controls are scattered around an area with a known boundary. Each control has a picture of an animal. Levels of the game:

  1. Touch as many cones as you can find. How many were there?
  2. Each cone has an animal on it. Look at each animal and see if you can remember all 10 when you get back.
  3. Use this punch card to check in at each control, to prove you were there. Did you get them all? How long did it take you?
  4. Do it again, and beat your time.
  5. Visit these 5 animals in this order (card they carry with them).
  6. Do it again, and beat your time.
  7. Do it again, without the card. Did you beat your best time again?
  8. Repeat 5-8 but with a different set of 5 animals.
  9. Repeat 5-8 but with a series of 10 animals.
  10. Draw or look at a map of the checkpoints. If I point to one, can you run and touch it? (If we have the app going, the child touches an animal of their choice on the screen, then runs to touch that animal. Then it is greyed out so the next kid only has 9 to choose from, etc.)
  11. At home base, see if the team can remember which control had which animal, and write it on the map.
  12. Go out in the field as a group and check that the map is correct.
  13. Courses on the map that has the animals shown on it
  14. Courses on the map but with no animals on it (but the numbers are given in a clue sheet).
  15. Courses on the map with no animals and no clue sheet.

Teachers can make this easy on themselves by allowing any child the power to certify completion of a level that they themselves have already completed. They can help teach too.

Classic Orienteering

The most common type of orienteering is where individuals or groups visit a series of checkpoints in a predetermined order going point-to-point. The course starts with control #1 and the individual or group must visit the control locations in sequential order. The number of controls on a course can vary greatly. Sometimes there are as few as 3 or 4 points, other times as many as 25 or even more!

The number of controls and navigational difficulty of the course will also vary depending on the location and the skill level of the runner(s). The shorter and simpler courses designed for beginners are almost entirely on trails with very simple route choices to get from one point to the next. As courses get longer and more technically challenging, runner(s) will spend less time on trails and more time running cross country through parks or forests to find the checkpoints. There are also many more route choice challenges involved as difficulty increases, enough so that two highly advanced runners might go in very different directions even though they're heading to the same place.

For our purposes at Navigation Games we mostly stick to the easier beginner levels in order to teach children and other people of all ages how to effectively read a map and navigate.


Score-Orienteering (Score-O)

Score-orienteering takes the restriction and order out of classic orienteering and throws it to the wind! This is not to say score-O is a chaotic jumble of confusion, but rather that individuals and groups are provided with much more freedom in how they wish to complete the event.

Rather than visiting a set number of controls in a set order as quickly as possible, score-O allows runners to visit as many control locations as they want in any order they desire as long as they do so within a set time limit. Controls in this format are each worth a certain number of points--sometimes they are all worth the same amount, and sometimes certain controls are worth more than others--and the winner is whoever finishes with the most points before time runs out. If more than one individual or team finishes with the same score, then whoever did it in the least amount of time is the victor. Additionally, if someone finishes over the time limit, then they will lose points depending on how far overtime they went.

The great thing about score-orienteering is that, unlike classic orienteering, is that individuals or teams can visit whatever number of controls and whichever controls they want befitting their physical and navigational abilities. This makes score-O one of the best versions of orienteering to do with beginners and young children who are still learning the basics becaue you do not have to worry about going a certain distance or finding controls in the correct order. As long as they go out and find something, they've succeded!


String-Orienteering (String-O)

String-orienteering is very simple, and is basically the type of orienteering that kids who are too young to complete a classic course or understand all the words in this paragraph are able to complete. Think of it as the daycare version of orienteering.

In string-orienteering, kids follow a string or streamer from one point to the next in a very small area. The string often takes a convoluted and exciting path to get there, but as long as they keep following it they will always visit all of the controls in the correct order. The children are still given a map, of course, but if they are too young to fully understand it then they still get the excitment of being outside and orienteering!

When the kids do start to pick up on how to read the map and navigate, they can learn how to complete the string-O without following the actual string, and instead take shortcuts directly to the control points themselves. This is one way to know when they have the skills to move up and try more advanced orienteering.


Vampire-Orienteering (Vampire-O)

Vampire-orienteering is probably one of the most fun and festive types of orienteering in existance. The format is almost identical to score-orienteering, but with a few distinct differences: it is done at night in the dark, it uses old-fashoined punch cards instead of electronic timing, and there are vampires.

And by vampires we mean designated individuals or teams with red flahslights. The way vampire-orienteering works is that most poeple are basic, normal human beings trying to visit as many control points as they can and record each one on their punch card. The vampires, however, receive a special punch card at the beginning. Their objective is to "vamp" the humans who are trying to visit other controls. When a person or group is "vamped", they trade punch cards with the vampire and also take the red flashlight. Now the vampire is a human, and with the punch card they have all the control points previously punched by the person they vamped. Meanwhile the new vampire must seek out another group of humans to vamp so that they can trade punch cards and pick up all of their control points.

The strategy eventually becomes how to avoid the vampires, or how to vamp an individual or group that probably has a lot of controls punched on their card. There are immunities which can protect humans from a vampire, though. This might be in the form of holy water, a disguise as a ghost, garlic, or even a cross, but the location of these special items is unknown at the beginning of the race. You just have to hope you're lucky enough to find one before the vampires find you...



GeOcache-O is one type of navigation game which does't rely as heavily on a map. Instead people use a GPS device (even a phone will work), to find a special location using a set of coordinates. This is basically a combination of Geocaching, classic orienteering, and score-orienteering. Indivduals or groups will use their GPS to find as many locations as possible, although some of these location might be remote-caches or micro-caches.

In the case of a remote-cache or a micro-chache, there will be an extra step to finding the actual control point. A remote-chache will have a small map fragment at the GPS coordinates which show how to get from there to the real location of the control point. A micro-cache will contain either a map fragment or anther set of coordinates which will lead to another micro-chache, which will lead to another...and so on until they reach the control point (this could be anywhere from 2-5 micro-chaches for the most part).

A GeOcache-O can involve any number and combination of these different cache types, or sometimes rely exclusively on one. Either way, this is a great way for someone to get a feel for orienteering if they are not super confident with their map reading skills.